Theatre News

Exciting years ahead at ENO and ROH

Glaring repertoire gaps will be filled at the Coliseum and Covent Garden

The new La bohème from Benedict Andrews, heading to ENO (Dutch National Opera)
The new La bohème from Benedict Andrews, heading to ENO (Dutch National Opera)
© Monika Ritterhaus
With only 11 operas announced for 2015-16, next year’s English National Opera season is less a complement than a supplement to the Royal Opera‘s programme. The senior house has 19 home-grown productions in the main house alone – a space it shares with the Royal Ballet – plus half a dozen more in other locations. Viewed in tandem, though, both companies are offering an exciting mix of the familiar, the welcome and the new.

The St Martin’s Lane company has been compelled by financial straits to abandon new commissions and ditch the annual Spring ‘awayday’, so there’ll be no sequel to the current Between Worlds, but on the other hand it’s forging ahead with a new production of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten next March, to be directed by Phelim McDermott.

The Royal Opera’s flagship new commission is by Georg Friedrich Hass, a large-scale opera based on Morning and Evening by Norwegian novelist Jon Fosse. Since Haas draws on microtonality and spectralism for his sound world, his opera Morgen und Abend is, as director of opera Kasper Holten put it, "definitely not Anna Nicole 2".

Such fare is offset by risk-free reappearances of Le nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Eugene Onegin, Tosca and a nine-week run of Richard Eyre’s 21-year-old La traviata. Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Massenet’s Werther, Verdi’s Nabucco and Richard Jones‘s much-lauded production of Puccini’s Il trittico also return.

Janáček’s back

Popular revivals are harder to come by at the Coliseum, where artistic director John Berry has thrown so many babies out with the bathwater in his quest to be cutting edge that only a handful of crowd-pleasers remain. So rather than Nicholas Hytner‘s beloved Magic Flute it’s Simon McBurney‘s compromised reading that returns to St Martin’s Lane, and instead of Jonathan Miller‘s proven La bohème the company has to hope its new Benedict Andrews staging, co-produced with Dutch National Opera, is up to snuff. Otherwise it falls to Miller’s Barber of Seville and Mikado, and Anthony Minghella‘s Madam Butterfly, to pack ’em in.

Both companies have aces up their sleeves, though, with Verdi a common factor. ENO has The Force of Destiny directed by Calixto Bieito and conducted by incoming music director Mark Wigglesworth, while the RO has finally got round to hiring Antonio Pappano’s number one peer in Italian repertoire, Gianandrea Noseda, to lead a new production of Il trovatore.

The Royal Opera’s other new productions include Lucia di Lammermoor, Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, Chabrier’s L’Etoile, verismo favourites Cav & Pag and, most enticingly, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, directed by Richard Jones and starring Bryn Terfel.

At ENO Dmitri Tcherniakov directs Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Christopher Alden‘s Norma is imported from Opera North and – big news – tenor Stuart Skelton returns for a new Tristan & Isolde from Daniel Kramer and outgoing music director Edward Gardner.

All told, then, a rousing operatic year in prospect for the capital. And the best news of all? Janáček’s back. If the great Czech composer’s glorious operas have escaped you thus far, we’re promised a trio of new productions at Covent Garden before 2020. First, though, there’s a welcome return to the Coliseum for David Alden‘s staging of his haunting, troubling Jenůfa. That’s next June. Mark your diary.