English National Opera (ENO) has revealed details of its forthcoming 2023-24 schedule. The highlight of the season is sure to be the UK premiere of Marina Abramović’s 7 Deaths of Maria Callas (2020).
This extraordinary opera project sees world-renowned performance artist Abramović on stage as Callas with co-performer, actor Willem Defoe. They die seven deaths in seven films, while seven singers including Sarah Tynan, Elbenita Kajtazi, Nadine Benjamin, Eri Nakamura, Aigul Akhmetshina, Karah Son and Sophie Bevan perform well-known arias by Bellini, Bizet, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi.
7 Deaths of Maria Callas runs from 3-11 November. This staging marks 100 years since the American-born Greek soprano’s birth.
The other new production of the season is Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (1918), running from 21-23 Mar 2024. This semi-staged concert performance features award-winning Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw as Judith and Canadian bass John Relyea as Bluebeard. ENO director of music Martyn Brabbins conducts.
In this taut psychological thriller, Judith unlocks room after room in the castle of her new husband, Duke Bluebeard, through a torture chamber, an armoury, a treasury and a garden, to a mysterious seventh chamber which holds her fate.
The autumn 2023 to spring 2024 season also comprises seven revivals. Opening the season on 21 September and running till 11 October is the return of David Alden’s version of Peter Grimes (1945).
Britten’s opera is set in a small fishing community. When Grimes’s apprentice goes missing in mysterious circumstances, the townspeople’s mistrust of the fisherman turns into something far darker.
ENO’s director of music Martyn Brabbins conducts. The opera features Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones in the title role.
Next on the roster is a brilliantly satirical fantasy from Gilbert and Sullivan. Iolanthe (1882) tells the story of Phyllis and Strephon (half human, half-fairy, and son of the titular Iolanthe) who wish to marry. Phyllis is a ward of court, so she requires the Lord Chancellor’s permission. The Lord Chancellor, however, wants her for himself.
Cal Crystal returns to direct this popular production running from 5-25 October; Chris Hopkins wields the baton. Welsh mezzo-soprano Samantha Price sings the title role, with British soprano Ellie Laugharne as Phyllis and British baritone Marcus Farnsworth as Strephon.
Opening on 23 October and running till 12 November is the return of ENO’s Olivier Award-winning La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853).
Verdi’s opera tells the tragic love story of the courtesan Violetta and wealthy Alfredo Germont. Violetta turns her back on a life of glamour for the man she loves, but his upper-class family believe she will bring shame on them. His father Giorgio persuades her to leave him.
Richard Farnes conducts this revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production. The cast includes American-born soprano Nicole Chevalier as Violetta, Argentinian-Spanish-American tenor Jose Simerilla Romero as Alfredo and British baritone Roland Wood as his father.
Heading into 2024, Annilese Miskimmon’s thought-provoking production of The Handmaid’s Tale (2000) returns to the Coliseum from 1-15 February 2024, following its hugely successful run in 2021. Based on Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel, Poul Ruders’s opera is a powerful story of courage and survival in the face of repression.
Conducted by Joana Carneiro, the cast includes American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey as Offred, British tenor John Findon as Luke, British soprano Rachel Nicholls as Aunt Lydia and British soprano Nadine Benjamin as Moira.
Jonathan Millar’s classic production of The Barber of Seville (1816) also returns in February 2024. Rossini’s comic masterpiece sees the ever-resourceful Figaro assist Count Almaviva in prising the beautiful Rosina away from her lecherous guardian Dr Bartolo.
American conductor Roderick Cox makes his ENO debut. British baritone Charles Rice plays Figaro, while British bass-baritone Simon Bailey sings Dr Bartolo. The cast is rounded out with ENO Harewood Artist, South African tenor, Innocent Masuku as Count Almaviva and Irish soprano Anna Devin making her ENO debut as Rosina.
A revival of Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1791) – running from 28 February-30 March 2024 – promises a surprising, fantastical journey. Prince Tamino and the bird-catcher Papageno embark on a quest to rescue Pamina from the clutches of the sorcerer Sarastro, at the behest of the Queen of Night.
American tenor Norman Reinhardt makes his ENO debut as Tamino alongside British baritone David Stout as Papageno. They are joined by former ENO Harewood Artist, British soprano, Soraya Mafi as Pamina and ENO debutante American soprano Rainelle Krause as the manipulative Queen of Night. The ENO Chorus and Orchestra are conducted for the first time by Erina Yashima.
The final revival in the season is ENO’s Olivier Award-winning staging of Janáček’s Jenůfa from 13-27 March 2024. Director David Alden updates the setting to a 20th-century industrial estate in the Eastern Bloc.
Jenůfa is secretly pregnant and gives birth assisted only by her stepmother, Kostelnička. Concerned for the family’s reputation, her stepmother commits an unspeakable act. When a baby’s body is discovered, the horrifying truth is revealed.
Janáček’s powerful score is conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson. Irish soprano Jennifer Davis makes her role debut as Jenůfa, with British soprano Susan Bullock as her stepmother Kostelnička.
The 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, directed by and starring performance artist Marina Abramović, receives its UK premiere as part of English National Opera’s 2023-24 season.