Simon Thomas: ENO's new season most exciting for years
If English National Opera is experiencing financial difficulties at the moment, nobody's told the management. At the launch of the 2013/14 season, the top team – Edward Gardner, John Berry and Loretta Tomasi – were in upbeat mood as they announced 10 new productions and an excellent line-up of operas, directors and singers.
Much was made of the success of recent promotional initiatives, such as "ENO Undressed" and the launch of "Secret Seat," a £20 scheme which could bring you a Stalls seat at a knock-down price (£25 value guaranteed).
In an Alden-heavy season, both brothers return, Christopher with new productions of Die Fledermaus and Rigoletto and David to revive his phenomenal Peter Grimes. Another ENO favourite, Richard Jones directs his first Handel opera for many years (Rodelinda), while Complicite's Simon McBurney is back with a brand new Magic Flute.
Bad boy Calixto Bieito's Fidelio opens the season in September and Katie Mitchell tackles Cosi fan tutte, while Terry Gilliam is hoping his self-defined "beginner's luck," which resulted in The Damnation of Faust last year, will see him through another bout with Berlioz, the even more challenging Benvenuto Cellini.
Contemporary and new opera is well served with Thomas Ades's Powder Her Face (director Joe Hill-Gibbins) at an as yet unconfirmed off-site location, and world premieres of Julian Anderson's Thebans (with big-name director Pierre Audi joining ENO for the first time) and Matthew Barney/Jonathan Bepler's River of Fundament. There are just four revivals in the season: Peter Grimes, Satyagraha, Madam Butterfly and The Pearl Fishers.
For star-spotters there are exciting prospects, with Stuart Skelton (as Grimes and Florestan), Tom Randle (Eisenstein), Ben Johnson (Tamino), Quinn Kelsey (Rigoletto), Barry Banks (Mantua), Anna Christy (Gilda), Rebecca Evans, Iestyn Davies and John Mark Ainsley in Rodelinda, Kate Valentine (Fiordiligi), Christine Rice (Dorabella), Roderick Williams (Alfonso), Michael Spyres (Cellini), Corrine Winters (Teresa) and Sophie Bevan (Leila) to name a few.
Artistic Director John Berry mentioned at the press briefing that Rodelinda would mark the beginning of a partnership with the Bolshoi Theatre, the first Handel opera to be seen there, while a number of other ENO productions make their way out into the world (this season's Billy Budd will also play at the Bolshoi).
Ed Gardner will conduct Fidelio, Peter Grimes, Thebans and Benvenuto Cellini and other conductors will include Ryan Wigglesworth, Christian Curnyn, Eun Sun Kim and Graeme Jenkins.
Summing up the immediate future, John Berry says "This season shows the power of loyal artists – singers, conductors, directors, composers and designers – who are prepared to put themselves on the line in a remarkably diverse and exciting range of work."
The WOS opera team sees this as possibly the most enticing line-up for some years. What are your thoughts?
- Simon Thomas
Full details and dates for ENO's 2013/14 Season at www.eno.org