The Spanish tenor proved on his last visit, as Siegmund in the 2007 Ring cycles, that he can still come up with the goods and he now appears as a tenor in Handel’s Tamerlano and, later in the season, in his first baritone role, as Simon Boccanegra. These appearances have been hotly rumoured for some time so it’s good to know at last that they are definitely happening.
Just as attractive is a new Christoph Loy Tristan and Isolde, with Ben Heppner and Nina Stemme. Further new productions are a Francesca Zambello The Tsarina's Slippers (Tchaikovsky’s rarely-seen fantasy opera), Prokofiev’s The Gambler, staged by Richard Jones and with Antonio Pappano conducting and a David McVicar Aida with Marcelo Alvarez as Radames.
The season opens with two concert performances of Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix conducted by Mark Elder. At the other end of the season, a new Laurent Pelly Manon with Netrebko and Villazon is an attraction.
There are some over-frequent returners – John Copley’s La bohème, Zambello’s Carmen, Jonathan Miller’s Cosi (though the presence of soprano Sally Matthews makes that very appealing) and Richard Eyre’s La Traviata.
There is a whole of bunch of productions receiving just their first revival. Many will be pleased (though not me) to see Laurent Pelly’s La Fille du Regiment back, with Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay again.
Also, back for the second time is Nicholas Hytner’s Don Carlo (Jonas Kaufmann), Richard Jones’ double-bill of La Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi (prior to a rumoured complete Trittico), The Rake’s Progress and McVicar’s Salome.
Less recently performed are Der Rosenkavalier, The Cunning Little Vixen and Il Turco in Italia. The only one not mentioned yet is another I’d put into the too-frequent category (though not often enough for some): Le Nozze di Figaro, with Erwin Schrott.
The new productions are the real strength of the season but there’s plenty else to bring the regular operagoer back.
A fuller preview of the 2009/10 season will appear on whatsonstage.com/opera in due course.
Photograph: Placido Domingo
- Simon Thomas