The Royal Opera House (ROH) has revealed early plans for its new programme of 2021-22 events, starting in October. The season – the opera house’s first since last year’s lockdown forced the venue to close its doors – includes a host of new productions, with three world premieres, as well as a mix of revivals.
The season will open in September 2021 with a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), directed by Oliver Mears – his first since becoming the Royal Opera’s director of opera in 2017. Spanish baritone Carlos Álvarez performs the title role, alongside Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa and Armenian tenor Liparit Avetisyan. Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano will conduct the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
Katie Mitchell will direct a new production of Handel’s oratorio Theodora in January 2022 – a work not seen on the stage at Covent Garden since it premiered there in 1750. This new take on Handel’s late masterpiece, in which love transcends political tyranny, features an international cast including American soprano Julia Bullock in the title role and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Irene, alongside British tenor Ed Lyon, Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński and Hungarian-Romanian baritone Gyula Orendt. Harry Bicket will conduct.
Continuing the Royal Opera’s exploration of Janáček’s works is the long-awaited premiere of Claus Guth’s production of Jenůfa (1904), a heartbreaking tale of infanticide and redemption. Henrik Nánási conducts Armenian-Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian in the title role, Scottish tenor Nicky Spence as her jealous suitor Laca, Finnish soprano Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička and English tenor Andrew Staples as Števa.
The Royal Opera returns to its series of Benjamin Britten’s operas with a new production of Peter Grimes (1945) in collaboration with Teatro Real in Madrid. Deborah Warner directs and Mark Elder conducts a cast that includes British singers Allan Clayton, Bryn Terfel and John Tomlinson, alongside Maria Bengtsson and former Jette Parker Young Artist Jacques Imbrailo.
This new version of Britten’s tragic story of an Aldeburgh fisherman will premiere in Madrid in April 2021, before coming to the Royal Opera House in March 2022.
The final new production of the season is the Richard Jones-directed Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns, 1877). Antonio Pappano conducts Nicky Spence and Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča in the title roles, leading a cast that includes Polish bass-baritone Lukasz Golinski.
The season also has a raft of revivals of much-loved productions. These include Russian soprano Anna Netrebko in Nabucco (Verdi, 1842), Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca (Puccini, 1900), Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva in Madama Butterfly (Puccini, 1904) and British baritone Simon Keenlyside in Macbeth (Verdi, 1847).
The season also sees the return of Richard Eyre’s time-honoured production of La traviata (The Fallen Woman, Verdi, 1853). Six sopranos will share the role of the dying Violetta: Lisette Oropesa, Ekaterina Bakanova, Anush Hovhannisyan, Pretty Yende, Angel Blue and Hrachuhí Bassénz.
A revival of Keith Warner’s production of Verdi’s Otello (1887) in summer 2022 sees American tenor Russell Thomas taking to the stage in the title role – one of the most punishing in the repertory. Daniele Rustoni will conduct a cast that also includes Armenian soprano Hrachuhí Bassénz as Desdemona and British baritone Christopher Maltmann as Iago.
German tenor Jonas Kaufmann takes the lead roles in Damiano Michieletto’s double production of ‘Cav and Pag’ – Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, Mascagni, 1890) and Pagliacci (Clowns, Leoncavallo, 1892). The cast also includes Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho and Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili.
On the Linbury Theatre stage, Little Bulb Theatre returns to the Royal Opera House for the world premiere of a new Christmas show for family audiences. The Linbury stage also sees the world premiere of a new opera, The Blue Woman, by composer Laura Bowler and librettist Laura Lomas. A co-commission with Britten Pears Arts, directed by Katie Mitchell, this new production explores violence against women. Bajazet (1735), co-produced with Irish National Opera and directed by Adele Thomas, will see the ROH’s first opera by Vivaldi presented on the Linbury stage.
Director of Opera Oliver Mears commented: “After a turbulent year we are thrilled to announce a line-up of productions for everyone to enjoy in our first full season since 2019. The opera company and all staff and artists in the building are itching to create and stage work and we are excited to welcome back international and British artists, and of course our magnificent Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
“Since first closing our doors a year ago, we have been proud to present a wealth of digital work to audiences around the globe; however, nothing can replace the live theatre so missed by us all in the last 12 months. We look forward to opening our doors in autumn and presenting a truly remarkable new season of work.”
German tenor Jonas Kaufmann (seen here as Florestan in the Royal Opera’s 2020 production of Fidelio) sings the lead roles in a production of ‘Cav and Pag’ (Bill Cooper).