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Curtain up at the Royal Opera House: new 2021 season announced

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Bravo! Bouquets all round – the Royal Opera House has announced highlights of its new 2021/22 seasons, including 11 new productions, 5 world premieres and 20 revivals, to include Nabucco with Anna Netrebko, Tosca starring Angela Gheorghiu, Madama Butterfly with Sonya Yoncheva and Macbeth with Simon Keenlyside. It will also feature return of La traviata with no fewer than six sopranos singing the role of Violetta in Richard Eyre’s production: Lisette Oropesa, Ekaterina Bakanova, Anush Hovhannisyan, Pretty Yende, Angel Blue and Hrachuhí Bassénz. Then there’s the dance, with the likes of Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon creating new works alongside glorious old favourites.

Covent Garden’s florists are going to be busy. The full season will be announced on June 1 at roh.org.uk but here are some tasty morsels to get excited about.

Dance

Wayne McGregor in rehearsals

/ ROH 2016

At last, Wayne McGregor’s highly-anticipated The Dante Project gets its world premiere in October. A co-production with Paris Opera Ballet (the Royal Ballet’s first) is inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, and marks the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death in 1321. It also marks the first full-length ballet for composer Thomas Adès, and will feature designs by the British artist Tacita Dean. Audience favourite and frequent McGregor collaborator Edward Watson will play Dante.

Christopher Wheeldon’s world premiere, co-commissioned by American Ballet Theatre, is based on the magical realist Mexican novel by Laura Esquivel, with whom Wheeldon worked to bring the love story to the stage. The production will be led by the conductor and official cultural ambassador to Mexico Alondra de la Parra, with a newly commissioned score by Joby Talbot, danced by a cast headed up by Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé.

Natalia Osipova in Giselle

/ Bill Cooper

An oldie but a goodie, the Royal Ballet’s Peter Wright staging of one of the world’s oldest ballets (first seen at the Paris Opera in 1841) is an out-and-out stunner. No casting as yet but that won’t stop the tickets flying out of the door.

The Dark Crystal: Odyssey

More McGregor, this time a new show for family audiences based on Jim Henson’s iconic 1982 film and including puppets and props from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. This coming-of-age story set on a far-away planet brings together a team of world-class collaborators including artists Brian and Wendy Froud, composer Joel Cadbury, digital designers kontrastmoment, lighting designer Lucy Carter, dramaturg Uzma Hameed, costume designer Philip Delamore and face-and body-artist Alex Box.

Cassa Pancho’s company Ballet Black, made up of superb Black and Asian classically trained dancers, returns to the Royal Opera House with a mixed programme by Olivier-award-winning choreographers Mthuthuzeli November and Will Tuckett, which promises to be an absolute treat.

Opera

Oliver Mears

/ ROH

The Royal Opera season will open in September with the premiere of a new production of Verdi’s tragic love story, directed by Oliver Mears – his first production since becoming Director of Opera in 2017 (blasted pandemic…). The Royal’s Music Director Antonio Pappano will conduct the house orchestra, and Carlos Álvarez will perform in the title role, alongside Lisette Oropesa and Liparit Avetisyan.

Theatre and opera director Katie Mitchell directs a new production of Handel’s late oratorio, in which love transcends political tyranny, in January 2022 – a work not seen on the stage at Covent Garden since 1750. American soprano Julia Bullock will sing the title role and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato will appear as Irene, alongside British tenor Ed Lyon, Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński and Hungarian-Romanian baritone Gyula Orendt. Harry Bicket will conduct.

Asmik Grigorian

/ Algirdas Bakas

Another long-awaited premiere, which was stopped in its tracks last March, Claus Guth’s production of Janáček’s rather grim tale of jealousy, infanticide and love will feature Henrik Nánási conducting Asmik Grigorian (who won best female singer at the 2019 International Opera Awards and here makes her ROH debut) in the title role, Nicky Spence as her jealous suitor Laca, Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička and Andrew Staples as Števa.

The Royal Opera continues its series of Benjamin Britten’s operas with a new production of his sea-water-and-ambiguity-soaked tragedy, in collaboration with Teatro Real, Madrid, where it will premiere in April before coming to the ROH in March 2022. 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 opera, by composer Laura Bowler and librettist Laura Lomas, gets its world premiere at the Linbury Theatre. A co-commission with Britten Pears Arts, directed by Katie Mitchell, it will explore violence against women. Depressingly, it couldn’t be more timely.

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