The Royal Opera has announced details of the 2008-09 season at London's Covent Garden.
New productions of operas by composers as diverse as Rossini, Berg, Purcell, Korngold and Wagner highlight the new season, with names such as Juan Diego Florez, Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson, Joyce DiDonato, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon leading a number of stellar casts.
The new productions include Cavalli's La Calisto, Rossini's Matilde di Shabran, Hansel und Gretel, Korngold's Die todte Stadt, Wagner's Der fliegende Hollander, a double bill of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Handel's Acis and Galatea, and Berg's Lulu.
Of particular interest are the return of Bryn Terfel in the new Flying Dutchman, following on from tensions with the ROH over his withdrawal from the Ring Cycle earlier in the 2007-08 because of an operation on his son's finger, and Roberto Alagna, who hasn't appeared at Covent Garden for several years, in a revival of Il trovatore (his first Manrico for the company). Rolando Villazon will also return, for a revival of John Schlesinger's classic production of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, in November 2008.
Bel canto enthusiasts will be delighted by several strongly-cast productions of operas by Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini. The latter's Matilde di Shabran comes in a production from Pesaro and stars Juan Diego Florez. The six performances from 23 October include Aleksandra Kurzak as Matilde and Vesselina Kasarova as Edoardo; Carlo Rizzi conducts. Florez will also star in a revival of the Leiser-Caurier production of Il barbiere di Siviglia alongside the wonderful Joyce DiDonato, Alessandro Corbelli, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Simon Keenlyside, singing his first Figaro for a number of years (from 7 July 2009). Elina Garanca and Anna Netrebko will play the star-crossed lovers in I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Bellini's version of the Romeo and Juliet story. Pier Luigi Pizzi's 1984 production returns from 2 March, conducted by Mark Elder.
A season highlight is a rare appearance by Renee Fleming as Violetta in a revival of La traviata from 19 June 2009. Thomas Hampson and Joseph Calleja co-star, while Antonio Pappano conducts. More Verdi comes in the form of Un ballo in maschera with Ramon Vargas, Carlos Alvarez, Anna Christy (Oscar) and Angela Marambio (Amelia), and Rigoletto with Leo Nucci and Paolo Gavanelli (from 10 February 2008). Joining Alagna in Il trovatore are Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sandra Radvanovsky (from 13 April 2009). Laurent Pelly's production of L'elisir d'amorealso returns,with Diana Damrau as Adina and Anthony Michaels-Moore as Belcore. Richard Hicox conducts from12 May.
German repertoire also plays a strong role in the season. Elijah Moshinsky's Lohengrin comes back for another airing with Falk Struckmann as Telramund and Petra Lang as Ortrud, conducted by Semyon Bychkov (27 April 2009), while a new production of Die todte Stadt by Korngold will star Nadja Michael as Marie, Stephen Gould and Gerald Finley (from 27 January). A double-cast new production of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel by Leiser and Caurier will star Angelika Kirchschlager and Alice Coote as Hansel and Diana Damrau and Camilla Tilling as Gretel, with other roles played by veterans Thomas Allen, Ann Murray and Anja Silja; Colin Davis and Robin Ticciati share the conducting honours (opens 9 December with a family performance on 14 December). Strauss' Elektra also returns from 8 November 2008, with Susan Bullock in the title role, Anne Schwanewilms as Chrysothemis, Jane Henschel as Klytemnestra and Mark Elder in the pit. Johan Reuter is Orest, and in an eccentric piece of casting, Alfie Boe will play the Young Servant. Christof Loy's new Lulu, which was to have starred Aleksandra Kurzak (but will no longer because she has decided not to add the role to her repertoire), is conducted by Antonio Pappano from 4 June 2009; Jennifer Larmore and Michael Volle co-star. For the new Dutchman, which opens 23 February 2009, Terfel will be joined by Anja Kampe as Senta, while Marc Albrecht will conduct Tim Albery's new production.
Early music is represented by the fore-mentioned double bill created by Royal Ballet resident choreographer Wayne McGregor with Danielle DeNiese as Galatea (from 31 March 2009); Christopher Hogwood conducts the OAE, and Sarah Connolly and Lucy Crowe star in Dido. Plus, there's a new production of La Calisto (from 23 September 2008) starring Sally Matthews, Markus Werba, Lawrence Zazzo and Veronique Gens; Ivor Bolton will conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in David Alden's first production for the Royal Opera. The Beggar's Opera will be performed in Britten's realisation in the Linbury Studio Theatre from 20 January; Richard Hickox conducts the City of London Sinfonia and a cast including Susan Bickley and Leah-Marian Jones.
The season opens on 8 September with a double-cast revival of Don Giovanni, conducted by Charles Mackerras and Antonio Pappano (from 27 September). The singers include Marina Poplavskaya and Patrizia Ciofi (Donna Anna), Simon Keenlyside and Mariusz Kwiecien (Don Giovanni), Kyle Ketelsen and Lorenzo Regazzo (Leporello), Joyce DiDonato and Emma Bell (Donna Elvira), Ramon Vargas, Ian Bostridge and Robert Murray (Don Ottavio) and Miah Persson and Rebecca Evans (Zerlina). Eric Halfvarson is the Commendatore and Robert Gleadow returns for the first time since leaving the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme to sing Masetto. This is followed on 16 September by a revival of La fanciulla del West, reuniting Antonio Pappano with Jose Cura; Eva-Maria Westbroek plays Minnie and Bonaventura Bottone and Gwynne Howell join the cast. Cura also returns to sing his first UK Calaf (shared with Johan Botha) in a revival of Turandot with Irene Thoerin and Jennifer Wilson as Turandot, Paata Burchuladze and Willard White as Timur and Nicola Luisotti in the pit; the first night is 22 December 2008. Antonio Pappano's other autumn conducting honours include a revival of Les Contes d'Hoffmann with a cast including Christine Rice, Gidon Saks, Kristine Jepson, Katie Van Kooten and Graham Clark. Rolando Villazon will star in Hoffmann (from 25 November 2008) and give a solo recital on 24 June 2009; two weeks later, on 9 July 2009, Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani and Bryn Terfel will star in a revival of Tosca. At the other end of the season, the twenty-second revival of John Copley's production of La boheme will feature Korean leads - Wookyung Kim and Hei-Kyung Hong - as Rodolfo and Mimi, plus Christopher Maltman as Marcello and Anna Leese as Musetta. Christian Badea conducts four performances from 11 October 2008.
To mark the ninetieth anniversary of Amistice Day, the Royal Opera will perform Britten's War Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 November, with an excellent cast including Thomas Hampson, Ian Bostridge and Christine Brewer; Antonio Pappano will conduct. The War Requiem will also be performed at Symphony Hall Birmingham on 21 March 2009 with Bostridge, Simon Keenlyside and Emma Bell. In addition, Pappano will conduct performances of the Verdi Requiem on 13 March (at the Royal Opera House) and on 20 March (at Symphony Hall, Birmingham) with soloists including Barbara Frittoli, Piotr Beczala and Olga Borodina, the latter returning to the Royal Opera for the first time since walking out of the controversial Robert Wilson production of Aida in 2003.
It was also announced that the top-priced tickets for La traviata, Tosca and The Flying Dutchman will be raised to £210.
More details will be published on this site later in the day.
See also our preview of the Barbican's Great Performers 2008-09 season here.
And read our preview of the London Philharmonic's 2008-09 season here.
Also see details of Welsh National Opera's 2008-09 season here.