Inspired, as last year by the excellent French blog il tenero momento, this year I’ve decided to present some very personal thoughts on what will likely be some of the most exciting shows of the 2014 – 2015 season. The programming for the season, certainly in many European houses, seems to have resorted to the tried and trusted, although I should single out Munich, Zurich and the Theater an der Wien as having, for me, the most exciting blend of interesting repertoire and judicious casting. Following the strongest season in years at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2013/4, only one show for me in 2014/5 is a true ‘must see’. Compare this with the season just ended where I saw all but two of the main stage productions. That said, the 2014/5 season at English National Opera is certainly more exciting and offers some interesting repertoire and casting. If only, they’d reconsider their language policy in the way the Komische Oper in Berlin has.
So, here – in no particular order – are some personal choices for the hot tips of 2014 – 2015.
Król Roger, Royal Opera House, London
Starting with the one show I’d consider the single ‘must see’ of the Royal Opera’s season (although the Mahagonny runs it close). When I saw Mariusz Kwiecień’s performance of the title role in Bilbao in 2012 I thought it one of the greatest operatic performances I had ever seen. This is a role he was born to sing and he is surely today’s greatest interpreter of the part. Szymanowski’s score is all-encompassing and overwhelming. I must admit to being skeptical about Antonio Pappano’s conducting and Kasper Holten’s recent productions seem to display an obsession with gimmickry that seems far from the Personenregie-led insightfulness of his Copenhagen Ring. However, with Kwiecień, Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu and exciting new US talent Georgia Jarman, this should definitely be one of the highlights of the season.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam and touring.
René Jacobs’ conducting of Mozart’s Figaro was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2013. Everything in his conducting felt absolutely right and getting to hear him conduct Mozart’s singspiel will be a real treat. With a cast including the wonderful Mari Eriksmoen (a fabulous Olympia in Oslo last year) as Blonde, the exciting Swiss tenor Mauro Peter’s Belmonte and the fantastic Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, this promises to be a wonderful experience.
Der Rosenkavalier, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden
Anja Harteros this year confirmed her position as one of the greatest artists of today’s lyric stage. This is an indecently luxuriously cast Rosenkavalier with Harteros’ Marschallin, Magdalena Kožena’s Octavian and Anna Prohaska’s Sophie promising much. When there are singers of the calibre of the marvellous Lawrence Brownlee as the Italian Singer and the great Berliner Philharmoniker in the pit, this will surely be one of the hottest tickets of 2015
La Damnation de Faust, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden & Philharmonie Berlin
The combination of two US singers who are outstanding in the French repertoire, Charles Castronovo and Joyce Di Donato together with the fine Marseillais baritone Ludovic Tézier promises a thrilling performance of Berlioz’ highly creative operatic hybrid. Along with the great Berliner Philharmoniker this is another ‘must see’. Following Baden-Baden, it will also be repeated in Berlin and hopefully will be picked up for the Digital Concert Hall.
Gianni Schicchi / A kékszakállú herceg vára, Komische Oper, Berlin
This should be a very interesting double bill from Calixto Bieito, today’s finest opera director. It will be fascinating to see how he juxtaposes the comic drama of Puccini’s work with the dark psychodrama of Bartók’s. One thing will be certain – this will not be a conventional evening.
Otello, Oper Frankfurt
I first came across the superb tenor, Vincent Wolfsteiner in Bieito’s production of Der Freischütz also at the Komische. There he impressed with his strong, oaky tone and fine musicality. Paired alongside the equally superb Hellenic baritone, Dimitri Platanias as Jago, this should be an Otello to remember. The presence of the excellent South African soprano, Elza van der Heever also promises much.
CO2, Teatro alla Scala
Giorgio Battistelli, a former student of Stockhausen and Kagel, has almost 20 vocal works to his name and his latest work, based on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, should definitely be worth hearing. With a cast including, Anthony Michaels Moore, Jennifer Johnston, Pumeza Matshikiza and Alain Coulombe, with the Scala forces led by Cornelius Meister, this should be a great team to perform this new work by one of the most stimulating compositional voices in contemporary music.
Iphigénie en Aulide et en Tauride, Theater an der Wien, Vienna.
Two Iphigénies for the price of one in Vienna and it certainly looks intriguing. The presence of the wonderful Véronique Gens in Tauride and Yekaterina Siurina in Aulide with the exciting British conductor Leo Hussain in the pit mean that this should be an outstanding evening.
La Clemenza di Tito, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris
Karina Gauvin singing Vitellia with costumes by Christian Lacroix. Quite frankly for Karina’s Vitellia alone I was sold on this. It seems she is finally taking on the bigger Mozart roles that I have wanted to hear her sing for years. Hopefully Fiordiligi and the Countess are not far behind. Karina is surrounded by an impressive cast with Kurt Streit in the title role, Kate Lindsey as Sesto and the highly promising French soprano Julie Fuchs as Servilia. Add Jérémie Rhorer and his Cercle de l’Harmonie and you have great ingredients for a fine recipe.
Why see one Don Giovanni when you can see three? Mariusz Kwiecień’s incomparable Don is a fantastic portrayal and when partnered with singers of the calibre of Marina Rebeka, Ana María Martínez and Kyle Ketelsen meant that a trip to Chicago was inevitable. In Barcelona and Paris, we have the peerless René Jacobs conducting a fine cast in concert. His Mozart for me always seems to match the way I hear it in my head and I am very much looking forward to hearing him conduct it. Finally, in Munich we have an outstanding cast with the fabulous Erin Wall and Véronique Gens as the donne, Alex Esposito’s superb Leporello and the warm and rich Ottavio of Charles Castronovo. All three performances, in their own way, promise to be exceptional.
L’italiana in Algeri, Wiener Staatsoper
Something magical happens when Anna Bonitatibus sings Rossini. She is a singer who completely understands the way Rossini should be sung, someone who has that implicit understanding of phraseology that cannot be taught and someone who has a peerless gift for text. This should be something very special indeed. It was hard to choose between this Italiana and Miss Bonitatibus’ role debut as Tancredi in Lausanne to include in this list. Anyone who can, I’d encourage you to see both. The Italiana also features the outstanding Mexican tenor Javier Camarena making it even more of a must-see.
Turandot, Staatstheater Nurnberg
I have for years wished that Calixto Bieito would direct Turandot and here, in a co-production with Toulouse and Northern Ireland Opera, we finally have it. I am certain that this won’t be a traditional Turandot but I know that Bieito will seek to understand the work as new and challenge its racism and misogyny. This also marks a new collaboration with the fine Vincent Wolfsteiner as Calaf. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be at the performances Mr Wolfsteiner will be singing at, but I am very much looking forward to hearing his Nürnberg colleagues. Those who are going to Toulouse next June will get the fabulous Elisabete Matos in the title role.
The Turn of the Screw, Oper Zürich
The main interest for me in this production will be getting to see Slovak tenor Pavol Breslík singing in a Britten opera. Together with Canadian Layla Clare and the intimacy of the Zürich theatre this promises to be a harrowing evening.
One can wait years to see Norma and then suddenly three come along at the same time. Extraordinary to find three performances taking place on the Iberian peninsula within a month of each other, with three extraordinary singers. In València we have the great Mariella Devia, who at the age of 66, can still sing many of her contemporaries off the stage. Combined with that house’s outstanding orchestra and one of the best opera choruses around, this will certainly be a must-see. In Barcelona we have the fabulous Sondra Radvanovsky, the owner of a full and generous soprano who will undoubtedly also be worth hearing. In Seville, we have the young US soprano Angela Meade who already has a terrific reputation in the Italian repertoire and for whom great things have been predicted.
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Det Kongelige Teater, Copenhagen.
It’s always exciting to visit a new theatre for the first time and the Copenhagen Royal Theatre has an admirable reputation. Peter Konwitschny is never predictable and I am particularly interested in seeing what he will do with Shostakovich’s masterpiece. With Alexander Vedernikov in the pit and a fine Danish cast, this should show the Royal Theatre at its very best.
So there you have it. I chose only to include the shows that it seems I will definitely be attending. However, I would also love to see a Rome Aida with Stoyanova and Urmana or a rare performance of Gounod’s Cinq-Mars with Véronique Gens and Charles Castronovo or Paul McCreesh conducting Verdi’s Requiem in Lisbon.
Now, what are you most looking forward to?