Once again we’re at the point where we look ahead at what the new operatic season holds. There seems to be a divide opening up, certainly in the European lyric theatres, between houses that rely on a season consisting of the same works year after year and those who go for a more innovative approach, one that combines the well known with rarities. There’s a danger for houses that, in relying on endless runs of Traviata or Bohème to pad out their seasons, ultimately they’ll exhaust their audiences. It remains to be seen whether the more conservative seasons on offer in a number of houses in 2019 – 20 will result in strong ticket sales or whether instead, audiences will start to look elsewhere and theatres will have to resort to heavy discounting.
What is undeniable, though, is that there are theatres that manage to fill up night after night with a varied and stimulating program – one need only think of Brussels or Flanders, or Vienna’s Theater an der Wien or the Teatro Real. Houses with a loyal public unafraid to be adventurous, ready to explore this magnificent art form even further.
2019 – 20 also marks the dawn of several notable Ring cycles. In Paris, Calixto Bieito will be taking on the work in a highly-anticipated new production. At the Deutsche Oper, Stefan Herheim will be bringing his take, while in Helsinki, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts a new production cast with some promising, as well as established, local singers.
As every year, I’ve collated a list of shows I think of particular interest. These are of course a very personal selection but represent a range of shows that are likely to be among the highlights of the upcoming operatic year.
Le Grand Macabre, Semperoper Dresden. November 2019
Stage productions of Ligeti’s masterpiece are not unknown, but not exactly frequent either. For the first ever performance in the Saxon capital, this venerable house has engaged one of the most intelligent and insightful stage directors of today, Calixto Bieito, to direct. The cast is made up of house favourites, including Hila Baggio and Christina Bock, as well as welcome guests including Frode Olsen, Iris Vermillion and Christopher Ainslie. Omer Meir Welber conducts. This co-production with the Teatro Real will be a must-see for lovers of this brilliantly inspired piece.
Le nozze di Figaro, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, November – December 2019.
Jérémie Rhorer and his Cercle de l’Harmonie are superb interpreters of Mozart and this new production of Figaro is much anticipated. The staging has been confided to the US cineaste James Gray, making his first steps into the lyric theatre. The house has assembled a really exciting cast – Robert Gleadow and Sabine Devieilhe as Figaro and Susanna, Vannina Santoni and Stéphane Degout as the Almavivas, with Jennifer Larmore, Florie Valiquette and Matthias Vidal in supporting roles. Lovers of Mozart will certainly wish to see this.
Les Contes d’Hoffmann, De Munt – La Monnaie, December 2019 – January 2020.
Krzysztof Warlikowski always seems to be able to penetrate deep into the heart and soul of a piece and this new staging of Hoffmann promises to be no exception. The casting is mouth-watering – Eric Cutler and Enea Scala sharing the title role, Michèle Losier as Nicklausse and Gábor Bretz as the villains. Sharing the roles of Hoffmann’s ladies are Patricia Petibon and Nicole Chevalier. Chevalier was terrific in the roles at the Komische Oper a few years ago and Petibon is never less than interesting – and it’ll certainly be thought-provoking to see her work with Warlikowski. The house orchestra is going from strength to strength under Alain Altinoglu who conducts this brand-new staging.
Orlando, Wiener Staatsoper, December 2019.
A major event at the Wiener Staatsoper for the upcoming season, this new world premiere from one of Austria’s leading living composers, Olga Neuwirth. The piece promises to enter a realm of fiction shaped by memories. To do so, the Staatsoper has engaged one of the leading classical actors of our day, Fiona Shaw, alongside a cast of singers with significant experience in performing the music of today – Kate Lindsey in the title role, Eric Jurenas as the Angel and Constance Hauman and Agneta Eichenholz taking on multiple roles. Matthias Pintscher conducts Catherine Filloux’s staging.
Falstaff, Staatsoper Hamburg, January 2020.
The choice of the great Calixto Bieito to direct Verdi’s brilliant operatic swansong is most definitely an intriguing one and it’ll be fascinating to see what he brings to this masterpiece. He’ll be working with one of the foremost interpreters of the title role of today, Ambrogio Maestri, heading an exciting cast composed of house regulars and guests. Markus Brück sings Ford, Maija Kovalevska is Alice, while Nadezhda Karyazina is Quickly. The lovely Elbenita Kajtazi, who was a glorious Pamina there in January, is Nannetta. Axel Kober conducts.
Jenůfa, Deutsche Oper Berlin, January 2020.
For this revival of Christof Loy’s staging, the Deutsche Oper has engaged two exceptional singers with a strong track record in Janáček – Rachel Harnisch in the title role and the great Evelyn Herlitzius as the Kostelnička. Harnisch sang a fabulous EM in Flanders a few years ago; while Hertlizius’ Kostelnička, in Amsterdam last year, was one of the most staggeringly vivid performances I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing in a theatre. Having the opportunity to relive this is one that any lover of great opera will wish to take. Donald Runnicles conducts.
Halka, Teatr Wielki – Opera Naradowa, February 2020.
It was hard to choose between this run or the run at the Theater an der Wien in December 2019 with a very similar cast, both performing in Mariusz Treliński’s new staging, co-produced between Vienna and Warsaw, to be included in this list. Both casts are indeed very fine, but the opportunity to hear Moniuszko’s work in Warsaw, with an entirely Polish cast, chorus and orchestra is extremely tempting, particularly so given the excellence of the Teatr Wielki’s forces. The Warsaw cast includes Piotr Beczała, Krzysztof Szumański, Maria Stasiak, Izabela Matuła and Tomasz Rak with Łukasz Borowicz conducting.
Der Schmied von Gent, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, February – March 2020.
Opera Vlaanderen is going from strength to strength. This always enterprising house consistently offers extremely satisfying performances, based in intelligent casting and innovative stage direction. Where better, then, to rediscover Schreker’s final completed opera than in the place where the story is set. The cast includes Leigh Melrose in the title role and Kai Rüütel as his wife. The youthful rising star Ersan Mondtag directs and the new house music director, Alejo Pérez, conducts.
Il Viaggio a Reims, Palau de les Arts, València, February – March 2020.
In 2019 – 20, the Palau de les Arts is presenting one of its strongest seasons in years. The architecturally stunning house is home to one of the very best opera choruses around – as well as an excellent orchestra. When I saw Damiano Michieletto’s staging of Viaggio in Copenhagen back in 2017, I thought it one of the most deliciously uplifting evenings I’ve ever had in a theatre, and I’ve been longing to see it again ever since. The cast has been judiciously chosen and includes Albina Shagimuratova, Mariangela Sicilia, Ruth Iniesta, Adrian Sâmpetrean and the very exciting Swiss mezzo, Marina Viotti. Also in the season, and definitely worth a trip, are an Elektra and an Ariodante, both extremely well cast.
Antikrist, Deutsche Oper Berlin, March – April 2020.
Langgaard’s only opera receives its first ever Berlin staging in this new production by Ersan Mondtag, this time, making his Berlin opera debut. It’s a work I’ve wanted to see in the theatre for a long time and the Deutsche Oper has cast it from strength with the excellent Seth Carico as Hate and Flemish tenor Thomas Blondelle in multiple roles. Thomas Lehman sings the role of Lucifer and Stephan Zilias conducts.
The Fiery Angel, Theater an der Wien, April 2020.
In a sensational season at the Theater an der Wien, this new production by Andrea Breth, is likely to be just one of many highlights. Getting to experience the power of this score in such an intimate house will surely be an overwhelming experience, particularly so with the great Aušrinė Stundytė in one of her signature roles as Renata. Stundytė is such an overwhelming singing actor, one with whom it’s impossible to know where the real person ends and the character starts. With the acclaimed John Lundgren as Ruprecht and a cast of notable singers such as Tichina Vaughn and John Daszak, this really does promise much. Constantin Trinks conducts.
Elektra, Staatsoper Hamburg, April 2020.
Another new production in Hamburg and this time, Dmitri Tcherniakov’s new staging of Elektra. Tcherniakov is a director capable of great insight and his shows are always memorable and thought-provoking. Kent Nagano’s Frau ohne Schatten at this house in January was revelatory and, with his exceptional ear for texture, I am very much looking forward to hearing what he does with this score. In the title role is Elena Pankratova, a singer of remarkable versatility, while Jennifer Holloway takes on her sister. As their mother, the great Violeta Urmana makes her debut in this iconic role. With Lauri Vasar as their brother and a number of house stalwarts, this is set to be a stimulating evening in the theatre.
Don Carlo, Bayerische Staatsoper, April – May 2020.
In a season where Verdi’s masterpiece is present in a number of theatres, with several en français, Munich is promising what could well be an exceptional one in the classic Italian translation. Charles Castronovo, surely one of the finest tenors in the French and Italian repertoire before the public today, makes his debut in the title role alongside Anja Harteros as Elisabetta and Elīna Garanča as Eboli. Harteros is glorious in this role and the Italian version should suit Garanča very well. With Ludovic Tézier as Posa, Ildar Abdrazakov as Filippo, and Günther Groissböck as the Inquisitor, this promises to be something very special indeed.
L’amore dei tre rei, Teatro alla Scala, May 2020.
Once part of the standard repertoire, Montemezzi’s first big success is now very much a rarity. This opportunity to see it in the theatre where it was premiered, in a new staging by Àlex Ollé, is one that will undoubtedly be tempting. Under Carlo Rizzi’s direction, the all-Italian cast includes exciting new talents, Federica Lombardi and Giorgio Berrugi, along with the venerable Feruccio Furlanetto and Roberto Frontali.
Le Comte Ory, Teatro São Carlos, June 2020.
The house on the banks of the Tagus is something of a hidden treasure for opera lovers. The quality of the house forces is top class, the theatre a jewel and the city itself, one of the most wonderful places on earth. Casting is always judicious and frequently results in, as it did in Alceste earlier this year, performances that are revelatory. This Comte Ory is notable for the young Basque tenor, Xabier Anduaga, in the title role along with Sofia Fomina as the Comtesse and Antoinette Dennenfeld as Isolier. Giuliano Carella conducts James Bonas’ staging.
As always, there’s much that could have been included in this list. What are you looking forward to?
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It looks like a full season for you. So many of them that I am not familiar with at all. When you immerse yourself in Baroque, one looses sight of the rest of the opera world. I am glad you keep me informed.
I don’t share your enthusiasm for Bieito, and the idea of a Ring Cycle or indeed my beloved Falstaff is rather a turn off. A great cast at Munich for Don Carlo will surely get a visit from me. It’s time to finally get to Lisbon, thanks for the reminder. Fiery Angel at Theater an der Wien is a good reason to head to Vienna.
It’s sad that Australia does not feature here, Sydney is about to do Viaggio,Brisbane has a Ring next November and Jonas Kaufmann has just sung Andrea Chenier. We should merit a mention, cheers Carol Jeffs
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