The Royal Opera House has announced its opera and ballet programme for 2014/15 for both the main stage and the Linbury Theatre.
During the season the Royal Opera will celebrate Sir Antonio Pappano, whose tenure as music director has been ‘pleasingly’ extended until at least the end of 2017, announced chief executive Alex Beard. Pappano will conduct four new productions: Verdi’s I due Foscari (14 Oct-2 Nov 2014), Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier (20 Jan-6 Feb 2015), Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (29 June-17 July 2015) and collaborates for the first time with Kasper Holten, Covent Garden’s director of opera, in a production of King Roger (1-16 May 2014) by Szymanowski. Pappano’s performances this season will encompass ‘both breadth and depth’ as he will also conduct two revivals: Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole (11-24 Sept 2014) and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (5-21 Dec 2014).
The season opens with Anna Nicole, an operatic cautionary tale based on the life and death of the American glamour model Anna Nicole Smith. ‘If you say the words “first-night gala”’ Holten told The Times, ‘people immediately think of everything we don’t want Covent Garden to be: elitist, closed, inaccessible, a club.’ The opening night will see the entire auditorium handed over to members of student ticketing schemes, who can enjoy ticket prices from £1 to £25.
John Fulljames will direct a new production of Weill and Brecht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, the first time the work will have been performed at Covent Garden, which will be conducted by ENO music director-elect Mark Wigglesworth (10 March-4 April 2014).
May 2015 sees the Antonio Pappano Orchestral Concert (4 May 2015) which will give audiences the rare opportunity to hear Pappano conduct the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. In the first of the proposed annual concerts, audiences will hear the soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci in a programme including Chausson’s redolent Poeme de l’amour et de la mer, Ravel’s Une barque sur l’ocean and Alborada del gracioso, selections from Bernstein’s Fancy Free and Scriabin’s Poème de l’extase.
In the same month, Wayne McGregor presents his newest work for the Royal Ballet, Woolf Works (11-26 May 2014), which is a series of physical collages based on the writings and life of the influential English author Virginia Woolf. Max Richter, who composed McGregor’s award winning ballet Infra, has a newly commissioned score for this occasion. At the press conference, McGregor explained that Woolf’s highly evocative, emotional language can be portrayed through the motions of the body and is eagerly anticipating Alessandra Ferri’s (former Royal Ballet principal) interpretation of his work.
Another noteworthy new work is Philip Glass’ The Trial (10-18 Oct 2014) an adaptation of Kafka’s terrifying modernist tale in which an innocent bank employee finds himself under arrest and forced to defend himself against charges that are never explained to him. Likened by Glass to ‘a neutron bomb ‒ small, but packing a terrific punch’, The Trial will come to the Royal Opera House in October 2014 as a co-commission and co-production between The Royal Opera, Music Theatre Wales, Theatre Magdeburg and Scottish Opera.
Despite the wide range of new productions due to appear throughout the new season, Rupert Christiansen, the Telegraph‘s opera critic, questioned the great emphasis that the Royal Opera House has placed upon Verdi, Rossini and Puccini. A third of the operatic season is dedicated to these composers, including another revival of Puccini’s La boheme, but Holten defended himself against claims that he was ‘afraid of Russian opera’ promising a more diverse programme with the inclusion of Russian composers in the future.
‘You have to acknowledge that there is a big demand out there for certain composers,’ said Holten. ‘Our goal is to maintain the balance so that we can offer works by all kinds of composers ‒ by Szymanowski, by Mark-Anthony Turnage, by Strauss. But we have, when we look at the number of performances, to make our business model work with the cuts that we all know have happened and with much less subsidy than other European houses. We have to also think of the market.
‘For me, as long as we get the mix of titles right, then having to be savvy about the number of performances we do of each title ‒ that is for me a fair way to do it.’
On the cinematic front, Beard announced that he was ‘hugely excited about the year ahead, with operatic productions appearing across the world in 2014/15′. Seven operas will be screened in the live cinema season which Beard hopes will help ‘exceed the 670,000 visits to Royal Opera House productions in 2013’. BBC Radio 3 is also due to broadcast 15 productions.