Monday, 15 April 2013

Italian Tudors and Fallen Women - WNO 2013-14 season

Mary, Queen of Scots
Welsh National Opera's 2013-14 is the first season to feel the real benefit David Pountney's themed groupings of performances, with the company's year divided into the Tudors, Fallen Women and Faith. The Tudors encompassing Donizetti's Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux, Fallen Women being Manon Lescaut, La Traviata and Henze's Boulevard Solitude, and Faith pairing Schoenberg's Moses und Aron with Verdi's Nabucco.

I usually moan about UK companies performing Maria Stuarda rather than one of Donizetti's other serious operas, but in the context of two of his other Tudor operas it makes sense. The three productions will use the same set, with two being directed by Alessandro Talevi and the designs for all three being by his regular collaborators designer Madeleine Boyd and lighting designer by Matt Haskins. Rudolf Frey directs Maria Stuarda. Casting includes two Queen Elizabeths, English soprano Judith Howarth in Maria Stuarda and French-Canadian soprano Alexandra Deshorties in Roberto Devereux. Serena Farnocchia and Linda Richardson share the title role in Anna Bolena. (Farnocchia sang the role at last year's Maggio Musicale Fiorentino conducted by Roberto Abbado). Alistair Miles is Henry VIII (and Talbot in Maria Stuarda). Christine Rice is Maria Stuarda. Other cast includes Bruce Sledge (whom we saw in Santa Fe in Rossini's Maometto Secondo) as Leicester, the Italian American tenor Leonardo Capalbo as Roberto Devereux (he returns as Alfredo Germont later in the season), and Leah-Marian Jones as Sara.

The three operas are not a trilogy of course, they were written at different times in Donizetti's career. Anna Bolena (1830) was his first bit success, Maria Stuarda was completed in 1834 a year before Lucia di Lammermoor and Roberto Devereux premiered in 1837 just before Maria di Rudenz. But they make a convenient grouping, and enable us to hear a wider variety of Donizetti on the operatic stage than is usual. (There is, actually, one further opera, Elizabetta al castello di Kenilworth from 1829).

The Tudors are complemented, completed (?) with Lothar Koenigs conducting a revival of Michael Blakemore's production of Puccini's Tosca with Mary Elizabeth Williams (who crops up later in the season as Abigaille in the new production of Nabucco) in the title role and Gwyn Hughes Jones as Mario.

Spring brings the Fallen Women. A new production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut with the Italian soprano Chiara Taigi in the title role, David Kempster as Lescaut and Gwyn Hughes Jones as Des Grieux. Then Sarah Tynan takes the same role in Henze's Boulevard Solitude with Peter Wedd as des Grieux and Benjamin Bevan as Lescaut (the young British baritone makes his Covent Garden debut in Gloriana this summer). In another example of pairing, the Polish film, theatre and opera director Mariusz Terlinski will be directing both, both with designs by Boris Kudlika. Quite wonderful to be able to see the pair of them together, this is what companies should be doing. The final opera in the group is Verdi's La Traviata, in a revival of David McVicar's production with Georgia Jarman in the title role (the American soprano made her UK debut as the four heroines in the ENO production of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann). Shame the budget couldn't have run to pairing this with Puccini's La Rondine!

Finally in Summer 2014 we have Faith, Jossi Weiler and Sergio Morabito's production of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron originally from Stuttgart Opera. The cast includes Richard Angas and Rainer Trost, conducted by Lothar Koenigs. There is another new production, Rudolf Frey's modern day setting of Verdi's Nabucco (which will be shared with Stuttgart Opera) with David Kempster in the title role and the young American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as Abigaille.

Finally in Summer 2014 comes the British Firsts, a double bill of Gordon Getty's Usher House, and Robert Orledge's completion of Debussy's La Chute de la Maison Usher.

The Tudors is performed in Cardiff, Swansea, Oxford, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham, Llandudno and Southampton; Fallen Women travels to Cardiff, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Plymouth, Llandudno and Bristol, with Faith being shared between Cardiff and Birmingham, and Moses und Aron having two performances at Covent Garden.

Further information from the WNO website.

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