With this morning’s Jahrespressekonferenz at the Schiller Theater, Berlin’s operatic program during the 2015-16 season is complete. Starting in the fall, Berlin’s three full-time opera houses will present a combined total of 22 new productions and 64 repertory works, ranging from 1689’s Dido and Aeneas at the Staatsoper (in Sasha Waltz’s transcendent production) to the world premiere of Elens Kats-Chernin’s Snow White and the 77 Dwarves at the Komische Oper.
With the renovations on their historic home on Unter den Linden way behind schedule, the Staatsoper will inaugurate its sixth season (of a projected four) in the Schiller Theater with a fresh look at Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg from director Andrea Moses, chief director in Stuttgart. After Tannhäuser and Parsifal, Daniel Barenboim continues to lead the company’s new Wagner cycle, aided by a promising cast headed by Wolfgang Koch (Wotan in the controversial 2013 Bayreuth Ring) as Hans Sachs. The premiere, which is curiously spread out over October 3 and 4, also stars Kwalchul Youn (Viet Pogner), Johannes Martin Kräjnzle (Beckmesser), Klaus Florian Vogt (Walther von Stolzing) and Julia Kleiter (Eva).
Further highlights of the season include a new Figaro from intendant Jürgen Flimm (surprisingly his first new production premiere at the house – and one of three he’s overseen this season). Gustavo Dudamel will conduct Ildebrando d’Archangelo as the Count, the Staatsoper’s young discovery Anna Prohaska as the Countess, Dorothea Röschmann as Susanna and Laura Vasar as Figaro. Prohaska also will star in the new Orfeo ed Euridice oppose countertenor Bejun Mehta, to be unveiled during the company’s Eastertime festival days. The production promises to be the highlight of the opera going season, thanks to the exciting combination of Barenboim, Flimm and Frank Gehry, who designed the set.
As far as revivals are concerned, the best of the bunch will probably be Claus Guth’s productions of Don Giovanni and The Turn of the Screw, joined by Dmitri Tcherniakov’s The Tsar’s Bride and Parsifal, Jürgen Flimm’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno by Handel and the aforementioned Dido. And if you can look past the general tedium of Guy Cassiers’ Ring, Barenboim will return to conduct it (with a solid if somewhat less glittery cast than at the premiere) in June 2016.
Down the street, the Deutsche Oper Berlin will inaugurate a multi-season Meyerbeer cycle with Vasco da Gama (also known as L’Africaine) starring Roberto Alagna in the title role. Vera Nemirova (of the 2010 Salzburg Lulu and the current Frankfurt Ring) will stage and Enrique Mazzola conducts. Aside from that, I’m most excited about Claus Guth’s production of Salome, conducted by GMD Donald Runnicles and starring Catherine Nagelstad in the punishing title role, although I’m sad to see Achim Freyer’s circus-themed production go. Runnicles will also lead David Hermann’s new production of Janacek’s The Makropulos Case, to star Evelyn Herlitzius – this season’s sublime Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. I’ve also got my eye on the German premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas’ Morgen und Abend, to be seen next month at the Royal Opera House in a staging by Graham Vick. Revivals of note include Marco Artuno Marelli’s aquatic staging of Pelléas et Mélisande, Kirsten Harm’s exciting Elektra (with Nina Stemme and Herlitzius sharing the title role), Götz Friedrich’s classic Rosenkavalier (with Anja Harteros as the Marschallin) and Philipp Stötzl’s bold take on Wagner’s Rienzi.
Last, but certainly not least, the Komische Oper – which was just awarded “Opera Company of the Year” at last night’s International Opera Awards – kicks off the season with intendant Barrie Kosky’s new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, with three different singers portraying Hoffmann in each acts – including baritones for the first two acts, which apparently is what Offenbach’s original concept for his unfinished masterpiece was. I am VERY intrigued, although also quite sad to say goodbye to Thilo Reinhardt’s sensational production, which was one of the house’s greatest artistic triumphs. Kosky will strike again for a new Eugene Onegin that will replace former intendant Andreas Homoki’s 2004 staging, absent from house for years and years. And for the first time, the Komische will present Tchaikovsky’s lyrical masterpiece in Russian. Alongside the premieres, the company will bring back some of its best and / or most-popular productions from recent seasons, including Kosky’s Ball im Savoy, La Belle Hélène, The Magic Flute, West Side Story, Benedict Andrew’s The Fiery Angel and Stefan Herheim’s sublime Xerxes.
One would be hard-pressed to find a better spread anywhere else on the planet!