Wednesday 20 April 2022

Jake Heggie, Jeanine Tesori, Philip Glass: ENO's new season places a focus on contemporary American opera

Jake Heggie: It’s A Wonderful Life - World Premiere at Houston Grand Opera, 2016. (l-r) D’Ana Lombard, Yongzhau Yu, William Burden, Talise Trevigne, Zoie Reems & Ben Edquist  Photo Karen Almond, Houston Grand Opera
Jake Heggie: It’s A Wonderful Life - World Premiere at Houston Grand Opera (Photo Karen Almond, Houston Grand Opera)

Apart from works by Philip Glass and John Adams, contemporary American opera has been rather slow to reach performances in the UK. Opera Holland Park is giving the UK premiere of Mark Adamo's Little Women this Summer, 25 years after the work made its debut, whilst Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking had to wait a similarly long time (it debuted in 2000 but waited until 2018 for its UK premiere). There have been occasional bright spots, such as Opera North performing Kevin Puts' Silent Night in 2018 [see my article], but anyone hoping to get something of an overview of what has become quite a distinctive genre will be disappointed.

So, it is heartening to see that as part of its 2022/23 season, English National Opera will be giving the UK premieres of both Jake Heggie's It's a wonderful life and Jeanine Tesori's Blue. It's a wonderful life will be directed by Aletta Collins, conducted by Nicole Paiement with Danielle de Niese making her ENO debut. Blue will be directed by Tinuke Craig and conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren with Nadine Benjamin as the Mother. And in a striking element of compare and contrast, ENO is also reviving Phelim McDermott's production of Philip Glass' Akhnaten.

Another thread in the season is German romanticism, headed of course by Richard Wagner. Richard Jones continues his traversal of the Ring, with a new production of The Rhinegold, conducted by Martyn Brabbins with John Relyea as Wotan and Leigh Melrose as Alberich. Then moving forward somewhat in time, Annilese Miskimmon directs the company's new production of Korngold's Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City), conducted by Kirill Karabits with the leading roles taken by Rolf Romei and Alison Oakes.

On a lighter note, the company continues its G&S theme with the most serious of the Savoy operas, The Yeomen of the Guard, directed by Jo Davies and conducted by Chris Hopkins with Anthony Gregory as Colonel Fairfax. The final new production is a staging of Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, directed by Isabella Bywater.

Full details from the ENO website.

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