Wednesday 22 April 2015

Enescu, Chabrier, Gluck and Haas - Royal Opera new season

The Royal Opera House auditorium © ROH / Sim Canetty-Clarke
Covent Garden announced its 2015/2016 season last week and Kasper Holten's Royal Opera season has been eagerly picked over by everyone, itemising the amount of contemporary opera, the number of old war-horses making a reappearance and the paucity of Jonas Kaufmann showings. What is clear is that, whatever you think of Kasper Holten's extensions to the repertoire and introduction of more innovative productions, this is being paid for by a series of securely bankable revivals of core classics; a lesson which has not yet been quite learned over in St Martin's Lane.

So what is there to look forward to? Well, quite a lot actually; Kasper Holten and his team do seem to have a knack of identifying interesting areas for revival. Yes, there is a paucity of Britten, Janacek and such, but we do have Chabrier, Mussorgsky, Luigi Rossi, Enescu, Gluck and Georg Friedrich Haas.

Kasper Holten's own productions have so far, rather divided opinion and whilst his Yevgeny Onegin gets a revival, he is not at the helm of any of the new productions.

New productions include Gluck's Orphee et Eurydice (note the language) with Juan Diego Florez, Lucy Crowe and Amanda Forsythe. Choreographer Hofesh Schechter and John Fulljames jointly direct and John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. Continuing the Orpheus theme, Luigi Rossi's Orpheus (the opera with which Cardinal Mazarin hoped to introduce Italian opera to France) is being directed at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by Keith Warner with Christian Curnyn and the orchestra of the Early Opera Company.

Christoph Loy's unlovely production of Lucia di Lammermoor is being replaced by a new one from Katie Mitchell. Daniel Oren conducts with Diana Damrau and Aleksandra Kurzak sharing the title role, Charles Castronovo and Stephen Costello sharing Edgardo and Ludovic Tezier and Artur Rucinski sharing Enrico. The combination of Katie Mitchell and Lucia is an interesting one and I can't wait to see what effect her detailed style of production will have on the work, though I do wish they had chosen a conductor more in the Charles Mackerras mould to bring the same new ears to the orchestral sound.

Another warhorse is replaced, this time a much loved one, as Richard Jones directs a new production of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov with Antonio Pappano conducting and Bryn Terfel in the title role, with John Graham Hall as Shuisky, Ain Anger as Pimen, John Tomlinson as Varlaam and Andrew Tortise as the Simpleton. Expect a thrillingly bumpy ride from this combination of director and singers. I understand that the more compact original 1869 version is being used, so the original orchestration by Mussorgsky, but without the Polish act and the Kromy Forest scene, which is an interesting change from the previous production which almost used every note that Mussorgsky wrote.

Verdi's Il Trovatore gets another go (I can't remember a production at the Royal Opera which I have wanted to see more than once!), with a new production by David Bösch conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. David Bösch is a young (bon 1978) German born, Swiss trained director who works in straight theatre and opera and has gained something of a name for himself as a director-auteur. An important talent, it will be interesting to see if his particular skills survive the channel crossing, but Covent Garden is to be congratulated on bringing him over. The opera is double cast with Lianna Naroutounian, Carmen Giannattasio, Francesco Meli, Gregory Kunde, Zeljko Lucic, Christopher Maltman, Ekaterina Semenchuck, and Marina Prudenskaja. Not many native Italian speakers, but I have heard some terrific performances from the singers and we might hope for a strong account of the work, particularly with Gianandrea Noseda in the pit.

Cav and Pag get a welcome new production from Damiano Michieletto, who makes his Covent Garden debut this year with Guillaume Tell. Cav and Pag conducted by Antonio Pappano with Aleksandrs Antonenko as Turiddu and Canio, Eva Maria Westbroek as Santuzza, Dmitri Platanias as Alfio and Tonio, Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda. (This might be the Royal Opera's first new production of Cav and Pag since Zefirelli!)

Chabrier's L'Etoile finally gets to make an appearance, in a new production directed by Mariame Clement with the wonderful Kate Lindsey as Lazuli, Christoph Mortagne as King Ouf, Francoi Piolino as Prince Herisson de Porc-Epic, Aimery Lefevre as Tapioca and Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laola. Mark Elder conducts, and as he was in charge of Opera Rara's fantastic version of Offenbach's Fantasio, I think we can feel that the piece is in the right hands.

Enescu's Oedipe at Teatro Colon,  directed La Fura del Baus (photo Teatro Colon)
Enescu's Oedipe at Teatro Colon,  directed La Fura del Baus (photo Teatro Colon)
The other work which I will be eagerly awaiting is George Enescu's Oedipe which will be presented in a production by La Fura dels Baus with a very strong cast indeed inclluding Johan Reuter, John Tomlinson, Sophie Bevan, Claudia Huckle, Sarah Connolly, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Alan Oke and Nicolas Courjal. The production was new in 2011 and was originally a co-production between the Teatro Colon in Argentina, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and National Opera of Paris.

Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse gets a new production in the Linbury with the Jette Parker Yung Artist, with Samuel Sakker, Yuriy Yurchuk and David Shipley, directed by Greg Eldridge and conducted by Jonathan Santagada.

Graham Vick directs a main house new commission from Georg Friedrich Haas (the Austrian composer whose music is mainly spectral), called Morgen und Abend it will be based on the novel by Norwegian author Jon Fosse and will be Haas's seventh opera. The work is conducted by Michael Boder and includes the actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, so don't expect anything too traditional! And still very non-traditional, Mark Simpson's first opera Pleasure is premiered at the Lyric Hamersmith directed by Tim Albery, and set in a gay club!

WNO makes its annual appearance and they bring Iain Bell's new opera In Parenthesis based on the poem by David Jones about the battle of the some. Cast includes some strong singing actors, Peter Coleman-Wright, Alexandra Deshorties (a terrific Elizabetta in WNO's Donizetti trilogy), George Humphreys, Marcus Farnsworth, Donald Maxwell and Graham Clark.

Revivals? Well McVicar's Le Nozze di Figaro comes back with Erwin Schrott, Stephane Degout, Ellie Dehn and Kate Lindsey, conducted by Ivor Bolton. Karita Mattile puts the little black dress on again for Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos (and she was terrific in the role last time) with Robert Dean Smith as her Bacchus. Il Trittico makes a welcome return, with a cast which mixes new and old faces, Lucio Gallo, Martina Serafin, Carl Tanner, Ermonela Jajo, Anna Larsson, Susanna Hurrell, and Paolo Fanale. There is also another chance to catch Christian Gerhaher as Wolfram in Tim Albery's production of Tannhauser, Emma Bell returns as Elizabeth with Peter Seiffert in the title role, Harmnu Haenchen conducts,

A very notable revival is Benoit Jacquot's rather OK production of Massenet's Werther. This is a production which can be transformed by its performers, and with Antonio Pappano conducting Vittorio Grigolo and Joyce DiDonato you have to wonder what we might experience in the theatre.

Kasper Holten's Yevgeny Onegin returns with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Nicole Car and Michael Fabiano, conducted by Semyon Bychkov; casting which brings a great deal of interest. I am not sure whether Placido Domingo returning as Nabucco counts as a good thing, though he shares the role with Dmitri Platanias.

There are 13 Carmen performances including two with Jonas Kaufmann and 8 with Bryan Hymel. There are 10 Toscas shared between Angela Gheorghiu and Amanda Echalaz. There are 13 La Traviatas shared between Venera Gimadieva, Maria Agresta and Nicole Cabell, with Saimir Pirgu and Rolando Villazon, Luca Salsi and Quinn Kelsey; some interesting casting there.

There are lots of smaller productions around these, far too many to mention. Luke Styles' new Macbeth, Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest and a return of David Bruce's The Fireworkmakers Daughter to name but three. You can read about it in complete detail on the Covent Garden website.

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