Cooper’s London

royal opera houseAutumn: Opera Now

by Mel Cooper

There are several highlights from the upcoming season to note in your diary: Perhaps one of the most exciting will be the new-ish Nicholas Hytner production of Verdi’s Don Carlo that opens the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 15 September with a very 2007_Don_Carlo_Vienna_signedexciting cast – the stellar team of Jonas Kaufmann and Simon Keenlyside play Carlo and Rodgrigo. They could easily be the best duo in those roles since Jussi Bjoerling and Robert Merrill. Though Kaufmann is not as sweet-voiced as Bjoerling, he is a very intelligent interpreter; and Keenlyside is one of opera’s most innovative and powerful performers.
It is also worth noting that a new Tristan und Isolde (29 September) is coming along at the ROH. Nina Stemme is Isolde and Ben Heppner is Tristan, but for me the irresistible element ispappano Antonio Pappano as conductor. The repertoire is nothing to sniff at, yet hardly full of surprises. Watch out in December for Der Rosenkavalier— a revival of the now-venerable John Schlesinger production (originally for Kiri Te Kanawa and Georg Solti), with Soile Isokokoski as the Marschallin, Sophie Koch as Octavian and Lucy Crowe as Sophie. Or perhaps try the also-venerable John Copley production of La Boheme? But be sure to see a performance with Rebecca Evans as Mimi.
Otherwise, for me the most exciting thing in Covent Garden this autumn (after Don Carlo) is The Enchanted Pig, enchanted piga charming opera by Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton that is being staged for Christmas in the Linbury Studio. John Fulljames’s production was a hit at the Young Vic a few seasons back, and this revival is definitely something to delight children as well as their escorting parents. If you have no kids to take, hire some.
The English National Opera is doing Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (from 17 September) — don’t ask me why. I guess they feel it’s their duty to give it an airing. grand macabreBut La Fura dels Baus (the Catalan “total theatre” company that created the Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony) will bring their highly unusual settings and black humour to this ‘anti-anti opera’. It ought to be interesting spectacle, if nothing else!
The new Turandot (from 8 October) looks promising: mainly because Rupert Goold is directing, and though he’s not consistently as great as they say he is, he’s very bright and always fresh in his approach; and Edward Gardiner is conducting the lush score – and he’s usually brilliant and spot-on.
But for me the brightest highlight of the autumn is the revival of David McVicar’s illuminating production of The Turn of the Screw (from 22 October) with the inestimable Rebecca Evans, rohturnscrew3this time as the Governess, before she undertakes Mimi in Bohème. Most importantly, Charles Mackerras is the Maestro. Never miss one of his performances if you can possibly help it. He’s a truly great conductor and invariably “gets” the idiom and style of whatever he’s dealing with, from Handel through Martinu. I would even listen to him conduct Ligeti!
I always recommend the Welsh National Opera, if you can catch them in Cardiff or on tour. The ensemble work of the company is but one of its glory points, along with the infallible chorus, and they almost always stage fascinating productions. David McVicar is staging a new Traviata (14 September, onwards) in Wales this fall with some excitement centering on Alfie Boe’s appearance as Alfredo. The classic Joachim Herz Madama Butterfly gets revived again from 17 September, with Carlo Rizzi conducting. The anticipation there is about teaming Amanda Roocroft as Butterly with US tenor Russell Thomas as Pinkerton. The WNO season is rounded out by Richard Jones’s Wozzek, from 27 September, a co-production with Komische Oper Berlin.
CardiffMergeAfter opening their shows in Cardiff’s splendid new opera house, the WNO embarks on its usual ten-city post-summer tour, so you can, with a little planning, catch them until December in places that are mostly within striking distance of London. See their Web site for details. It’s not one of the easiest to navigate, but once you get the hang of the various bells and whistles, it’s very informative and rather fun.
Finally, there is always the late-autumn Glyndebourne Tour. This year they are doing Cosi fan Tutte, Falstaff, and Jenufa. All are fresh from Glyndebourne (and opening there in October before hitting the road), but recast with up-and-coming singers. It’s a great way to spot the stars of tomorrow. jenufaAnd the productions are usually excellent. I am not happy with the modern-dress Falstaff, but I like the Cosi, and I think the Jenufa is stunningly convincing and visually memorable. If you can only pick one, don’t miss the famous Lehnhoff Jenufa.

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