Ruth Ann Swenson, who just six weeks ago finished chemotherapy for breast cancer, has begun a six week run of Handel's “Giulio Cesare." She's been a mainstay soprano at the Metropolitan Opera, yet after this run - the Met may be letting her go after more than twenty years of performances there (her debut was in 1988).
Swenson told the NY Times, “It’s hurtful. I’m a New Yorker. I’ve sung here for many, many years. I’ve had great success. I’ve never let them down. It’s so stressful to get up onstage and realize that the top guy doesn’t like you, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing.”
The man in charge is first-year general manager Peter Gelb, who has been working arduously to get his stamp on the company. He has, however, disputed that her career at the Met is over - though they have not booked her for any future engagements. Denying that age or weight influenced his decision to focus on new talent, her bland performances were cited as a reason for change.
Her latest role as Cleopatra at the Met is one that helped make Beverly Sills a star, so one would imagine that if she can shine during this, while still suffering the after-effects of chemotherapy, Gelb would keep her on. In the meantime, she has engagements next season in Venice, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Dallas, and at the New York City Opera. “Giulio Cesare" begins Tuesday, tickets on sale here (note she will be replaced by her understudy during the last two weeks).