As is customary at this time of year, it’s time to look at what the season ahead has in store. Things may be returning to some kind of normality currently, but by now we are surely aware of how precious and fragile this new normal is. I must admit to having had a fear that the extended pandemic break would have led theatres to a new conservatism in repertoire choices. The reality is that, while of course we have the old warhorses in place, there’s also a fair bit of new work out there as well as some more rarely-performed pieces. This most certainly is reason to celebrate.
I’ve come up with a shortlist of what look like some of the most interesting shows taking place over the upcoming season. With the travel restrictions in place, the constant changes in entry requirements, there may be a possibility that I won’t get to see all of the below. But I’ll certainly try. The good news is that a number of the shows that featured on this list in the last few seasons that had to be cancelled have been rescheduled for this current season – including Antikrist in Berlin and L’Olimpiade in Zurich.
And so, here is a very personal selection of what I predict to be my top tips for the coming year.
Les contes d’Hoffmann, Staatsoper Hamburg, Hamburg. September 2021.
Benjamin Bernheim has proven himself to be one of the most exciting francophone singers around and, in this new production for the Staatsoper Hamburg, he will be taking the title role in one of the pinnacles of the French tenor repertoire. He will be joined by Olga Peretyatko as his love interests and Luca Pisaroni as the villains, both of whom sang these roles most successfully in concert in Baden-Baden a few years ago, as well as Angela Brower as Nicklausse, joining members of the Hamburg ensemble. The production has been confided to Daniele Finzi Pasca, a new name to me, while house music director Kent Nagano conducts.
Peter Grimes, Theater an der Wien, Vienna. October 2021.
This coming season will see a number of new productions of Grimes in theatres as diverse as Munich, Brno, and both the Wiener Staatsoper and Theater an der Wien, and it’s this latter production that looks particularly interesting. Partly, for the opportunity of hearing this score in an intimate house, but also of course for the cast. The role should sit very well for Eric Cutler’s high-lying heroic tenor and he will be joined by Agneta Eichenholz as Ellen Orford, Andrew Foster-Williams as Balstrode and Hanna Schwarz, as Auntie, among others. The presence of the Arnold Schoenberg Chor, renowned for their accuracy and precision of singing, in those big choral moments will be unmissable. Thomas Guggeis conducts this revival of Christof Loy’s 2015 staging.
Le lacrime di Eros, De Nationale Opera, Amsterdam. January 2022.
Reuniting Romeo Castellucci and Raphaël Pichon with his ensemble Pygmalion following their scenically fascinating and musically superlative Mozart Requiem at Aix back in 2019, is this ‘unorthodox’ evening at De Nationale Opera. It will combine work by Caccini, Peri, and Monteverdi, with the music of Scott Gibbons to ‘give rise to the many facets of love’. It certainly sounds interesting, and Pichon and Pygmalion are always worth travelling a very long way to hear. With a youthful cast including Huw Montague Rendall, Zachary Wilder, Nahuel di Pierro, Mariana Flores and Lucile Richardot, this promises to be a mesmerizing evening.
Carmen, Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse. January 2022.
When she gave her debut in this iconic title role in concert back in 2017, Marie-Nicole Lemieux gave notice of a major interpreter of Carmen. Particularly so, as her exceptional clarity of diction and caressing of the words made for a gripping evening of high drama. Her stage debut in the role, then, is one not to be missed. Lemieux will be joined by a francophone cast including Jean-François Borras as Don José, Alexandre Duhamel as Escamillo and Elsa Benoit as Micaëla. I saw Jean-Louis Grinda’s staging in the Ville Rose in 2018 and found it serviceable enough; but what impressed me, in particular, was the quality of the house forces, and here they will be conducted by Giuliano Carella.
Les contes d’Hoffmann, Palau de les Arts, València. January 2022.
Another Hoffmann on the list and this time from the spectacular, Calatrava-designed Palau de les Arts in València, home to a superb orchestra and one of the finest opera choruses in the world. The significant attraction of this Hoffmann is the opportunity to see Pretty Yende sing all of Hoffmann’s ladies. John Osborn is also a tenor who has a strong reputation in the French repertoire, and will certainly be worth hearing in the title role, while the excellent Alex Esposito takes on the villains. The Palau doesn’t yet list who will be singing Nicklausse. They are importing Johannes Erath’s staging from Dresden, where I saw it back in 2017. Marc Minkowski conducts. Also in the Palau’s season is the aforementioned Castellucci Mozart Requiem from Aix, and an interestingly-cast Macbeth, both of which should provide showcases for that splendid chorus.
Werther, Opéra de Bordeaux, Bordeaux. January – February 2022.
Another role debut for Benjamin Bernheim and here he takes on another major French tenor role. The title role of Werther should be ideal for his bright, resonant instrument and his impeccable diction will undoubtedly help bring this heart-wrenching role to life. He will be joined by Michèle Losier as Charlotte, whose aristocratic line and superlative clarity of text will be ideally matched with this, a role that will allow her to bring out all the colours of her mezzo and break our hearts in the process. The remaining cast includes Florie Valiquette as Sophie and Lionel Lhote as Albert. Romain Gilbert’s staging will be conducted by Pierre Dumoussaud.
Alcina, Národní Divadlo Brno, Brno. February 2022.
I had the pleasure of visiting Brno last fall and it’s a charming city, while the theatre itself is exceptionally comfortable in terms of seating. Which is ideal for a lengthy evening of Händel. For this run of Alcina, the house has assembled a cast of both international and local singers, with the peerless Händelian, Karina Gauvin, in the title role. Gauvin really is at her phenomenal best in this repertoire and any occasion to see her in a staged production must be grabbed with both hands. Ray Chenez and Kangmin Justin Kim share the roles of Ruggero during the run, while Mirella Hagen and Doubravka Součková sing Morgana, and Václava Krejčí Housková and Monika Jägrová sing Bradamante. Noted Czech Händelian Václav Luks conducts Jiří Heřman’s staging.
Le baruffe, Teatro La Fenice, Venice. February – March 2022.
A world premiere from Giorgio Battistelli to a libretto by Damiano Michieletto based on Carlo Goldoni’s comedy, Le baruffe chiozzotte. The Fenice has assembled a cast of both youthful and established Italian singers, including Alessandro Luongo, Silvia Frigato, Leonardo Cortellazzi, Rocco Cavalluzzi, Francesca Sorteni and Federico Longhi. Battistelli is one of the most performed and discussed of contemporary Italian composers, and it will certainly be interesting to see what he and Michieletto create from Goldoni’s original. Michieletto will also direct the staging, while Enrico Calesso conducts the Fenice forces.
L’amico Fritz, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Florence. March 2022.
Opportunities to see L’amico Fritz are rare and this new staging at the Maggio will be an opportunity to see the work live with a very exciting cast. Charles Castronovo, the owner of one of the most handsome tenor voices around and a singer of great musicality, takes on the title role for the first time. Salome Jicia, who comes with an admirable reputation in the Italian rep sings Suzel, while noted Italian baritone Massimo Cavalletti sings Davide. The Maggio forces are excellent and here they are placed under the direction of Italian specialist, Riccardo Frizza, in Rosetta Cucchi’s staging.
Tristan und Isolde, Wiener Staatsoper, April 2022.
For its new production of Tristan und Isolde, the Wiener Staatsoper has entrusted the work to the stage direction of the great Calixto Bieito. It will be fascinating to see what Bieito will do here, a director who always seems to be able to speak directly to the soul and find a visceral truth within. Andreas Schager, a singer of seemingly indefatigable power, will bring his acclaimed Tristan to the house on the Ring, while Martina Serafin sings Isolde. Ekaterina Gubanova, Iain Paterson and René Pape sing the remaining principal roles. House music director Philippe Jordan will conduct.
Les Troyens, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. May & July 2022.
Any new production of les Troyens is an event and, in this time of the plague, getting to see this magnificent work live, with the sheer number of people involved, is a privilege. When I saw the concert performances in Strasbourg back in 2017, I was blown away by Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s Cassandre. This is a work, I have loved since I was a teenager, but here, for the first time, I was made immediately aware of the text in a way no other singer has done before. Lemieux was singularly compelling and made Cassandre’s scenes sound like such a page-turning epic, that one could not help but listen – if only the Trojans had done the same. As in Strasbourg, Stéphane Degout will sing Chorèbe. As Énée, Gregory Kunde is sure to bring a lifetime of experience to the role, while Anita Rachvelishvili will take on Didon. Daniele Rustioni conducts this new production by Christophe Honoré.
Un ballo in maschera, Teatro alla Scala, Milan. May 2022.
Attending a show at the Scala is always a very special occasion. While the quality of the performances can be variable, absolutely nothing in the world can compare to that feeling of entering that storied auditorium. There’s an atmosphere there that’s utterly unique. This Ballo will be interesting for the great Sondra Radvanovsky taking on the role of Amelia. Radvanovsky is the owner of a remarkable instrument, big and rounded, that carries through the house with ease, yet is also capable of some exquisite soft singing. Also notable will be the debut at this legendary house of the sensational US mezzo, Raehann Bryce-Davis, who was an extraordinary Eboli in Flanders a few seasons ago. Francesco Meli sings Riccardo while Luca Salsi takes on Renato. House music director Riccardo Chailly conducts this new staging by Marco Arturo Marelli.
De Bekeerlinge, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Antwerp – Ghent. May – June 2022.
This new work by Wim Henderickx promises to be a fascinating exploration of the impact of religious violence on a woman’s life within a wider society. Based on the novel by Stefan Hertmans, in a libretto by Krystian Lada, who will also be responsible for the stage direction, Henderickx will make use of singers from a variety of vocal traditions – as well as a specially recruited community choir from Antwerp. Lore Binon takes on the central role of Vigdis/Hamoutal, while Vincenzo Neri, Amel Brahim-Djelloul, Françoise Atlan, and Daniel Arnaldos, among others, round out the cast. Koen Kessels conducts
Der Schatzgräber, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin. May – June 2022.
Schreker’s operas are certainly getting much more exposure these days and this is a welcome development. For its new production of Der Schatzgräber, the Deutsche Oper has confided the stage direction to Christof Loy, a director always willing to look below the surface and interrogate a work. The cast will be made up of familiar Deutsche Oper stalwarts, including Seth Carico, Clemens Bieber and Stephen Bronk. Noted Swedish soprano Elisabeth Strid will be making her house debut as Els and her compatriot, Daniel Johansson will be joining her as Elis. Marc Albrecht, a conductor with a sterling reputation in the music of the early twentieth-century, leads the house forces.
Les Huguenots, La Monnaie – De Munt, Brussels. June – July 2022.
Opportunities to see les Huguenots really don’t come around every day and this new production, by Olivier Py, promises to be unmissable. The house has assembled a seriously promising cast for this, including Enea Scala as Raoul, Lenneke Ruiten as Marguerite, and Karine Deshayes as Valentine. They will be joined by Ambroisine Bré as Urbain, Nicolas Cavallier as the Comte de Saint-Bris, Vittorio Prato as the Comte de Nevers, and Jean-Luc Ballestra as Méru, to name but a few of the extensive cast. The quality of the house forces has been exceptional over the last few years and here, placed under the direction of Evelino Pidò, they will have a major showcase in which to show their mettle.
These were my hot operatic tips for the upcoming season. All that remains is to wish you health and happiness for the year ahead. Now, what are you looking forward to?