Oliver Mears’ first season and Antonio Pappano’s sixteenth at the Royal Opera House looks like a safe mixture of the new and not so new, with six new productions at the house, four premieres at other venues and the usual crop of revivals, both of the very welcome and the hitherto not-much-loved variety. Given that Mears makes quite a thing about Covent Garden having been home to the most outstanding performers, composers and artists “Since the time of Handel…” it’s a shame that not one of Handel’s operas features in the new season. Lovers of baroque music will have to content themselves with a new production of Il ritorno d’ Ulisse in patria at the Roundhouse, a “Royal Opera premiere” – wonder why that’s announced as if it’s a virtue?
Similarly, the inclusion of one of Janáček’s operas is presented as continuing “the line of Royal Opera programming focussing on early 20th-century works never previously seen at the ROH.” Well, it’s a start, and the beginning of a series to come. It’s directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, one of those modish theatre directors, and if his recent Wozzeck is anything to go by, it could well be one of those where half the audience asks “What the hell is going on here?” and the other half tells the first lot to get out more. We shall see; the cast is promising, including Willard W. White and Johan Reuter.
The season begins with a new production of La Bohème, in collaboration with Chicago Opera and Teatro Real, Madrid. It’s conducted by Pappano and directed by Richard Jones, with Nicole Car and Simona Mihai sharing the role of Mimì and Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo. It will be screened ‘Live’ on October 3rd. Rossini’s Semiramide, last seen at Covent Garden in 1885 when Adelina Patti sang the title role, is the next new production at the house, and this time it’s Joyce di Donato, with Pappano conducting and David Alden directing.
Yet another Carmen is the next “new” production: it comes from Frankfurt Opera and is directed by Barrie Kosky (Saul at Glyndebourne) in what is apparently a “far from traditional version.” Can’t wait. If you don’t make it to the house, you can judge for yourself when the production is screened on March 6th. May brings a new opera from George Benjamin, Lessons in Love and Violence: it’s conducted by the composer and directed by Katie Mitchell.
The first new staging at the house since 1977 of Lohengrin is the main attraction in June: directed by David Alden, it promises “a dystopian world threatened from the outside.” Make of that what you will, but the cast looks sound, including as it does Klaus Florian Vogt and Kristine Opolais: it’s conducted by Andris Nelsons.
Revivals include the award-winning Cav & Pag, the 2013 Les Vêpres siciliennes, another outing for David McVicar’s beautiful, scholarly Die Zauberflöte and the first revival since its premiere run of Katie Mitchell’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor, described by the house as “distinctive and provoking.” Well that’s one way of putting it.
Other venues, beside the Roundhouse, include the Hackney Empire, with a new production of Mamzer Bastard by Na’ama Zisser, in a co-commission with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Barbican, where the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline will be staged in a co-production with Opéra de Lille, Victoria Opera Melbourne and Theater Freiburg.
Full details from roh.org.uk/news/royal-opera-house-2017-2018-season-announced