The Opéra national de Paris has announced details of its 2008-09 season, which will feature appearances by opera stars Rolando Villazon, Waltraud Meier, Jonas Kaufmann, Deborah Voigt, Ramon Vargas, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato and Violeta Urmana.
Before the resident company opens its season, the Bolshoi Opera will make an appearance at the Palais Garnier with Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin from 6 to 11 September 2008. Vassiliy Ladiuk and Vladislav Sulimsky will alternate in the title role, while Alexander Vedernikov will conduct a production by Dmitri Tcherniakov.
The season proper starts on 24 September with a revival of Rigoletto starring Juan Pons, Stefano Secco and Ekaterina Siurina under the baton of Daniel Oren. The production is by Jérôme Savary and the performances take place at the Opera Bastille. It's followed on 11 October by a new production of Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Jirí Belohlávek; the cast includes Christiane Oelze and Franz Hawlata, and Gilbert Deflo will direct (Palais Garnier). The opera will run in tandem with another new production of a Czech piece, this time Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen. Christine Schäfer stars in the title role at the Bastille from 13 October.
One of the obvious season highlights is a revival of Peter Sellars' 2005 production of Tristan und Isolde, which has a winning combination of Waltraud Meier as Isolde and Semyon Bychkov in the pit. Performances at the Bastille run from 30 October to 3 December, which conveniently overlaps with another obvious highlight: Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan in a new production of Fidelio. Sylvain Cambreling conducts a cast that also includes the excellent Angela Denoke; performances start on 28 November at the Garnier. By their side, the revival of The Magic Flute from 17 November seems a little more mundane, though Jose van Dam's Sarastro and Erika Miklosa's Queen of the Night represent strong casting.
The new year promises a revival of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen and starring Eva-Maria Westbroek, from 17 January 2009 at the Bastille. It runs alongside the world premiere of Philippe Boesmans' Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne at the Garnier, where Sylvain Cambreling will conduct Luc Bondy's production (from 24 January). More bread and butter programming comes in the form of Madama Butterfly from 29 January, when Robert Wilson's static production will return to the Bastille with two alternating casts.
Bondy returns on 27 February for a revival of his production of Idomeneo, will a mouth-watering cast including Camilla Tilling, Joyce DiDonato and Paul Groves. The following night, more starry names will grace the Bastille stage when Susan Graham and Rolando Villazon (whose new CD Cielo e mar is soon out on Deutsche Grammophon) sing in Massenet's Werther under Kent Nagano.
Two Verdi operas will run at the same time during April. The obvious attraction is a new production of Macbeth with Violeta Urmana and Carlos Alvarez as the murderous couple and Ferruccio Furlanetto and Stefano Secco as Banco and Macduff (from 4 April). Then on 19 April, Renato Palumbo will conduct a revival of Un ballo in maschera with Ramon Vargas, Deborah Voigt and Anna Christy (curiously, Christy and Vargas will also lead Covent Garden's revival of the same piece in June of 2009: for details of the Royal Opera's 2008-09 season click here).
May 2009 brings revivals of Janacek's The Makropoulos Case with Angela Denoke (from 4 May) and Tosca with James Morris as Scarpia in the first of two casts (from 20 May). Then from 13 June, Riccardo Muti will make a welcome return to the Garnier to conduct a new production of seventeenth-century composer Jommelli's little-known Demofoonte. A co-production with the Ravenna and Salzburg Festivals, it will feature a cast of young singers and the Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini. Rounding off the season, Szymanovski's King Roger will bring together Mariusz Kwiecien and Eric Cutler with conductor Kazushi Ono in a new production by Krzysztof Warlikowski.
On the whole, one has to admire the breadth of repertoire offered by the Opéra national de Paris in their new season and in particular the number of twentieth- and twenty-first-century works in the offing. If some of the casting for core repertoire seems mundane, it is offset by the excitement of the likes of Meier's Isolde, Voigt's Amelia, Villazon's Werther and Kaufmann's Florestan, which are certainly offerings for which I would be glad to cross the Channel.
See also our preview of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden's 2008-09 season here.
Plus our preview of the Barbican's Great Performers 2008-09 season here.
And read our preview of the London Philharmonic's 2008-09 season here.
Also see details of Welsh National Opera's 2008-09 season here.