Bold programming combines with a selection of crowd-pleasing revivals.
To say the last couple of years has been difficult for opera companies up and down the country is an understatement. Yet as they unveil what they have in store for next season, one can’t help but be struck by their determination to be bold – there’s a real sense of new beginnings and optimism for the future – following the trials and tribulations they’ve endured during the worst of the pandemic.
The latest to reveal their line-up is The Royal Opera. Boasting 11 new productions across the main stage and Linbury Theatre, along with many excitingly cast revivals, there’s plenty to whet the appetite in their 2022/23 season. To mark Antonio Pappano’s 20th year at the helm, in itself a cause for celebration, the company’s longest serving music director will conduct three new productions: Aida (Robert Carsen), Wozzeck (Deborah Warner) and Il Trovatore (Adele Thomas). He’ll also conduct revivals of Turandot, in the venerable 1984 staging by Andrei Serban, and Werther with Jonas Kaufmann in the title role.
Robert Carsen’s staging of Aida will be the third during his tenure as music director – a notorious opera to get right, so hopefully the Canadian director will have better luck than either Robert Wilson or David McVicar did in their previous stagings. Double-cast (Mark Elder conducts a further run of performances) with Elena Stikhina and Angel Blue sharing the title role, if the Canadian director can surmount the difficulties this opera poses, this promises to be one of the season’s highlights.
Deborah Warner’s staging of Wozzeck will be her second production of Berg’s masterpiece – her Wozzeck for Opera North in the ‘90s won many plaudits – so it’ll be fascinating to see how her thoughts have developed in the intervening years. And given it’s hard to imagine a better cast – Christian Gerhaher in the title role with Anja Kampe as Marie – this has all the ingredients to be a thrilling night of theatre. Not an easy one to sell at the box office, it’ll be interesting to see how they price it given the top price ticket at the last revival of the Keith Warner staging, with Simon Keenlyside and Karita Mattila was £60, and it sold out.
The new production of Il Trovatore opened recently at the Zurich Opera, to huge critical acclaim, and with a cast including Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Yusif Eyvazov, Ludovic Tézier and Jamie Barton, it looks likely to set those Verdian pulses racing. I really liked the David Bösch production that it’s replacing, and am sorry to see it go, but realise I’m in the minority on that one – time to move on!
“…there’s a real sense of new beginnings and optimism for the future…”
It’s a shame there’s no Janáček this season – the planned Katie Mitchell staging of The Makropulos Affair starring Karita Mattila has hopefully been postponed rather than lost forever – but lovers of Czech opera can take solace that Natalie Abrahami and Ann Yee will direct Dvorák’s Rusalka, starring the sensational Asmik Grigorian. The rest of the cast is superb too and reads like a Who’s Who of exceptional British operatic talent – David Butt Philip (Prince), Sarah Connolly (Ježibaba), Matthew Rose (Vodník) and Emma Bell (The Duchess). And the icing on the cake is that Semyon Bychkov will conduct.
Contemporary opera fares well, as the company presents Innocence, the first time it’s featured an opera by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. Conducted by her compatriot Susanna Mälkki (house debut) and coming from last year’s Aix-en-Provence Festival having garnered a slew of five-star reviews, this landmark event promises to be unmissable.
Continuing its exploration of Handel’s stage works, Richard Jones directs a new production of Alcina starring Lisette Oropesa in the title role, conducted by Baroque expert, Christian Curnyn. Jones’ most recent foray into Handel, Rodelinda for ENO, divided audiences and critics alike, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of magical island he and designer Anthony Mcdonald create. There’s a great supporting cast as well, with Emily D’Angelo as Ruggiero (house debut) and Mary Bevan as Morgana.
Revivals include Don Giovanni, Salome (Malin Byström returns to appraise her critically acclaimed Judean princess), Madama Butterfly, La bohème, Tosca, The Magic Flute (conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev), Tannhäuser, The Barber of Seville, Don Carlo (in Italian), The Marriage of Figaro and La traviata.
In the Linbury Theatre Oliver Mears directs The Rape of Lucretia, with a young cast assembled from the Jette Parker Artists Programme and the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme, while there are new works from Oliver Leith (Last Days and Brian Irvine (Least Like the Other). Handel’s Arminio receives a new staging as well.
If we had to choose five highlights from the season, which is difficult given this looks set to be a fantastic one, they would be as follows, and in no particular order.
- Innocence: we love contemporary opera, and it’s good to see one of Saariaho’s operas reach the Covent Garden stage at last.
- Rusalka: Asmik Grigorian was a sensational Jenufa, so with Bychkov in the pit and that superb cast this is as good as it gets.
- Tosca: Natalya Romaniw makes her house debut alongside Freddie de Tomasso as Cavaradossi – the dream team.
- Lise Davidsen’s double Elisabeths – in Tannhäuser and Don Carlo (role debut).
- Wozzeck. Superb cast, one of our favourite operas, and an exciting director – all the ingredients for a thrilling night of theatre.
• Full details of The Royal Opera’s 2022/23 season can be found here.