Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: 2015 in the Opera House – London



A jam-packed year for London opera-goers begins with a remarkable ‘first’ for the Royal Opera: Monteverdi’s Orfeo in collaboration with the Roundhouse, involving not just the former RSC director Michael Boyd and major soloists but placing young singers at the project’s heart. The eight performances, commencing on Tuesday January 13th, feature a new twist on the fanfares which traditionally announce the start of the opera – developed by youth ensembles from Camden schools in collaboration with the composer Duncan Chapman, these will herald each performance in the run. Young dancers from East London Dance and postgrads from the Guildhall will also participate, and there’s even an online game developed by 11-14 year olds entitled, appropriately, Don’t Look Back.

More conventionally, the Royal Opera stages Giordano’s Andrea Chénier in a new production by David McVicar and featuring – who else? – Jonas Kaufmann as the romantic poet who gets to wrap those golden tones around two of the most seductive arias in the repertoire. First night is January 20th and despite the Kaufmann effect there are still some seats left for later performances.

If that’s not your style, then it’s over to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on February 3rd, for a revival of the fabulous L’Ormindo which enchanted all those lucky enough to have caught the first run. Back at the main house, February also brings revivals of Tim Albery’s account of Der flegende Holländer, with Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman, and David McVicar’s beautiful, cerebral version of Die Zauberflöte.

Not to be outdone by the place up the road, the English National Opera’s 2015 starts off in fine style on February 7th with the first London showing of Richard Jones’ much-praised production of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg. The big draws here must be Iain Paterson’s Hans Sachs and Andrew Shore’s Beckmesser. That’s followed by the return of Peter Konwitschny’s celebrated account of La traviata with Ben Johnson as Alfredo, and at the end of February a ‘first’ to rival that of the ROH Orfeo in the shape of Purcell’s The Indian Queen: devised by Peter Sellars, the production is set to be a spectacle of music, theatre, dance, literature and visual art, and opera lovers are sure to be pleased with the musical direction by Laurence Cummings, and the presence of Lucy Crowe and Julia Bullock amongst the singers.

Spring at ENO brings us Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street with Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson churning out the ‘unsavoury’ pies, and this ‘glorious gruesomeness’ is swiftly followed by the complete contrast of Between Worlds, the operatic debut of the composer Tansy Davies. Deborah Warner returns to ENO to direct Davies’ work, which is based on the events of 9/11 and conducted by the contemporary music specialist Gerry Cornelius.

Even those who generally fail to grasp the attraction of Gilbert and Sullivan would surely be intrigued by the ENO’s next production – early May heralds Mike Leigh’s take on The Pirates of Penzance, with the inimitable Andrew Shore as the very model of a modern major-general, and Robert Murray as Frederic. Calixto Bieto’s production of Carmen follows, with much interest sure to be generated by the presence of Justina Gringyte and Eric Cutler in the principal roles. Finally, to round off a terrific season comes The Queen of Spades in which Felicity Palmer sings the Countess. That would be reason alone for some of us to be there, but it’s an added draw that the production will be another collaboration between David Alden and Edward Gardner, if one tinged with sadness since it will be Ed’s last one as the ENO’s Music Director.

In such a packed Spring/Summer as the ROH is presenting, it’s perhaps best to select the highlights, which begin on March 10th with a new Rise and fall of the City of Mahagonny directed by John Fulljames and conducted by Mark Wigglesworth. Our next ‘must see’ is the first ever outing at the Royal Opera for Szymanowski’s Król Roger, in a new production by Kasper Holten, conducted by Antonio Pappano. If you don’t know this astonishing work, there’s a wonderful recording of it by the Polish National Opera with the late Wojtek Drabowicz in the title role.

John Copley’s classic La bohème bows out in grand style at the end of May, with Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja as the impoverished lovers, and a month later Pappano conducts a new Guillaume Tell which introduces us to the Italian director Damiano Michieletto, whose work at Wexford, La scala and Salzburg has been highly praised. Robert Carsen’s rumbustious Falstaff returns in July, with Ambrogio Maestri in the title role, and the season closes with the final of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition final, being shown at the ROH for the first time, and new family opera presented by WNO, adapted from Peter Pan and directed by Keith Warner.

Further information on all the above can be found here:

The Royal Opera

English National Opera

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