Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: ENO 2009/10

Coliseum, London

Coliseum, London (Photo: ENO)

Morale must be high on St Martin’s Lane these days as ENO flies in the face of the credit crunch and announces a staggering 12 new productions for its 09/10 season.

With a whole host of talent new to the Coliseum, this is one of the company’s most ambitious seasons to date.

It seems no time since this once-proud company was languishing in the doldrums under one of the most incompetent management regimes they have ever had to endure. Yet, in what is but a mere blinking of an eye in operatic terms, it’s currently riding high on the crest of a wave.

Twelve new productions is a staggering undertaking, and a company that is prepared to open its season with a new production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre is making a massive statement. It shows confidence, balls and an overwhelming belief in its musical director and orchestra as well as an unfailing trust in its audience. If the ‘new’ ENO is going to be as bold and brash as this indicates then the future looks golden.

Not seen in this country since the 1980s, Le Grand Macabre is presented in a co-production with La Monnaie, Brussels where it opened to great acclaim the other month. Conducted by music director Ed Gardner in the first of six productions he will conduct this season and directed by the highly original and audacious La Fura dels Baus it’s quite simply a ‘must-see’.

Rupert Goold debuts

Critically-acclaimed theatre director Rupert Goold makes his operatic-directing debut with Turandot, last seen here in Christopher Alden’s production in the late nineties, whilst the Puccini-canon gets further revitalised when Catherine Malfitano directs a new Tosca with Amanda Echalaz, although it seems no time since David McVicar’s production was new. Maverick McVicar will be back however to revive his mesmerising production of The Turn of the Screw with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the work for the first time in over fifty years, and with the same adult cast returning from its first outing in 2007 promises to be a knock-out.

I did ask whether the Britten cycle had ground to a halt as there was no new production of either Albert Herring, Gloriana, Owen Wingrave or the Dream but was soon told by Mr Berry that they ‘were running out of Britten operas but they were planning something for the Britten centenary in 2013’, so that probably means that the cycle has indeed come to an end.

Alden’s Janacek

But where one cycle ends another begins, or in this case continues as David Alden returns with a new production of Janacek’s Katya Kabanova which given a cast that includes Patricia Racette, Susan Bickley, Stuart Skelton, Alfie Boe and John Graham-Hall and Mark Wigglesworth in the pit is not only a mouth-watering prospect but for me will be the undoubted highlight of the season.

But only by a whisker as Daniel Kramer, the prodigiously gifted young American director, returns to direct Duke Bluebeard’s Castle in an intriguing double-bill with The Rite of Spring. To have two of the most, if not the most, important and iconoclastic works of the 20th century presented together in one evening is genius. Fabulous Beast will perform the Stravinsky, choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan.

Elixir of Miller

There’s a double helping of the good Dr Miller as his legendary production of Rigoletto returns with Anthony Michaels-Moore in the title role whilst his New York City Opera staging of The Elixir of Love appears this side of the pond for the first time.

Other gems include Katie Mitchell’s production of Idomeneo, not seen in London for decades, Fiona Shaw’s staging of Henze’s Elegy For Young Lovers at the Young Vic and revivals of Lucia di Lammermoor and Satyagraha.

Warner’s Handel

To commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death Deborah Warner stages Messiah. Whilst her work is almost invariably insightful, there are so many Handel operas crying out to be staged in London that this seems like a missed opportunity, and I’m not over-excited, well I’m not excited at all to be honest, at the prospect of a new production of The Pearl Fishers, despite the fact it’s staged by Penny Woolcock.

So despite a couple of grumbles, ENO looks set to deliver one of its most ambitious seasons ever and with news that the coffers are looking good as well, there really is cause for rejoicing.

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