The Royal Opera House (ROH) has announced full details of its 2021-22 season, with an exciting rosta of six new productions, 13 classic revivals and two world premieres, running from 13 September 2021 to 23 July 2022.
The season opens on 13 September with a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), directed by Oliver Mears – his first production since becoming the Royal Opera’s director of opera in 2017. Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano will conduct the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
This new interpretation sees Verdi’s masterpiece as a modern morality play that pits power against innocence in a pitiless world of luxurious decadence, corruption and social decay. Spanish baritone Carlos Álvarez returns to the ROH to take the title role, with Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa singing the part of his daughter Gilda and Armenian tenor Liparit Avetisyan as the Duke of Mantua.
First playing to 29 September, the production returns from 18 February-12 March 2022 with Stefano Montanari conducting a cast that includes Italian baritone Luca Salsi as Rigoletto, Italian soprano Rosa Feola as Gilda and Mexican tenor Javier Camarena as the duke.
Also new is award-winning director Claus Guth’s take on Jenůfa (1904). The first production of Janáček’s moving opera at Covent Garden since 2001, it runs from 28 September-12 October 2021. The production captures Jenůfa’s progression from hope to despair to eventual radiant happiness, while her stepmother, the Kostelnička, is one of opera’s most complex maternal figures.
Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian sings the title role, with Finnish soprano Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička; Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási takes up the baton. The stunning score is infused with traditional folk melodies of Janáček’s native Moravia.
Heading into 2022, the Royal Opera continues its celebration of works Handel wrote for Covent Garden with a new production of his oratorio Theodora from 31 January-16 February 2022. Director Katie Mitchell sets the story of religious and political tyranny against the background of contemporary religious terrorism, and gives a modern, feminist context to a work not heard at Covent Garden since 1750, when it premiered at the then Covent Garden Theatre. American soprano Julia Bullock sings the title role; she is joined by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Theodora’s faithful friend Irene.
Deborah Warner’s new production of Peter Grimes (Britten, 1945) receives its UK premiere from 17-31 March 2022. Welsh superstar bass-baritone Bryn Terfel plays the role of Captain Balstrode, with British tenor Allan Clayton singing the eponymous Grimes.
Award-winning director Richard Jones returns to the ROH for the final new production of the season: Saint-Saëns’s grand opera Samson et Dalila (1877), a retelling of the Bible story of Samson and Delilah. Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča stars as Dalila and Scottish tenor Nicky Spence is the inspiring hero Samson; Antonio Pappano conducts.
The season is complemented with a packed programme of revivals of much-loved classics. Among the many productions on offer, this includes two Mozart operas from David McVicker: a version of The Magic Flute (1791) from 15 September-7 October will transport you to a fantastical world of dancing animals, flying machines and starry skies; and timeless comedy The Marriage of Figaro (1786) from 9-27 January 2022.
Puccini also features twice, with Jonathan Kent’s taut and intense production of the composer’s great opera of passion and politics, Tosca (1900), from 5 December 2021-22 February 2022; and Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s elegant production of Madama Butterfly (1904) from 14 June-6 July 2022.
Richard Eyre’s beautiful production of La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853), Verdi’s opera about a courtesan who sacrifices all for love (27 October 2021-18 April 2022), also returns, as does Phyllida Lloyd’s sinister production of the same composer’s Shakespearian masterpiece, Macbeth, first seen at the opera house in 2002 (16-30 November 2021).
Sure to be a highlight of the season is the Jette Parker Young Artists (JPYA) 20th anniversary celebrations. Taking place across the whole season and in multiple venues, this special run of events will bring together current performers and alumni from the past two decades of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.
A series of lunchtime recitals in the Crush Room and October’s Meet the Young Artists Week in the Linbury Theatre will offer the chance to hear live for the first time many of the artists who joined last year. The Linbury will also play host to the JPYA’s mixed programme of Stravinsky’s one-act comic opera Mavra (1922) and Schoenberg’s melodrama Pierrot Lunaire (Pierrot in the Moonlight, 1912).
The anniversary year culminates on 23 July 2022 in a special performance on the Main Stage. Current and former JPYA artists will be joined by Antonio Pappano, who also celebrates 20 years with the Royal Opera.
The Linbury Theatre – which only opened to the public in January 2019 – is also set for an exciting season, with two opera world premieres. The first of these is Wolf Witch Giant Fairy, a magical new family show for Christmas, in collaboration with Little Bulb. Described as a “wild folk opera of music, mischief and magic”, it runs from 17 December 2021-3 January 2022.
Also being performed for the first time is Laura Bowler’s The Blue Woman (6-11 July 2022), directed by the award-winning Katie Mitchell and with a libretto by Laura Lomas. This challenging and experimental work tackles the psychological impact of sexual violence against women; it aims to start a conversation about how operas deal with violence against women and our modern day understanding of this reality.
Director Adele Thomas’s new production of Vivaldi’s Bajazet has been designed especially for the Linbury’s intimate setting; it will run from 4-12 February 2022. First performed in Verona in 1735, this extraordinary thriller, set in a dark, tense, claustrophobic environment, is the first Vivaldi opera to be staged at the Royal Opera House.
For details of the full season, including more production information, ticket sales and performance dates and times, see the Royal Opera House’s website.
Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel will play Captain Balstrode in Deborah Warner’s new production of Peter Grimes, part of the Royal Opera House’s 2021-22 season (Clive Barda).