What to See on Europe’s Opera Stages Next Season
Keeping up with opera in Europe is a nearly impossible task. There never seems to be enough time, or money, to see all that the continent has to offer across its many storied houses. Many of the most important among them have announced their 2023-24 seasons. Here are some highlights, in chronological order.
The Royal Opera House in London embarks on the multiseason effort of staging Wagner’s four-opera “Der Ring des Nibelungen” with its first installment (Sept. 11-29) right as its music director, Antonio Pappano, enters his final season there. He will be back to conduct the other three, though, lending a sense of cohesion to this new staging by the reliably entertaining Barrie Kosky, starring Christopher Maltman as Wotan. Not long after, another major “Ring” begins at the Monnaie in Brussels, where the symbol-happy abstractionist Romeo Castellucci’s productions of “Das Rheingold” (Oct. 24-Nov. 9) and “Die Walküre” (Jan. 21-Feb. 11) will follow in quick succession.
‘Das Floss der Medusa’
As the Komische Oper in Berlin closes for renovations, the company enters a nomadic period familiar to its neighbor, the Berlin State Opera, which for years operated out of the Schiller Theater, where many of the Komische’s productions will be presented next season. But it will also branch out, including with its new staging, by the sleekly smart Tobias Kratzer of Hans Werner Henze’s “Das Floss der Medusa” (“The Raft of the Medusa”), inside a hangar at the disused Tempelhof Airport (Sept. 16-Oct. 2).
The provocateur Calixto Bieito’s production of Verdi’s “Aida” at Theater Basel over a decade ago has been described as a difficult, even disturbing depiction of immigration in Europe. His new staging, at the Berlin State Opera (Oct. 3-29), is being billed more modestly, as homing in on the work’s intimacy, and as mining the tension between the opera and the politics of its time. Nicola Luisotti conducts a cast that includes the tenor Yusif Eyvazov as Radamès and the bass René Pape as Ramfis.
‘Masque of Might’
Masques, which were something like variety shows in the 17th century, get contemporary treatment in this Opera North pastiche from the inveterate director David Pountney touring northern England (Oct. 6-Nov. 16). The hope is to give Henry Purcell — one of his country’s essential composers and, in Pountney’s view, its greatest creator of stage music until Benjamin Britten — his due as a writer for the theater. So, rather than revive Purcell’s only opera, “Dido and Aeneas,” Pountney has assembled bits and pieces from elsewhere in his output for a new show on topical contemporary themes.
‘Antony & Cleopatra’
After its premiere in San Francisco this season, John Adams’s latest opera, an intricate yet flowing adaptation of Shakespeare, travels to the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain (Oct. 28-Nov. 8). One of the stars it was written for, the soprano Julia Bullock, missed the earlier run because she was pregnant, but she will be back, with the rest of the principal cast, for this revival, directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer. Adams, who famously revises his scores, will be at the conductor’s podium.
Yes, more of the “Ring.” The Zurich Opera House’s cycle, conducted by its general music director, Gianandrea Noseda, and directed by Andreas Homoki, its artistic leader, reaches its conclusion with the premiere of “Götterdämmerung,” starring the elegant, mighty soprano Camilla Nylund as Brünnhilde and the ethereal-voiced tenor Klaus Florian Vogt as Siegfried (Nov. 5-Dec. 3). Then, the whole “Ring” will be presented in cycles in spring 2024, with performers including Tomasz Konieczny as Wotan and Christopher Purves as Alberich (May 3-9 and 18-26).
‘Le Grand Macabre’
György Ligeti’s only opera — an apocalyptic dark comedy of dizzying eclecticism — was widely seen in the years immediately after its 1978 premiere. These days, a performance of it feels like more of a special occasion; but next season, there are two to choose from. At the Vienna State Opera, Jan Lauwers, who directed a strident revival of Luigi Nono’s “Intolleranza 1960” at the Salzburg Festival, helms a new production conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado (Nov. 11-23). Then, at the Bavarian State Opera, the work will be presented in a new staging by the cerebral Krzysztof Warlikowski, conducted by one of that house’s former general music directors, Kent Nagano (June 28-July 7).
‘The Exterminating Angel’
Thomas Adès’s third opera — one of the finest so far this century — seemed to have a future threatened by its own ambition. With an enormous (which is to say expensive) cast of principal characters and an orchestra of Wagnerian scale, it was not exactly inviting revivals. Yet there it is on the schedule for the Paris Opera’s coming season — with a less starry cast than its early runs at the Salzburg Festival and the Metropolitan Opera, perhaps, but with a new production from Calixto Bieito, and the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, the company’s music director and a sure hand in Adès’s music (Feb. 29-March 23).
‘The Shell Trial’
The Dutch National Opera, which in the past couple of seasons has been a font of successful world premieres like Michel van der Aa’s “Upload” and Alexander Raskatov’s “Animal Farm,” has now commissioned the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid, whose “The Shell Trial” will be introduced at the house’s Opera Forward Festival (March 16-21). Inspired by a Dutch court’s 2021 ruling that the Shell company was legally responsible for contributing to climate change, it will feature Julia Bullock, a star of “Upload,” in the dual role of the Law and the Artist.
Everything on this list has been a new production or a premiere. But opera is an art form that thrives on revivals of repertory classics, and on hearing the stars of today revisit the works, and productions, of the past. One of those singers is the soprano Lise Davidsen, who tends to astonish in her role debuts, like her Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Metropolitan Opera recently. Coming soon is more Strauss, when she takes on the title character in his “Salome” at the Paris Opera, in Lydia Steier’s staging, conducted by Mark Wigglesworth (May 9-28).