Thursday 16 May 2019

Royal Opera new season: 2019/20

The view from the main stage orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House - credit ROH/Sim Canetty Clarke 2014
The view from the main stage orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House - credit ROH/Sim Canetty Clarke 2014
With new productions of Donizetti's Don Pasquale, Britten's Death in Venice, Beethoven's Fidelio, Janacek's Jenufa, Strauss' Elektra, Gerald Barry's Alice's Adventures Underground and Handel's Agrippina, on the main stage at Covent Garden, and Britten, Barry, Handel and more scheduled for the Linbury Theatre, the new season at Covent Garden has much to recommend it. Yet there is also a slight feeling of sticking to what has worked in the past. Of the directors of new main stage productions only one, Tobias Kratzer, seems to be making his Covent Garden debut and the others Damiano Michieletto, Barrie Kosky, David McVicar, Antony McDonald,  Claus Guth, and Christoph Loy are known quantities. And, as can be noticed, none of these are women. Similarly with conductors, there is only one woman in the whole of the main stage season, Ariane Matiakh. But it is nice to see the young British conductor Finnegan Downie Dear appearing twice in the season.

Things improve a little if we look at the Linbury Season, Jessica Cottis is conducting and there are productions from Katie Mitchell, Isabelle Kettle and Natalie Abrahami, but one gets the suspicion that the more interesting projects are being focused on the Linbury, leaving the main stage available for the multiple Bohemes and Traviatas. Perhaps a necessary feature of the economics of opera today.

Casting features Bryn Terfel, Mark Padmore, Jonas Kaufman, Lise Davidsen, Asmik Grigorian, Karita Mattila, Allan Clayton, Nina Stemme, Joyce DiDonato, Franco Fagioli, Iestyn Davies, Juan Diego Florez, Placido Domingo, Ermonela Jaho, Anna Netrebko and more. So there is plenty to tempt.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale is returning in a new production by Damiano Michieletto, so modified rapture there then, conducted by Evelino Pido and featuring Bryn Terfel in the title role. A new production of Britten's Death in Venice features Mark Padmore as von Aschenbach with Gerald Finley in the baritone roles and Tim Mead as the voice of Apollo, quite a cast. The production is directed by David McVicar and conducted by Mark Elder. The opera hasn't been done at Covent Garden since 1992 (with Philip Langridge) and those of us with long memories will remember Peter Pears giving his last performance in the role at Covent Garden.

In the anniversary year, Beethoven's Fidelio gets a new production, directed by Tobias Kratzer and conducted by Antonio Pappano with Jonas Kaufman and Lise Davidsen as Florestan and Fidelio. The company continues working its way through Janacek's operas and Claus Guth's new production of Jenufa debuts with a strong cast including Asmik Grigorian in the title role, Karita Mattila as Kostelnicka and Allan Clayton as Laca. Vladimir Jurowski conducts. Though you do wonder what Claus Guth's magic realism is going to make of Janacek's opera?

Christoph Loy directs a new production of Strauss' Elektra with Nina Stemme in the title role, with Karita Mattila making her role debut as Klytemnestra, conducted by Antonio Pappano. I have to confess to finding Loy's past productions a little unsympathetic (and his production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde returns this season too), but whatever Loy does with the opera, the casting makes this a must.

There are two Gerald Barry operas coming during the season, on the main stage there is a new production of Alice's Adventures Underground directed by Antony McDonald, with Thomas Ades and Finnegan Downie Dear sharing the conducting. The production is part of the Royal Opera's admirable initiative to improve the range of work for families. There is a strong cast (each role is double cast) including Claudia Boyle, Jennifer France, Hilary Summers, Sam Furness, Nicky Spence, Robert Murray, Stephen Richardson and Mark Stone. [see Ruth's review of opera in the semi staging at the Barbican]

Handel does well this year, there is a new production of Agrippina on the main stage, directed by Barrie Kosky, conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev with Joyce DiDonato, Franco Fagioli, Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies and Gianluca Buratto. So whatever one thinks of the combination of Kosky,  Handel and the Covent Garden main stage, the performance is not to be missed. And in the Linbury Theatre, there is a co-production with the London Handel Festival of Handel's relatively neglected oratorio Susanna, directed by Isabelle Kettle and conducted by Patrick Milne.

Much of interest is happening in the Linbury Theatre this year. Gerald Barry's opera The Intelligence Park arrives in a new co-production with Music Theatre Wales, directed by Nigel Lowery and conducted by Jessica Cottis. And there is Zauberland, a new theatre piece which combines Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe with new songs by Bernard Foccroulle, directed by Katie Mitchell with additional texts by Martin Crimp.  A new production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw is directed by Natalie Abrahami and Michael Levine, and conducted Finnegan Downie Dear. Matt Rogers' She described it to death is a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Rogers is the third Doctoral Composer-in-Residence collaboration between The Royal Opera and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Returning main stage productions include Kasper Holten's hyperactive Don Giovanni, with a very fine cast including Erwin Schrott, Roberto Tagliavini, Malin Bystrom, Christine Rice and Louise Alder, conducted by Harmut Haenchen. Benoit Jacquot's production of Massenet's Werther returns with Edward Gardner conducting (lovely to see him in the pit at Covent Garden) and Juan Diego Florez in the title role, so plenty of interest there!

Nicholas Hyntner's production of Verdi's Don Carlo (still alas in Italian), is conducted by Richard Farnes and includes Michael Fabiano in the title role, Hibla Gerzmava as Elisabeth, Mariusz Kwiecien and Placido Domingo sharing Posa, Elina Garanca and Ruxandra Donose sharing Eboli. Anna Netrebko is scheduled to sing the title role in the revival of Puccini's Tosca, with Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, conducted by Antonio Pappano.

Keith Warner's production of Verdi's Otello is back with Gregory Kunde again in the title role and Antonio Pappano in the pit, plus Ermonela Jaho and Carlos Alvarez. Damiano Michieletto's production of Cav & Pag has an interesting cast with Yonghoon Lee, Liudmyla Monastyrska, Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak. Christoph Loy's production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde features  Michael Weinius and Ricarda Merbeth as the lovers, with the presence of Semyon Bychkov in the pit guaranteed to make it a hot ticket.

Mozart's Die Zauberflote with Benjamin Hulett, Elsa Dreisig and Vito Priante, whilst Verdi's La Traviata pops up with a total of three conductors, three Violettas and four Alfredos. Similarly Richard Jones' new(ish) production of Puccini's La Boheme has two conductors, three Mimis and three Rodolfos, including Sonya Yoncheva as Mimi. Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor is revived with Giacomo Sagripanti conducting, with Natine Sierra and Venera Gimadieva sharing the title role, and Vittoria Grigolo and Saimir Pirgu sharing Edgardo

Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier's striking production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly has Ermonela Jaho and Lianna Haroutounian sharing the title role, and Dan Ettigner and Antonio Pappano sharing the conducting.

Full details from the Royal Opera website.

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