The Opéra National de Paris recently announced their 2009-2010 season, with nine new productions across their two houses, some strong, occasionally unexpected casting, and plenty of musical variety.
They open in September with Gounod's Mireille at the Palais Garnier. Their use of the words 'Enfin Mireille!' in their publicity literature, along with a claim that one of the most original works of the nineteenth century is finding its legitimate place at the Palais Garnier, implies this is the first time the modern company has presented this work. It has something of a reputation as a one hit wonder these days, containing as it does the coloratura show piece 'O légère hirondelle' beloved of Dame Joan Sutherland, so this rare opportunity to hear the whole work, in the hands of the wonderful Marc Minkowski, is most welcome.
The critical consensus amongst the UK press following the recent staging of Korngold's Die tote Stadt at Covent Garden appeared to be that the work's neglect for so long was not, in fact, unjust. The Parisian public will have the opportunity to decide for themselves when the work receives its Paris Opera premiere in October at the Bastille. The production team includes Willy Decker and so a provocative staging is at least assured.
Giordano's Andrea Chénier is the third new production of the season, with a staging by Giancarlo Del Monaco opening in December. Marcello Alvarez continues his exploration of the spinto repertoire in the title role with Micaela Carosi as Maddalena. This is followed in January by another new production showcasing a starry tenor, this time Jonas Kaufmann performing the title role in Massenet's Werther, with Sophie Koch as his Charlotte. Both of these are also at the Bastille.
Having starred in a new production of Bellini's La Sonnambula at the Met this season, prior to which she was rather frank about what in her opinion are short-comings of the work, Natalie Dessay is taking on the same role in another new production, again at the Bastille. It will be interesting to see if she accepts a traditional staging in Paris, or whether, as with Santa Fe and the Met, she again gets involved in defending the piece with the help of what is intended to be a radical concept.
A new Ring Cycle is launched with Das Rheingold and Die Walküre this season at the Bastille. The cast includes many of the world's most highly regarded Wagnerian singers, namely Katarina Dalayman, Yvonne Naef, Robert Dean Smith, Falk Struckmann, and Kim Begley.
Back at the Palais Garnier, there is a new production of Gounod's Faust in March 2010 with a fairly undistinguished cast. This is followed by the final new production of the season, which is Rossini's La Donna Del Lago. With a line up including Daniela Barcellona, Joyce Di Donato and Juan Diego Flórez under the baton of Roberto Abbado, it looks set to be an unmissable run of this sadly under-performed work.
In terms of revivals at the Palais Garnier, the Idomeneo has a real stand out cast, including Isabel Bayrakdarian, Vesselina Kasarova, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón under the direction of baroque specialist Emmanuelle Haim. Marc Minkowski is also leading a run of Rameau's Platée.
Revivals at the Bastille include Wozzeck, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L'Elisir d'amore, La Bohème, Salome, Don Carlo, Billy Budd, Les Contes D'Hoffmann and The Cunning Little Vixen. In terms of the casting in these revivals, Waltraud Meier's Marie in Wozzeck is sure to be a compelling interpretation. Netrebko and Villazón come together for the Donizetti in their ever popular partnership, notwithstanding recent vocal troubles suffered by Villazón. Natalie Dessay appears as Musetta in her first ever Puccini role. Her strong dramatic instincts are likely to turn this seconda donna role into something of a scene stealing turn. Sondra Radvanovsky appears as Elisabetta in Don Carlo and although she might be an ideal voice to overcome the problematic acoustic at the Bastille, her dramatic gifts are likely to be tested to the full in Graham Vick's rather static staging.
The administration in Paris is to be applauded for presenting a season with plenty of popular works from across the operatic repertoire, balanced with some worthwhile innovation and exploration.
by John Woods
For further information, visit http://www.operadeparis.fr/cns11/live/onp/site/
Photo: Anna Netrebko. Photo Credits: Kasskara/DG
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