Opera Season Preview

Nights at the Opera: Apr. 2010

Columns | Oliver Macdonald | April 2010

The preview of the next season at the Staatsoper is now available from any of the usual sources (Bundestheaters Ticket offices etc.) at a cost of six euros. Attractively presented in a 136- page booklet, the preview is packed with important information and comes with a convient Year Planner, a booklet of the subscription cycles and a plasticated pocket book- sized programme for the whole season (see below for details).

It all looks like an auspicious start to life under the new Director, Dominique Meyer and the Musical Director, Franz Welser-Most.

The programme of 47 operas includes six premieres of new productions, two of which, Alcina by Handel and Anna Bolena by Donizetti, are being staged for the first time in the Wiener Staatsoper.  There are also eight ballets, bringing the total number of performances to somewhere in excess of 280. An innovative step is an alphebetical listing of all the artists, together with the productions in which they appear.  This makes it very easy to follow particular singers, conductors, producers and so on.

At the beginning of March we recall two operatic world premieres. First was Die Besessenen (The Possessed) by Johannes Kalitzke, who conducted the performances in a very clever production by Kasper Bech Holten, staged in a two-tiered set by Steffen Aarfing. The ground floor was a large supermarket while above is a castle attic full of old masterpieces. Consumers and hoarders, love, jealousy and murder, all to innovative music and orchestration.  The pit was a musical flea market jammed with all sorts of instruments, including some found in a traditional concert orchestra and a plethora of percussion thingies which kept two percussionists dashing about banging, seemingly ad lib, on whatever thing they could reach in time.  I was reminded of a sound effects studio for the Sunday night plays on the old steam radio. The singing and acting were very good and from apparent chaos, where music and sound intermingled, the result was a very pleasing, if demanding, whole.

The other piece was Medea by Aribert Reimann at the Staatsoper with production, staging and lighting by Marco Arturo Marelli.  A very engaging work presented in a modern and musically more conventional style than the previous one, in parts not dissimilar from the music of Stravinsky with a sprinkling of Wagner. The cast were exceptional, especially Marlis Petersen as the stricken Medea.  The new Preview tells us that she will return to sing the role with most of the original cast at the end of November.

The highlight of March was the return of Rolando Villazon for a one night stand as Nemorino.  Greeted by thunderous applause from a packed house, who palpably wished him success on his comeback from vocal problems. And enjoy him they did; he sang sensitively, with less force than before, clowned outrageously and wrung every emotional nuance from his role. He was well matched by the delightful Ekaterina Siurina (Adina) and supported by the antics of a rather stern Sergeant Belcore(Tae Joong Yang) and the booming Salesman of the Year, Ambrogio Maestri as Doctor Dulcamara.  The performance was rewarded with a prolonged standing ovation.  A popular hero had vanquished his vocal foes to everyone’s delight.  He was visibly moved by it all himself.

This month is packed with great operas and the best casts.  Months ago, the cognoscenti from the Stehplätze, studying April’s  programme with the gravitas of a team of brain surgeons reviewing the operating schedule, concluded that some 20 evenings at the opera would be required: Parsifal (at least two): La Boheme with Netrebko (2) Il Barbiere di Siviglia(1);  Rigoletto with Ciofi, Hvorostovsky and Gipali and Armiliato conducting (all four); La Sonnambula with Dessay, Florez and Pertusi (3);  I Puritani with Netrebko and Bros (2); Der Rosenkavalier (1) and Werther with Kasarova, Vargas and Erod (at least two) all in the Staatsoper. Then Carmen and The Love of Three Oranges (premiere on 17th), at the Volksoper and inevitably the new Der Freischutz (premiere on 19th) in Theater an der Wien.

Finally,  Belcanto fans will  go to Ternitz on Apr. 24 for a performance of Donizetti’s Maria Padula with Barbara Quintiliani and Ketevan Kemoklidze as the Padilla sisters, roles they played to acclaim at Wexford Festival Opera last year.  The problem is not so much finding the time for all this as finding tickets, because most of these performances will be sold out  Good hunting!

The Wiener Staatsoper Saisonprogramm 2010-2011, available at ticket offices throughout the city, is an essential companion, as are those of the Volksoper and Theater an der Wien, with some important differences. Bookings can now be made through the entire 2010-2011 season, by post, fax or internet. NB: At the ticket offices, sales now begin TWO months before the performance, rather than one.  Prices remain unchanged from €240 for the best seats at a Premiere to €8 for the least expensive at a ballet.

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