La Traviata, Verdi, at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy
This season you have the unique opportunity to discover the greatest of Verdi’s masterpieces in the beautiful Teatro La Fenice, where it was originally staged in 1853. While Verdi originally intended La Traviata to be ‘a subject of [his] times’ – performed in modern dress – the salacious tale was censored and retrojected to the 1700s, thus dramatically reducing its social message. Under the much sought-after direction of Robert Carsen, La Traviata is restored to a contemporary setting with the relatable message of money’s corrupting influence. The heroine Violetta, who in the original production was an 18th-century courtesan, is now a 1970s Parisian prostitute.
It is set to be a fantastic production, even more so because of its venue. La Traviata and La Fenice have a sentimental connection. La Traviata was debuted at La Fenice, and when the refurbished opera house reopened in 2004, it did so with Verdi’s masterpiece. No doubt this season will add to the fascinating entwining history of La Traviata and the Teatro La Fenice.
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Manon Lescaut, Puccini, at The Metropolitan Opera, New York, USA
Staged at one of the largest opera houses in the world, the Metropolitan Opera, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is one of the highlights of this season. The director, Sir Richard Eyre, transports Puccini’s opera from 18th-century France to WWII and occupied Paris. It tells the tale of an obsessive love between a seductive country girl and a poor student. Puccini himself described the opera as a ‘desperate passion’, and that is indeed how it construes the destructive power of love, its conflict with luxury: Manon finds herself torn between a life with her true love and a one spent in luxury as a high society girl. The cast brilliantly conveys the urgency of young love; Jonas Kaufmann is the superstar tenor, and he performs Puccini’s hits with the gorgeous soprano Kristine Opolais.
Iolanta and The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, at the Palais Garnier, Paris, France
The Palais Garnier, a 19th-century architectural masterpiece, is widely considered the most beautiful opera house in the world. The perfect opportunity to soak up this setting awaits you in March 2016, as the double Tchaikovsky bill, Iolanta and The Nutcracker, are performed.
Iolanta, with the title role sung by the Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva, tells the romantic story of a king’s blind daughter. In this production it is reunited with the fairy-tale ballet The Nutcracker, performed by Premiers Danseurs and Corps de Ballet. Since their original premiere in Saint Petersburg in 1892 the opera and ballet have been presented separately, but this special dual production, directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov, represents how Tchaikovsky originally intended his works to be staged. This performance is a unique opportunity to watch the revival of Tchaikovsky’s original diptych, combining modernity with tradition, and bringing together all the artistic forces of the Paris Opera: the orchestra, chorus and ballet.
Don Giovanni, Mozart, at the Stavovské Divadlo/The Estate Theater, Prague, Czech Republic
Mozart’s Don Giovanni was premiered on 29 October 1787 in Prague’s Stavovské Divaldo, and its tremendous success was one of the reasons why Prague’s opera scene garnered global acclaim. The return of Don Giovanni to this intimate theater is a must-see for all opera lovers.
The piece centers on the life and exploits of the lustful philanderer, Don Juan, exploring the ins and outs of his numerous relationships until his terrible demise. It is broadly classified as a comedy, blending melodrama and the supernatural, making it one of the richest and most entertaining classical works. Directed by the young Czech-Slovak duo, Martin Kuckucka and Lukas Trpisovsky, this is a stylish production with fanciful monochrome costumes and exquisite hairstyles.
L’Elisir d’Amore, Donizetti, at the Wiener Staatsoper Wien, Vienna, Austria
A comic opera in two acts, by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, L’Elisir d’Amore takes place in a small village in the Basque Country towards the end of the 18th century. It tells the story of the love of Nemorino, a poor peasant, for a beautiful landowner, Adina. He is so desperate for her affection that he spends all his money on a fake love potion, eventually unwittingly earning her admiration without magical aid. It is a funny and touching story, and one that avoids the ridiculous. Otto Schenk’s immortal production of Donizetti’s masterpiece is traditional in setting, and the renowned Opera House in Vienna is the perfect place to enjoy Nemorino’s famed and triumphant romanza, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’.
Le Comte Ory, Rossini, at the Opernhaus, Zurich, Switzerland
Rossini’s opera, Le Comte Ory, is full of spirit and musical magic, and its production in the beautiful Zurich opera house should not be missed.
Le Comte Ory is a comic tale of seduction, debauchery and disguise, as Count Ory goes as far as disguising himself and his companions as nuns in order to break into the countess’ castle and seduce the women inside. The directors Leiser and Caurier transport the opera from medieval France to a small, unnamed French town in the 1960s. Their production is exciting and humorous, and the stage direction of the singers is perfectly in tune with the music. To the delight of her many fans, the great Celcilia Bartoli is back, singing the soprano role of Countess Adèle. She has a vivacious stage presence, and is wonderfully at home in the stunning and intimate Zurich opera house.
Il Trovatore, Verdi, at the Staatsoper im Schiller Theater, Berlin, Germany
Il Trovatore is a drama of war, love and fate. It tells the tale of Manrique and his love for a Leonore, a beautiful noblewoman at his enemy’s court, and his subsequent rivalry with Count De Luna. The rivals in love, and in war find their fates also connected by a mystery from years before.
Stölzl’s arresting production has a fantastic cast: Anna Netrebko makes a dazzling role debut as the lady-in-waiting Leonora under the baton of the opera house’s legendary maestro Daniel Barenboim. The production is visually captivating from start to finish, with its fascinating staging inspired by Alice and Wonderland, and its remarkable choreography by Mara Kurotschka.
Un Ballo in Maschera, Verdi, at Nationatheatre/Bayerisches Staatsoper, Munich, Germany
Un Ballo in Maschera is an interesting piece because of its political undertones. This opera was composed by Verdi in 1858 to be performed in Naples, but for censorship reasons was not shown until 1959 in Rome after extensive edits. Un Ballo in Maschera is the tale of a love triangle between King Gustavo, Count Anckarstrom and his wife Amelia, entwined with the political conspiracy that leads to the king’s assassination. Verdi based it on the assassination of King Gustav of Sweden in 1792, thereby provoking some controversy. The Bayerisches Staatsoper production of Verdi’s most mysterious works is exhilarating. Staged in one of the major opera houses of the world and with such a starry cast, not much can go wrong. Polish tenor, Piotr Beczala, playing Gustavo, captivates the audience from the very outset with his intense and thought-provoking performance.
Falstaff, Verdi, at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy
Falstaff at the Teatro alla Scala is a thrilling experience. This is the show to go to when you’re after a fun and rather decadent night.
Verdi’s comedic opera is set in Windsor, England at the end of the 14th Century, and is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. It is a humorous account of self-important Falstaff’s clumsy attempts to seduce two married ladies. The director, Robert Carsen, has transformed Falstaff’s image somewhat, he is less of an obese and bumbling member of the bourgeoisie, but an impoverished aristocrat, who, albeit extravagant, is far from ridiculous. Though the casting of a leaner baritone led to concerns that the voice would not be strong enough, Nicolai Alaimo musters up all the vocal charisma required for the part. This is a colorful and entertaining production, full of wit and joie de vivre, and it should not be missed.
Anything Goes, Porter, at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
Anything Goes is a hugely entertaining musical comedy, a must-see for the whole family, and is currently performing at Sydney’s landmark opera house. With its show-stopping tap routines, and infectious sing-alongs –You’re The Top, I get A Kick Out of You, Anything Goes – you’re bound to enjoy it.
The musical is set on a cruise ship headed from America to England, and follows the unlikely encounters of an eclectic collection of characters. The director, Dean Bryant, has cast these fantastically – Caroline O’Connor in particular stands out with her vibrant energy onstage. This mad production of Cole-Porter’s classic is thoroughly amusing, full of oomph, and highly recommended.