Wednesday 29 March 2006

New season at Covent Garden

Covent Garden has announced its plans for the 2006/2007 season. Not surprisingly Wagner is not on the agenda as the 2007/08 season will open with the new Ring, the shame seems to be that having decided to miss of Wagner, Covent Garden have missed off most other German composers as well. Still the season includes some gems, with a good scattering of young talent being exposed as well as welcome returns of old faces.

The emphasis of the season is in French opera. There is a revival of David McVicar’s Faust, still with Angela Gheorghiu as Marguerite but with a mainly new cast that includes Christine Rice (who is appearing 3 times this season). More of a novelty is a pair of concert performances of Halevy’s La Juive with Dennis O’Neill as Eleazar and Alastair Miles as Cardinal Brogni, The much anticipated new Carmen is directed by Francesca Zamballo, so expect colour and efficiency rather than deep insight - Covent Garden will be looking for a production that they can roll out regularly. There are 2 casts with Pappano and Philippe Auguin sharing the conducting honours. Anna Caterina Antonacci and Marina Domashenko share the title role; I’m rooting for Antonacci and can’t wait to see her. Ildebrando D’arcangelo and Laurent Naouri are sharing Escamillo; its good to see Naouri making appearances in the UK, usually we have to go and see him in France. Don Jose is shared between Jonas Kaufmann (German) and Marco Berti (Italian). As you can see, not many native French language speakers. And that brings me to another point. What edition are they doing? The press release doesn’t say; we don’t even get a hint as to whether they are using dialogue or recitative.

A rather more exciting new prospect (already seen at the Met, in New York), is Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment (in French) with Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez, with Bruno Campanella conducting. Laurent Pelly directs; having done nothing in London in years he now has 2 productions within a year (his La Belle Helene is at the Coliseum later this year). Florez is probably one of the few tenors around willing to do the tricky tenor role in the French version.

A nod in the direction of the Mozart Centenary is given with a new production of La Finta Giardiniera with Sir John Eliot Gardiner making a welcome return to the Covent Garden podium. The strong cast includes Camilla Tilling, Kurt Streit and Sophie Koch. Wonderful resources for what is, I find, a rather trivial piece.

Richard Jones’s wonderful production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is coming back (no I haven’t seen it, but it sounds as if it was fabulous and we hope to get to see it this time). Pappano is conducting and John Daszak is singing Zinovy Ismailov; Daszak seems to be gradually making it up the slippery ladder. Also of note, Gwynne Howell is singing the Old Convict; he made is Covent Garden debut in 1970.

Also coming back is Francesca Zamballos’s Queen of Spades. Not quite such a successful production, but we get to see Katarina Dalayman as Lisa and Gerald Finley as Prince Yeletsky with Semyon Bychkov conducting, so the evening will definitely be worth listening to.

Surprisingly, Handel’s Orlando is coming back in Francisco Negrin’s production. It was unloved by some critics, but we liked it. With any luck the rather daft choreography has gone. Bejun Mehta is in the title role; he sang Medoro in the original run but had to stand in for Alice Coote when she was ill. Rosemary Joshua is Angelica and Camilla Tilling is Dorinda; Charles Mackerras conducts. Definitely a date to be put in the diary.

Thomas Ades’s Tempest is coming back, we might go and see it if only to see if he has revised the work and to see how it shapes up again. Ades was quite close to the deadline in finishing it, so I hope he has taken the opportunity to take a step back and re-think some things. The original cast are, by and large, returning.

Another new production is a rather curious double bill of L’Heure Espagnol and Gianni Schicchi with Christine Rice (in the Ravel) and Bryn Terfel (in the Puccini), all produced by Richard Jones. Might be good, might be awful! The Ravel cast includes Bonaventura Bottone, Yann Beuron, Christopher Maltman and Andrew Shore, so its definitely well cast. In the Puccini, Joan Rodgers makes a welcome appearance, along with Marie McLaughlin and Robert Lloyd.

More new productions include Simon Rattle conducting the Salzburg Easter Festival production of Pelleas et Melisande with Simon Keenlyside, Angelika Kirchschlager and Gerald Finley. The cast makes my mouth water even if the opera doesn’t really. Karita Mattila is singing the title role in Fidelio in Jurgen Flimm’s production from the New York Met with Pappano conducting.

Erwin Schrott, who made such a hit in the new Marriage of Figaro returns in the title role of Don Giovanni; let’s hope he takes his shirt off like Simon Keenlyside did! Jonathan Lemalu is Leporello and Anna Netrebko is Donna Anna.

Other revivals include an interesting young cast in La Boheme, Elijah Moshinsky’s unsubtle Il Trovatore with Nicola Luisotti conducting, he’s new to Covent Garden; Marcelo Alvarez, Stephanie Blyth and Anthony Michaels-Moore star in a cast which almost makes me want to see the production again – I can always close my eyes. Verdi’s Stiffelio comes back in Elijah Moshinsky’s production with Mark Elder conducting, Jose Cura and Sondra Radvanovsky singing. Violeta Urmana is donning Tosca’s red frock in a revival of Jonathan Kent’s new production. Rigoletto and Cosi van Tutte also come back, the latter with Colin Davis.

A final notable revival. Charles Mackerras is conducting Katya Kabanova with Janice Watson in the title role and Felicity Palmer as her mother-in-law. Kurt Streit, Chris Merrit and Toby Spence are also in the cast – a trio of very fine tenors!

Another item to look forward to is a concert performance of Massenet’s Thais conducted by Andrew Davis with Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja. Fleming seems to be doing something of a Thais tour as she is singing the role in concert at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris, but with Gerald Finley.

The season at the Linbury theatre includes the premiere of Dominque Le Gendre’s Bird of the Night and a small scale production of Owen Wingrave

The Royal Ballet’s new season includes 4 new ballet’s for the main auditorium. These include Will Tuckett’s new version of Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, should be fun.

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