Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Thrilling Royal Opera House 2013-2014 season highlights

"Plenty of meat, and juicy bits" says Kaspar Holten about the new Royal Opera season 2013-2014.  Seven new productions on the main stage, Five new commissions, and 2 UK premieres in the Linbury Studio Theatre. Three Strauss operas, Wozzeck, Maria Stuarda with Joyce DiDonato, in the production from Barcelona, TWO operas with Karita Mattila (Marie and Ariadne), TWO Jonas Kaufmann appearances (Des Grieux and in recital). Luca Pisaroni makes his ROH debut as Figaro, Bryan Hymel returns as Henri in Les vêpres siciliennes, Mariuz Kweicien sings Don Giovanni, Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko and Bryn Terfel star in Gounod Faust, Placido Domingo conducts Tosca....... so much else.

This season's so exciting that it will take time to digest. As Holten indicated, if you care, you aim to do the best you can. In this world nothing is perfect, but if your heart is in the right place, you have integrity. That's the kind of commitment I admire. With Holten and Pappano, we won't get boring or dull.  I'll write about the more specialized Linbury Studio Theatre programmes later because they're good. But here are the main house highlights.

Verdi : Les vêpres siciliennes (17 Oct -11 Nov 2013) Top class singing - Bryan Hymel,  Marina Poplavskaya, Erwin Schrott, and Michael Volle. This should be very different, but stimulating.Dance fans will compete to see this because it's not the usual I vespri siciliani but the original French version with the half-hour ballet. Royal ballet dancers will be joined by dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet. "It will be spectacular" said Holten, and Pappano beamed in agreement. It's what he does well. It won't be a cheap production, but quite extravagant. The director will be Stefan Herheim which will be even more intriguing. Herheim is controversial, but extremely well respected.(see my review of his Rusalka here)  The anti-brigade will be up in arms, but that's their loss. Herheim is well regarded as a Wagner director, (Parsifal, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser etc so consider what's next :

Wagner : Parsifal (30 Nov - 15 Dec 2013).  This will be directed by Stephen Langridge with the same team as behind his Birtwistle The Minotaur, reviewed here. What's he going to make of the pseudo Christian iconography? René Pape sings Gurnemanz as he did in the recent Met Parsifal (see review here "Religion or Religiosity?) , and has indeed done the role so many times he probably owns it. Simon O'Neill sings Parsifal and Angela Denoke sings Kundry.

Strauss : Die Frau ohne Schatten  (14 March - 2 April 2014). This will be the production from Milan, directed by Claus Guth. Much the same cast as in Milan - John Botha, Elena Pankratova, Emily McGee and Michaela Schuster. The other Strauss operas this season are Elektra (Christine Goerke in the Charles Edwards production, read more HERE) and Ariadne auf Naxos (June, July 2014). It will be interesting to compare this Ariadne auf Naxos, directed by Christof Loy with the Glyndebourne Ariadne auf Naxos (Katharina Thoma).  ROH has Karita Mattila, Glyndebourne has Soile Isokoski.

Poulenc : Les Dialogues des Carmélites ( 9 May- 7 June 2014)  Simon Rattle conducts an excellent cast : Magdalena Kožená, Annas Prohaska, Emma Bell, Deborah Polaski and Sophie Koch. Robert Carsen directs.

Puccini : Manon Lescaut (17 June - 7 July 2014) Following the Massenet Manon revival in January, this is a new production, with an all-star cast: Jonas Kaufmann, Kristine Opolais, and Christopher Maltman. Antonio Pappano conductrs. Jonathan Kent is the director.

Mozart : Don Giovanni (1 - 24 February 2014).  Mariusz Kweicin makes this a must, but look at the rest of the cast - Véronique Gens, Malin Bystrom, Alex Esposito, Elizabeth Watts.  What makes this interesting, though, is that Kaspar Holten is directing. His film Juan (reviewed here) was a film based on Don Giovanni. This time he's directing Mozart's Don Giovanni.  Quizzed about his Eugene Onegin at the ROH, Holten said that it was his 64th directorial production. Although many critics panned it, including me, (read more here), many in the audience liked it. I can vouch for that, seated as I was surrounded by people who loved it.  I'm glad I saw it because it was stimulating. I believe we should go to an opera to hear someone else's perspective. Whether we agree or not, what we learn from the experience is far more important than being judgemental.

photo : Peter Suranyi

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