Margaret Juntwait is the radio host for the Met Opera Radio on Sirius XM and for the Saturday Matinee International Radio Broadcasts.
Starting with tomorrow’s opening night broadcast, there will be about three live broadcasts per week throughout the season. How do you prepare for the start of the season?
At the beginning of the season, we’re just coming off the summer, which is such a creative, reflective time when we can really prepare for the upcoming season. Opening night is the big one. It’s important that the audience get a sense of the excitement of the place and that’s the wonderful thing about radio–it’s up to me to tell you what the vibe is like here, but you meet me halfway with your own imagination. And we have several other openings following immediately after–including Così fan tutte which marks James Levine’s return to the Met. So I have to focus on that just as much as on opening night.
How did you become the radio host for the Met?
I studied voice at the Manhattan School of Music. And once I graduated, I realized I needed to figure out another direction–and I decided I really like public radio. So I wrote a fan letter to my favorite public radio host in New York, John Schaefer, and I wound up as his production assistant. I gradually found my way to the microphone, and eventually got a call from the Met radio producers asking me to be a cover for Peter Allen. He had three covers at the time, and it was delightful. And then when Peter retired, after a national search, I stepped up to the role.
Do you get to enjoy opening night at all or is it just work from start to finish?
I do get to enjoy it. And because I saw the dress rehearsal of Eugene Onegin (which was spectacular), I know what to expect from the acts. So leading into each act is very pleasant work, but then we get to sit and listen. And you realize that’s what you’re really here for, that glorious music. And in the case of our cast for Onegin, the voices are so luxurious and glorious.
But opening night really is the most exciting night of the year. You can practically touch the level of buzz. When it’s a gorgeous autumn night and you have people sitting outside on the plaza watching the same performance–because of the simulcasts, more than twice as many people can see the show–it is one of the biggest thrills of the year. And it is very New York!