Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Synchronized swimming? Royal Opera House 2011/12

Because it's the Olympics next year, in case you've forgotten. Luckily there won't be too much disruption to stop anyone getting to the Royal Opera House in 2011 and 2012.  Not all of us are enthralled by sports like synchronized swimming. On the other hand, savage cuts force arts venues into a kind of synchronized swimming, repeating safe gestures to keep afloat. We're facing a "perfect storm" of cuts, costs and changed priorities. Governments committed to senseless invasions of foreign countries and extravaganzas like the Olympics don't have room to manouevre.  This was once a wealthy country. Fact is, it isn't now. Much as I think the arts are essential, health, education and social services take priority. At the end of the day opera fans are better off than most of the poor, sick, elderly and vulnerable.  So it's up to those of us who can still afford to go out to support what we believe in. Or no-one else will.

So don't moan because there's nothing shockingly adventurous. This is what the future holds if venues are forced to survive on dead certs - dead funding, dead support, dead certs for programmes. Will the Royal Opera House become more like the Met? It's up to us in the audience not to give up. There's an ecomonic theory  which says, as long as there are buyers to fuel the economy it won't completely grind to a halt. So I'm supporting what I can even if it's not ideal. Better that than being forced to depend on some pig-headed billionaire who dictates terms for everyone else. And there's more of interest than appears on the surface.

Il Trittico complete -  Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, together for the first time since 1965. The sum is greater than its parts - this will be talked of for ages to come.

Dvořák’s Rusalka - it's been at Glyndebourne, ENO and everywhere else but never fully staged at the Royal Opera House. It's a strange dream-like story, a journey through the subconscious. This "radical intterpretation" was first heard at Salzburg in 2008 "to great acclaim". Arch-conservatives will wail because it's not straightforward fairy tale but they should get to know the opera and its context. Whatever the production will be like, the fact that it will shake the fairy tale crowd is a plus, in these times of artistic retreat. Camilla Nylund sings - a rare vistior to these shores and very interesting. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts, which should be a draw.

Another major new opera by a major British composer : Judith Weir Miss Fortune. Corny name but from past form Weir's work is very good. Miss Fortune was seen last year in the small, indoor theatre at Bregenz, so it may/may not be a chamber operra like all her previous ventures, like Blonde Eckbert and A Night at the Chinese Opera. which isn't Chinese opera. Now I wish that I'd been at the Wigmore Hall Judith Weir Study Day instead of Unsuk Chin at the Barbican. Maybe ROH will do a similar intensive course at Covent Garden? Jacques Imbrailo and Emma Bell - good choices. .

In May Robert Carsen directs a new production of Verdi Falstaff.  Marie-Nicole Lemieux, the vivacious baroque mezzo, is Mistress Quickly - she could steal the show!  But the really big news is Hector Berlioz Les Troyens in June. This is huge in every way, which is why it doesn't get staged often, though there are several recordings. Big and sprawling can make good theatre, if done with panache. Chances are this will be - Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Caterina Antonacci and Eva-Marie Westbroek, and David McVicar  directing. Take out a second mortgage though, as it's not cheap to produce and tickets will fly.

Thirteen revivals. Rigoletto, Cosi, La Trav, the Flying Dutchman etc etc. Do not moan. Revivals are the bread and butter of any major house, because they bring in new (and old) patrons and deliver a good experience even if you'rve heard them before.  In revivals, what counts is the quality of the singing. Vittorio Grigolo, Anja Harteros, René Pape, Calleja,  Gheorghiu and Alagna. (not together which would be news)  Even more intriguing are some of the lesser known names. Jette Parker Young Artists Zhengzhong Zhou alternates with Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Don't let the "young artists" label worry you - he's interesting.

In fact, don't ever understimate the Jette Parker Young Artists. They're chosen from the best and many go on to great things. This year's new intake includes Hanna Hipp, the Polish mezzo whom I raved about when she was at the Guildhall.

photo Peter Suranyi

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