June 2004

The opera season in Berlin 2004/2005

A program preview of Berlin's three opera houses

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The opera season in Berlin 2004/2005

A program preview of Berlin's three opera houses

by Heiko Schon / translation by Nancy Chapple

Deutsche Oper: More tradition than innovation

"More tradition than innovation" could be the motto of the Deutsche Oper Berlin's 2004/2005 season. Opening the round of premieres, you will find Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande (Oct. 10, 2004; director: Marco Arturo Marelli; conductor: Marc Albrecht) and Puccini's Manon Lescaut (Dec. 19. 2004; director: Gilbert Deflo). Furthermore, David Poutney (production) and Marcello Viotti (musical direction) will be putting together the double evening Cavalleria rusticana / Il bajazzo (Apr. 23, 2005), on which occasion tenors Peter Seiffert and José Cura will no doubt generate lots of attention. The house has landed a real coup in engaging Volker Schlöndorff as director for Janácek's From the House of the Dead, premiere on Feb. 19, 2005.

What's quite something is to observe that Wagner-hungry audiences at the Deutsche Oper will be presented only four performances of The Flying Dutchman (May & June 2005) and one round of the Ring des Nibelungen (March 2005). Bizet's Carmen will be taken up again (in September 2004 with Agnes Baltsa), as will Strauss' Daphne, the famous Neuenfels production of Verdi's La forza del destino (with Violeta Urmana), Reimann's Schloss and Berg's Lulu (title role: Alexandra von der Weth). Götz Friedrich's productions remain a fixture of the program (Friedrich passed away in December 2000): there will be a total of twelve of them this year.

Two festivals also make up a major focus: The Strauss festival in January and February 2005, with performances of the operas Salome, Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Daphne and an additional symphony concert conducted by Christian Thielemann; and the Janácek Weeks in June and July 2005 with The Makropulos Affair, The Cunning Little Vixen and From the House of the Dead.

Among the goodies in the repertoire: the performances of Bellini's I puritani with Edita Gruberova in May 2005 and Puccini's Tosca with Neil Shicoff as Mario Cavaradossi on March 23, 2005. In addition, the tenor Juan Diego Flórez will give his début at the DOB at a special concert (Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti) on Oct. 16, 2004. Barbara Bonney and Angelika Kirchschlager will sing a joint Liederabend on Dec. 3, 2004, as will Thomas Hampson on Jan. 28, 2005.

The season will begin on Sept. 9, 2004 with a first concert performance: Alberto Zedda will conduct the Rossini opera L'inganno felice.

Staatsoper Unter den Linden: Interesting path taken

"Berlin is chaotic. Any path is conceivable." True words spoken by Peter Mussbach. And under his direction, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden has decided to head down quite an interesting path, paved with ambitious premieres, Baroque delicacies and major names in Regietheater (theater marked by a strong, sometimes headstrong, dramatic conception).

The head of the house will kick things off: Peter Mussbach and Kent Nagano will present the music theater project Takemitsu - My Way of Life. The project with works by Toru Takemitsu, a Japanese composer who died in 1996, will premiere on Oct. 14, 2004. The Staatsoper will contribute to the Janácek Weeks in June and July 2005 with Katja Kabanowa (premiere on Jan. 22, 2005). Michael Thalheimer will stage the opera; Michael Gielen will take on the musical direction.

This time around, there'll be two premieres at the Cadenza Baroque Days: René Jacobs will continue his Monteverdi cycle with Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria (director: Immo Karaman; premiere: Feb. 18, 2005). Sasha Waltz, known until now for causing a stir at the Schaubühne with her choreography, will give her opera début on Feb. 19, 2005 with Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (musical direction: Attilio Cremonesi). Bernd Eichinger (film producer and director) will also directing an opera for the first time.

In the course of the Festtage 2005, Daniel Barenboim will conduct the premiere of Wagner's drama Parsifal on Mar. 28, 2005. The British director Nigel Lowery will produce L'Italiana in Algeri together with Amir Hosseinpour. The duo already bestowed a surprise success on the Staatsoper in the 2002/2003 season with their crazy Rinaldo. The intention is to repeat this with Rossini's opera conducted by Massimo Zanetti, starting on May 21, 2005. The group of new productions concludes on June 23, 2005 with a musical theater piece by Hans Zender entitled Chief Joseph, his third opera. This premiere too will be staged by Peter Mussbach; Johannes Kalitzke will conduct.

Despite creating an umbrella organization, the opera foundation, there's been no end to productions at all three opera houses. Whether it's Figaro, La Boheme, La Traviata or Zauberflöte: All three appear on this season's programs at all three houses. Opera goers will once again have the dubious good fortune of experiencing yet another production of Carmen at the Staatsoper, besides the existing Kupfer variant (Komische Oper) and a resumption of the Beauvais production (Deutsche Oper). Bizet's opera - directed by Martin Kušej, with Maestro Barenboim as musical director - will premiere on Dec. 4, 2004.

Komische Oper: Lots of reasons to drop by

It's about time that the capacity utilization finally picks up. That's because on average, unfortunately, less than 60% of the seats at the Komische Oper are filled. And wrongly so. With a traditional motto of performing real music theater, Intendant Andreas Homoki is betting on presenting directors whose approach is quite up to date. He has successfully been able to engage top stars of opera direction, such as Peter Konwitschny, David Alden, or more recently Calixto Bieito. Moreover, with Kirill Petrenko he has a General Music Director at his side who performs excellent work with the orchestra - and that not only in the season's premieres. In the new season, he will be taking the podium on 61 evenings - unprecedented at Berlin's other houses.

A total of eight new opera productions have been set for 2004/2005. For the first time, a musical will be staged: Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Dietrich Hilsdorf directs; Koen Schoots conducts (premiere: Sept. 26, 2004). Hans Neuenfels, known thus far in Berlin as the enfant terrible of the Deutsche Oper, will be producing Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mzensk starting on Nov. 21, 2004, musical direction Vassily Sinaisky. After the successful production of Le grand macabre, Barrie Kosky was engaged as director once again. Together with Kirill Petrenko, he will produce Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro (premiere: Jan. 23, 2005). Again for the second time, Willy Decker (Jenufa) will be directing at the Komische Oper. Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten will premiere on Mar. 6, 2005 under Jin Wang's musical direction. Head of the house Homoki will stage Tschaikovsky's Eugen Onegin, directed by Kirill Petrenko (premiere: May 22, 2005). Director Sabrina Hölzer will début with Hans Zender's Don Quijote de la Mancha (premiere: Oct. 24, 2004; conductor: Rüdiger Brohm).

Furthermore, two children's operas are being presented with Benjamin Britten's The Little Sweep (director: Jetske Mijnssen, musical direction: Wolfgang Wengenbroth, premiere: Dec. 5, 2004) and Frank Schwemmer's Der Reiter mit dem Wind im Haar (director: Irmgard Paulis, musical direction: Jin Wang, premiere: Apr. 16, 2005). And that's not everything: For the first time, the auditorium will be transformed into a movie theater. Masterpieces of the silent film era like Metropolis and Nosferatu will be shown, accompanied by the Komische Oper orchestra.

Audience favorite Noëmi Nadelmann will be returning several times. The soprano, discovered by Harry Kupfer, musically developed at the house and by now internationally known, can be seen and heard in La Traviata, Die Csardasfürstin and Alcina.

Fidelio, Wozzeck, Jenufa, Die lustige Witwe, Le grand macabre, Don Giovanni, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Die Zauberflöte, Love of Three Oranges, La Bohème, The Barber of Seville, Die Fledermaus, Rigoletto and Der Freischütz remain in the repertoire. There are lots of reasons to drop by the house in the Behrenstrasse.