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Python Gilliam Turns Talents to Opera

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In a strong new season, with excellent casting, English National Opera’s biggest story for 2010/11 is ex-Python and Hollywood maverick Terry Gilliam slated to direct The Damnation of Faust in May of next year. His wild imagination and visual flair should prove ideal for the staging of Berlioz’ tricky opera cum oratorio.

The showiness of the appointment by no means overshadows the rest of a line-up that includes 10 new productions, two new contemporary works and house debuts by no fewer than eight directors experienced in other art forms.

Artistic Director John Berry’s penchant for drawing directors from other disciplines into the opera house is much in evidence, with film-maker Mike Figgis joining Gilliam, and from the theatre Des McAnuff (The Jersey Boys), Simon McBurney (Complicite) and Rufus Norris (Festen and Cabaret). Established ENO directors Christopher and David Alden return.

The season opens in September with a new production (a co-production with New York’s Met) of Gounod’s Faust, conducted by Edward Gardner and starring Toby Spence in the title role and Iain Paterson as Mephistophiles.

Christopher Alden’s superb The Makropulos Case, one of only four revivals, returns with Amanda Roocroft and Andrew Shore, and Richard Armstrong conducting. Alden also has a new production, with Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream towards the end of the season (May 2011).

His brother David also has a new production, bringing in his Santa Fe Radamisto conducted by the Handel specialist Laurence Cummings and with a great cast including counter-tenor Lawrence Zazzo and mezzo Christine Rice (October).

Jonathan Miller’s La bohème is another revival with Gwyn Hughes Jones alternating Rodolfo with Alfie Boe. Rufus Norris directs a new Don Giovanni in November with Iain Paterson singing the don, Rebecca Evans as Elvira and Katherine Broderick as Anna. The exciting young Ukranian Kirill Karabits conducts.

Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart, based on the Bulgakov novel, premieres on the main stage in November. It’s directed by Simon McBurney and will include puppetry. The other new opera comes at the end of the season (June 2011), a new commission, shared by London and New York, with the young composer Nico Mulhy setting a libretto by Craig Lucas. It will have an internet theme (a story drawn from real life) and will be directed by Bartlett Sher.

Mike Figgis’ contribution is a new production of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, receiving its first ENO staging (January). Paul Daniel conducts Claire Rutter, Michael Fabiano and Alastair Miles.

Nicholas Lehnhoff’s terrific Parsifal, last seen a decade ago when Mark Elder conducted a superb performance, returns in February with a mega-cast: Stuart Skelton as Parsifal, John Tomlinson as Gurnemanz, Iain Paterson as Amfortas and Irene Theorin as Kundry. Mark Wigglesworth, following an impressive Katya Kabanova recently, conducts this time.

The Young Vic collaboration (this seems to have got into a pattern of alternating contemporary with early music) is Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses (March). This lip-smacking prospect is directed by Australian Benedict Andrews.

The final new production is a Simon Boccanegra conducted by Gardner and directed by the brilliant Russian Dmitri Tcherniakov. Bruno Caproni sings the title role and Brindley Sherratt, who describes the opportunity as “being handed the keys of a Ferrari,” is Fiesco.

Details of ENO’s 2010/11 season can be found at www.eno.org


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