Thursday 5 April 2007

Covent Garden new season

The Royal Opera Covent Garden have announced their new season. The big news is, of course, the Ring cycle; they are doing 3 complete cycles in October. Unusually, this is not the first opera of the season, that is Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride with a delectable cast that includes Susan Graham, Simon Keenlyside and Paul Groves. There must be something in the air, because this is a co-production with Chicago and San Francisco, and the Met is also doing a new production (with Placido Domingo in the baritone role). Quite a delectable start to the season.

Other highlights include a new L'Elisir d'Amore from Laurent Pelly, with Rolando Villazon as Nemorino. This ones not too near the top of my must see list, but anything Pelly does is interesting.

Parsifal is coming back with Haitink conducting. The cast includes John Tomlinson, Willard White and Gwynne Howell - a remarkably confluence of distinguished basses. Christopher Ventris is doing the title role. Also coming back is La Cenerentola with Mrs. Rattle (Magdalene Kozena) in the title role and Toby Spence as Don Ramiro. I'm very tempted if only to see Toby Spence. Regarding the title role, I prefer my voices a little heavier and darker than Kozena's. French baritone Stephane Degout is Dandini. Its his Royal Opera debut, couldn't they have found something French for him to sing?

Anna Netrebko is doing Violetta, at last we can get a chance to see what all the fuss is about, if we're bothered. But Jonas Kauffman, who made quite a stir in the new Carmen is Don Jose.

Olivia Fuchs's A Midsummer Nights Dream is returning to the Linbury with a good young cast (William Towers, Gillian Keith, Katie van Kooten, Matthew Rose). And David McVicar's Magic Flute comes back with a varied double cast.

McVicar is also in charge of the new production of Salome with Nadja Michael in the title role and Thomas Moser as Herod, Michaela Schuster as Herodias. Names that are mostly new to me, people I've read about and not heard. So it should be interesting, and with McVicar in charge its bound to be entertaining.

Another chance to see the late Steven Pimlott's Eugene Onegin, with Gerard Finley and Marin Poplavskaya - definitely worth crossing the road for, even if the production got mixed reviews on its first outing.

Carmen gets another outing, this time with a Spanish mezzo - Nancy Fabiola-Herrera (how about a French one?).

And now for the biggie. The premiere of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur, with John Tomlinson in the title role and a cast that includes Christine Rice, Christopher Ainslie, Tim Mead and Philip Langridge. Stephen Langridge directs.

Ian Judge's production of the 1857 Simon Boccanegra is back but this time using the better known 1881 version. The production travelled to Washington where they added the sets for the 1881 council scene. John Eliot Gardiner is conducting, which makes it rather interesting and the cast includes Lucio Gallo and Nina Stemme.

The big disappointment of the season is the new Don Carlo. Nicholas Hyntner is directing, but using the 5-act Italian version rather than the French one. Rolando Villazon is singing Don Carlo, rather a big step up for him in terms of the vocal heft required though he's already done the 4-act version evidently. Marina Poplavskaya is Elisabetta, Angela Georghiou having dropped out. Veteran bass Ferruccio Furlanetto is Philip II and Simon Keenlyside is Posa. So, of course, we're going to be there even if we regret the passing of the French version.

Thomas Ades's Powder her face gets a full production in the Linbury and Ades crops up again, conducting Stravinsky's The Rakes Progress with Charles Castronovo, Sally Matthews (nice to see her in bigger roles) and John Relyea.

Deborah Voight finally gets to wear the little black dress in Ariadne auf Naxos. The composer is the Latvian mezzo, Elina Garanca and Gillian Keith is Zerbinetta. Le Nozze di Figaro comes back with the ever wonderful Charles Mackerras in charge. Notable performers include Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Barbara Frittoli and Sophie Koch.

Over at the Royal Ballet its pretty much the mixture as before. We get new on-acters from Christopher Weeldon and Kim Brandstrup. New resident choreographer Wayne McGregor only does a shortie for a gala, but his Chroma comes back in a bill with Kenneth MacMillan's late, and rather weird, Distant Drummer - the one about Wozzeck.

The other new piece is a complete staging of Balanchine's Jewels. The Royal Ballet have not always got the Balanchine style, so it will be interesting to see how this goes.

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