The Royal Opera House has announced details of the resident companies' 2009-10 season at Covent Garden.
New productions of Tristan und Isolde, Manon, Tchaikovsky's The Slippers, Tamerlano, The Gambler and Aida provide several of the highlights of the season.
In addition to Music Director Antonio Pappano, the conductors planning to take to the Covent Garden pit include Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Mark Elder, Nicola Luisotti, Semyon Bychkov, Bertrand de Billy, Hartmut Haenchen and, in a rare ROH appearance by a female conductor (and a British one at that), Julia Jones.
The season opens on 7 September with a concert performance of Donizetti's masterpiece Linda di Chamounix. Donizetti specialist Mark Elder leads a largely young cast including Eglise Gutierrez, Stephen Costello and Luciano Botelho, along with veteran Italian baritone Alessandro Corbelli. The concert will be repeated on 14 September. As previously reported, bel canto specialist label Opera Rara will record the concerts for release later in the season.
The following day, the first staged production of the season opens. Nicholas Hytner's production of Verdi's Don Carlo will be conducted by Semyon Bychkov and will star a new Carlo, Jonas Kaufmann, but otherwise the cast consists largely of the same lead singers that appeared when the production opened last season: Simon Keenlyside as Posa, Marina Poplavskaya as Elisabetta, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Filippo and Sonia Ganassi as Eboli. Sir John Tomlinson joins the cast as the Grand Inquisitor.
Wagner returns to the house with a new production of Tristan und Isolde later in September, with Ben Heppner, Nina Stemme, Matti Salminen, Michael Volle and Sophie Koch. Antonio Pappano will conduct Christof Loy's new staging, reuniting a team which inaugurated Pappano's tenure at Covent Garden in September 2002 with Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos.
The first of two casts to perform Bizet's Carmen in Francesco Zambello's production will take to the stage in October, providing the intriguing combination of Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna in the lead roles and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Escamillo. Bertrand de Billy will conduct.
Another October revival brings back the popular double bill of Ravel's L'Heure espagnole and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi in Richard Jones' production, which will again be conducted by Antonio Pappano. The Ravel once more brings together a largely British cast including Christine Rice, Christopher Maltman and Andrew Shore, with French tenor Yann Beuron. Meanwhile, the Puccini has several new names in the cast, including Sir Thomas Allen as Schicchi.
In November, Francesca Zambello directs a Russian team for the new production of Tchaikovsky's rarely-staged Cherevichki (The Tsarina's Slippers), including Larissa Diadkova, while Alexander Polianichko will conduct.
The classic ROH staging of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier by John Schlesinger returns in December, led by the magnificent Marschallin of Soile Isokoski. Peter Rose, Sophie Koch, Thomas Allen and Lucy Crowe complete the cast, which is conducted by Kirill Petrenko.
For Christmas, the Royal Opera brings back another classic staging: John Copley's production of La boheme, which is double cast. Opening on 19 December, Piotr Beczala and Hibla Gerzmava will play the lovers Rodolfo and Mimi, while the alternate cast from 5 January 2010 includes Rebecca Evans as Mimi. Her Rodolfo is to be confirmed, but Christopher Maltman is Marcello, Eri Nakamura is Musetta, Simone Del Savio is Schaunard and Vuyani Mlinde is Colline. Andris Nelsons conducts.
Robert Lepage's Hollywood version of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress returns from 22 January with an all-new cast. Ingo Metzmacher will conduct star British tenor Toby Spence as Tom Rakewell, with Kate Royal, Kyle Ketelsen and Stephanie Blythe lending support.
Another Covent Garden favourite comes back to the ROH on 29 January, when Jonathan Miller will again direct his chic staging of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. The new cast includes Charles Castronovo and Sally Matthews, while British conductor Julia Jones will conduct.
Richard Jones once more takes the helm of a new Royal Opera production in February, as his staging of Prokofiev's The Gambler is unveiled. With Antonio Pappano at the helm, the cast includes the great Sir John Tomlinson, Angela Denoke and Roberto Sacca.
Plàcido Domingo appears twice in the Royal Opera's season. First, from 5 March he takes the tenor role of Bajazet in Handel's Tamerlano, in Graham Vick's production that has just appeared on DVD. Sara Mingardo and Christianne Stoijn are amongst the co-stars, while Ivor Bolton returns after recent Covent Garden appearances in Don Giovanni and Iphigenie en Tauride.
The rather Disney-esque staging of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen returns to the Royal Opera stage from 19 March 2010, under the expert guidance of octogenarian genius Sir Charles Mackerras. Emma Bell, Emma Matthews and Christopher Maltman are amongst the singers.
One of my favourite Rossini comedies, Il turco in Italia, returns in perhaps the most successful ROH production of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, from 3 April 2010. Alessandro Corbelli, Thomas Allen and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo return from the original cast, with Aleksandra Kurzak and Colin Lee joining them.
One of the most-anticipated productions of the season is David McVicar's new staging of Verdi's Aida, a piece which has long had a troubled history in recent decades at Covent Garden. Marcelo Alvarez makes his role debut as Radames, while Micaela Carosi takes the title role, Luciana D'Intino is Amneris and Amonasro is played by Marco Vratogna. Nicola Luisotti conducts the production, which opens 1 May.
Then on 11 May, the first of two casts to star in La traviata takes to the stage. Ermonela Jaho will play Violetta, following on from January 2008 when she took over from Anna Netrebko in the part at short notice. Her Alfredo is Saimir Pirgu, while the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky will reprise his portrayal of Germont.
One of the most successful Covent Garden productions of recent years, Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment, returns from 17 May, with the original cast in tact. So Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez, Alessandro Corbelli and Felicity Palmer return under the baton of Bruno Campanella for what is bound to be one of the most hotly-anticipated revivals of the season.
Another ROH favourite, David McVicar's Le nozze di Figaro, comes back on 31 May, again under the baton of Sir Colin Davis. The cast includes a second appearance from Soile Isokoski and familiar ROH names such as Camilla Tilling, Erwin Schrott and Christine Schäfer.
For the June Cast B of Carmen, Constantinos Carydis conducts, Marina Domashenko does Carmen, Marcus Haddock is Don J, Aris Argiris does Escamillio and Maija Kovalevska does Micaela.
Then on 22 June, a new production of Massenet's Manon brings together Laurent Pelly, Antonio Pappano, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón.
Placido Domingo returns again on 29 June in the most controversial casting of the season. The tenor will star in the baritone title role of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra alongside Marina Poplavskaya as Amelia Grimaldi, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco and Joseph Calleja as Adorno. Antonio Pappano will conduct Elijah Moshinsky's elegant production.
Two final revivals end the season. First, David McVicar's gruesome staging of Salome returns on 3 July, with a new cast including Angela Denoke and Johan Reuter, under German specialist Hermut Haenchen. Then on 17 July, Angela Gheorghiu returns to the staging of La traviata in which she first came to international prominence in 1994, with James Valenti as Alfredo and Zeljko Lucic as Germont. According to the Romanian diva's website, this is ahead of a Japanese tour with the production in September 2010.
The operas planned for the Linbury Studio Theatre include a rare staging of Arne's Artaxerxes with the Classical Opera Company and Jonathan Dove's The Enchanted Pig, while full-scale ballets in the season include Mayerling, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, La Fille mal gardée, The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.
Photos: Placido Domingo, Christine Rice and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
More information will be announced on Wednesday at www.roh.org.uk.
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