News: Glyndebourne Festival Opera announces details of its 75th anniversary season

New productions of The Fairy Queen, Falstaff and Rusalka at the heart of programming in 2009

13 October 2008

Glydnebourne (credit: Mike Hoban)Still the UK's premiere summer opera festival at the ripe age of seventy-five, Glyndebourne has announced details of next summer's season, which will run from 21 May to 30 August 2009 and include three new productions.

In the year of the Purcell and Handel anniversaries, Glyndebourne will present its first-ever production of The Fairy Queen and revive David McVicar's popular staging of Giulio Cesare. The company's first-ever Rusalka and a new Falstaff are joined by revivals of Tristan und Isolde and L'elisir d'amore.

'An anniversary is a time to reflect, but more vitally it is a chance to look to the future,' said General Manager David Pickard. 'In our 75th year, Glyndebourne continues to innovate and create new work that will develop the art form. Glyndebourne will build on the heritage of its past by nurturing new generations of artists, developing the strengths of ensemble casting and allowing ample rehearsal time.'

The new production of Verdi's last opera, Falstaff, will reunite the artistic partnership of conductor Vladimir Jurowski and director Richard Jones after their recent collaboration on Macbeth at Glyndebourne in 2007. The international cast is led by Christopher Purves as Falstaff, returning after singing Bass Soloist in the St Matthew Passion, with Greek baritone Tassis Christoyannis making his UK debut as Ford. Jennifer Holloway and Adriana Kucerová will sing Meg Page and Nanetta, following their roles as Hänsel and Gretel in the 2008 Festival. There will be fourteen performances between 21 May and 11 July, and the production is supported by Hamish and Sophie Forsyth.

The Fairy Queen brings back William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in what promises to be another musical treat from a period music specialist team. Director Jonathan Kent and designer Paul Brown, whose critically acclaimed staging of The Turn of the Screw was performed in the Festival in 2007, will create this new production for Glyndebourne. There will be twelve performances between 20 June and 12 August and the production is supported by Associated Newspapers Limited.

Dvorák's Rusalka comes to Glyndebourne for the first time, with sixteen performances between 5 July and 28 August. Theatre director Melly Still will direct her first opera with Jirí Belohlávek conducting. It remains to be seen whether Still can adapt well to the opera house – personally, I wasn't too keen on her staging of Coram Boy at the National Theatre, though perhaps its fairytale-fantasy quality will be suited to the story of Rusalka – but since he has no superiors in this repertoire, the signing of Belohlávek to conduct is something of a coup. Brandon Jovanovich returns as the Prince after singing Don José in the 2008 Festival production of Carmen, with Tatiana Pavlovskaya as the Foreign Princess and Ana Maria Martinez (a notable Covent Garden Donna Elvira) as Rusalka both making their Glyndebourne debuts.

Glydnebourne (credit: Mike Hoban)The revival of Giulio Cesare from 22 May to 3 July brings together the two stars of the original run of the production: Sarah Connolly's impressively macho Cesare and Danielle de Niese's sexy, sensuous Cleopatra. David McVicar will direct the revival of his 2005 production, which was was given the accolade of Best Opera by the South Bank Show Awards, while baroque specialist Laurence Cummings will lead the OAE in the pit.

Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore will be given ten performances between 23 July and 29 August, with Annabel Arden returning to direct the Festival staging of her 2007 Glyndebourne on Tour production. Maurizio Benini makes his Glyndebourne debut conducting Peter Auty (who will revive his interpretation of the romantic Nemorino) and Ekaterina Siurina (making her house debut as Adina). L'elisir d'amore is supported by Balli.

Finally, Glyndebourne's successful venture into Wagner will be repeated with a revival of Tristan und Isolde in Nikolaus Lehnhoff's landmark production. Torsten Kerl and Anja Kampe, Florestan and Leonore from the 2006 Festival production of Fidelio, will come back to Glyndebourne to sing the roles of Wagner's ill-fated lovers. There will be seven performances between 6 and 30 August.

Glyndebourne's resident orchestra, the London Philharmonic, will perform four operas: Falstaff, Rusalka, L'elisir d'amore and Tristan und Isolde. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Glyndebourne's Associate Orchestra, will perform Giulio Cesare and The Fairy Queen. Telephone and online booking opens on Saturday 18 April 2009.

Until the start of the next festival, there's plenty of time to enjoy Glyndebourne's work as they tour round the company. This is now Robin Ticciati's second season as Music Director of the Tour, coinciding with his new appointment as Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Ticciati will conduct a revival of Laurent Pelly's Festival production of Hänsel und Gretel. Glyndebourne will also present a revival of Adrian Noble's colourful production of The Magic Flute conducted by Douglas Boyd (who will be conducting his first opera) and starring former ROH Young Artist Ana James. David McVicar's production of Carmen conducted by Jakub Hruša and Leo McFall, completes the Tour programme. Glyndebourne on Tour begins tomorrow, on 14 October, with three weeks at Glyndebourne, then visits Woking, Stoke-on-Trent, Milton Keynes, Norwich and Plymouth. Additionally, Glyndebourne Education will present the Opera Experience programme for students at all the GOT venues and this year, in addition to three matinees for young people at Glyndebourne, there will also be a matinee of The Magic Flute in Stoke-on-Trent.

In 2007, Glyndebourne became the first UK opera house to screen its productions in cinemas, and from 13 October 2008, Hänsel und Gretel, La Cenerentola and Giulio Cesare, will have international screenings in High Definition and 5.1 sound with ticket prices between £10 and £15 – cheaper than the Royal Opera's recent Don Giovanni broadcast, but not relayed live. This year, Glyndebourne will extend its reach to a minimum of 85 digital cinema screens worldwide.

All of this sees Glyndebourne in good health as it approaches its seventy-fifth birthday, and the plans for the cinema, education and record label show a welcome effort for the opera house to diminish its reputation for exclusivity while maintaining high standards.

By Dominic McHugh

Photo credits: Mike Hoban.