Monday 18 April 2011

Royal Opera new season

Despite a cut-back in grants the Royal Opera have managed to put together a season which mixes the interesting with the popular. The good news is that David McVicar's new production of Berlioz Les Troyens is happening (in June 2012), with Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandre, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Didon and Jonas Kaufmann as Enee, conducted by Antonio Pappano - a strong cast indeed, but one which is hardly Francophone. The Royal Opera have not performed the work complete since 1972, though Scottish Opera brought Tim Albery's production in the 90's (with Kathryn Harries as Didon).

Amazingly, the new production of Dvorak's Rusalka will be Covent Garden's first staging (its only been done in concert so far). The staging, and cast, are being taken from Salzburg where the production premiered in 2008 directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito. Opinion seems to have been divided on the contemporary setting and magic realism of the production, but Camilla Nylund in the title role should be well worth the visit. Yannick Nezet-Seguin makes a welcome Royal Opera debut as the conductor.

Another rarity hoves into sight. Puccini's Il Trittico, the 3 operas not performed together at Covent Garden since 1965 (though a version without Suor Angelica had a longer life). Richard Jones's brilliant Gianni Schicchi is returning and Jones is directing the other two operas. Pappano is at the helm with a cast which includes Lucio Gallo, Anja Harteros and Eva-Maria Westbroek. Again a strong cast, but not ideally Italianate.

The other major standard receiving a new production is Falstaff directed by Robert Carsen and conducted by Daniele Gatti. So far the information seems unclear as to what relation this new production will have to Carsen's existing production of the opera.

The final new production in the main house is the UK premiere of Judith Weir's Miss Fortune with Emma Bell and Jacques Imbrailo, conducted by Paul Daniel. The production is directed by Shi-Zheng Chen and is a co production with Bregenz. Definitely highlight.

ROH2 will be producing Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness which was developed via the ROH2's Opera Genesis programme. The opera is based on the Conrad novel and includes creative input from artist/composer/librettist Tom Phillips.

Revivals include all 3 Mozart/Da Ponte operas with very strong casts; Gerald Finley and Erwin Schrott share the Don, Cosi starts Rosemary Joshua and Thomas Allen, Nozze de Figaro will be conducted by Pappano with Simon Keenlyside, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, Aleksandra Kurzak and Kate Royal. Sonnambula comes back with the wonderful Eglise Gutierrez in the title role; its not a production I particularly enjoyed but the chance to hear Gutierrez in the role is welcome. La Fille du Regiment returns, again, but this time with Patrizia Ciofi in the title role which will be interesting, she is paired with Colin Lee - nice to see him being given proper air time at last.

La Boheme returns with a double cast almost to die for - Barbara Frittoli/Anja Harteros, Joseph Calleja/Roberto Alagna; I hope the old production is still up to it. Pappano is heading up a revival of Graham Vick's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, which has been absent from the ROH stage for far too long.

I can't get too worked up about the revival of Faust even if it does feature Georghiu, Rene Pape and Vittorio Grigolo. Salome is returning with Angela Denoke in the lead again, definitely worth catching if you didn't see her last time. And John Eliot Gardiner is conductor at the revival of Rigoletto - hmm, interesting indeed.

Over at the Royal Ballet, Monica Mason is going out with quite a splash mixing old and new, including a welcome revival of Christopher Weeldon's Alice in Wonderland. But quite high on the list of highlights for me is a revival of Prince of the Pagodas, Kenneth MacMillan's late attempt to make sense of Britten's magical but patchy ballet score. Evidently the Britten estate have finally sanctioned some cuts, so we might expect something a little tighter.

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