Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Mixed augury : Royal Opera House 2016-2017

The Royal Opera House 2016-2017 season, announced today, poses questions. Where can the House go, pinched as it is by the pincer movement of budget cuts and increasingly philistine sections who aren't interested in opera as an art form?

 Seven new productions are planned, as opposed to 8 last year which in  itself is no big deal. since the operas are heavy hitters -  Norma, , Der Rosenkavalier, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Così fan tutte, The Nose, The Exterminating Angel, and Otello

Norma with Anna Netrebko Joseph Calleja, Brindley Sherratt and Sonia Ganassi.  The production should have fundamentalists howling without having seen it at all, It's by  Alex Ollé and  La Fura dels Baus. They did a spectacular Ligeti Le Grand Macabre at ENO in 2009 but a less effective Enescu Oedipe at La Monnaie (coming to ROH) . Bel canto as theatre? But consider the plot, which reflects on the role of fanatical religion in a society in crisis, dominated by a strong military power. A Catalan company should know about such things. In any case Antonio Pappano is conducting so this should be red-blooded Bellini, and why not?

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, with Bryn Terfel and Gwyn Hughes Jones  reprising the roles they created for the superlative ENO production by Richard Jones (read more here)   This new production will be directed by Kasper Holten who created the "Copenhagen Ring", which many liked for its familial focus, which might pay dividends in Meistersinger where good humour is of the essence. It's disturbing that audiences like the Glyndebourne Meistersinger so much which is pretty but steers well clear of Wagner's ideas on art and anti-art.

Otello with Jonas Kaufmann making his role debut, a surefire draw! No more needs to be said. . . Pappano conducts Keith Warner's new production

The Nose - subversive Shostakovich, which Gergiev and the Mariiinsky brought to the ENO in 2006.  Ingo Metzmacher conducts, which will be a plus.  Barrie Kosky,directs,  so expect gratuitious prurience. But maybe that's what audiences actually prefer,  despite protest,  since they liked  (I didn't)  his Glyndebourne Saul and his Munich Prokofiev Fiery Angel.

Così fan tutte conducted by Semyon Bychkov, in his first Mozart for ROH.  A competent but not outstsnding cast. It's an opera where balance counts so Bychkov should hold it together. Jan Philipp Gloger directs. I don't know his work, but the old Jonathan Miller production was toe cringingly awful with its 70's hippies.

Der Rosenkavalier with Renée Fleming, Alice Coote, Matthew Rose and Andris Nelsons - another surefire hit   Maybe Rosenkavalier is supposed to suggest a moth-eaten , fading hierarchy, but John Schlesinger's ancient production really needed refreshing. Robert Carsen directs, so perhaps we won't get something as wittily Octavianesque as the Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier, which the London press didn't notice, obsessed as they were by their own sexual tastes.  Schlesinger's Tales of Hoffmann, though, last seen in 2006, is coming back, with Vittorio Grigolo.

Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel gets it UK premiere. Based on Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza’s screenplay for Buñuel’s 1962 film El á​​ngel exterminador, it's co- commissioned  and co-produced by The Royal Opera, The Salzburg Festival,  The Metropolitan Opera, New York, and the Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen. Director is Tom Cairns, with whom Adès created The Tempest at ROH in 2004. The Tempest propelled Adès's career into the stratosphere.  Contrary to popular belief, English operas - even the operas of Benjamin Britten - tend to be written for smaller ensembles and houses, so  ROH has a role to play in shaping the future of British opera by doing works like these. There is a market, as proved by the success of Benjamin's Written on Skin (being revived in 2016-2017) . As techno communications make English the world language, surely there is a need for good opera in English, (as opposed to  the plethora of mediocrity)? The ROH has the standards and resources to do English opera well.

Plenty of safe revivals, and exciting singers: Bryan Hymel in Don Carlo. Christine Goerke, Ermonela Jaho in Turandot, and many others.

Antonio Pappano has been confirmed Music Director til 2020. He's a superb communicator  and front man, a role not many conductors can carry off well. Plus he's hands-on, which is more than can be said of James Levine. A few years ago Pappano conducted onlt revivals in repertoire to whivh he's ideally suited. Now we have cameos fromm Nelsons,. Bychkov and Metzmachrr with baroque being done by specilaoist 9fair enough)> And we can also see just how much British music owes the ENO.

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