Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond

Zurich Opera have announced details of next season

Zurich Opera House

Updated 2 July: Musical Chairs at Zurich Opera – New General Music Director from 2021

Zurich Opera has announced today that its current General Music Director, Fabio Luisi, will leave by mutual agreement as from the start of 2021/2022 season, one year before his contract officially expires.

His successor will be Gianandrea Noseda. Noseda and Luisi are roughly the same age, coming up to 60 in a few years.

Noseda fell out with Turin Opera recently and his appointment in Zurich therefore, whilst unexpected, will not come as a big surprise. He is friendly with Fabio Luisi and keen to expand his operatic repertoire into German opera. His first project with Intendant Andreas Homoki will be to stage Wagner’s Ring. Booking has not yet opened!

Fabio Luisi says he has achieved what he wanted to achieve in Zurich; he has not stated what he will do next, except to say he looks forward to new challenges. One wonders which major opera houses will be making approaches, if they have not done so already.

There were rumours in the city that Andreas Homoki, Intendant of Zurich Opera, might also have itchy feet, but those rumours have been partly quashed by the announcement that Homoki is extending his contract to 2025. However, he has stated that he will then move on to concentrate on his artistic work as producer.

Christian Spuck, Director of Ballet, has also agreed to extend his contract to 2025.

Noseda does not yet speak German, although he says he understands it. He has a few years to learn some, but I suspect English, which he speaks well, will become the lingua franca between him, the orchestra and the singers. Noseda will maintain his position as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington DC, but will commit to conduct at least two new productions in Zurich, some revivals and orchestral concerts with the Philharmonia Zurich. He says he only took a few days to consider whether or not to take the job, he was only approached six weeks ago. He will now follow in a long line of illustrious predecessors including Carlos Kleiber, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Franz Welser-Möst – and now Fabio Luisi.

In 2018/19 there are seventeen new productions:

Die Gezeichneten is one you probably haven’t heard of, even if I translate it into English: ‘The Stigmatized’ or ‘The Branded’. It’s by Franz Schreker, himself stigmatized by the Nazis. You may know Der ferne Klang, his better known opera. This rarity premièred in 1918 and was apparently very popular until the Nazis banned it. A misshapen aristocrat sets up an island off Genoa on which all possible pleasures can be enjoyed. Barrie Kosky is going to have fun as director. Vladimir Jurowski makes his debut in Zurich, Catherine Naglestad and John Daszak star. Opening night is 23 September 2018.

Così fan tutte needs no introduction. The choice of producer does, however, need comment, as it’s Kirill Serebrennikov, currently under house arrest in Russia for alleged misappropriation of funds for a new production. The Opera House Intendant Andreas Homoki went to great pains to stress that in the event of Serebrennikov being unable to leave Russia, his assistant will be up to the task. Young Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan sings Fiordiligi, Anna Goryachova is Dorabella. Cornelius Meister conducts. Opening night on 4 November 2018.

Hänsel und Gretel, Engelbert Humperdinck’s marvellous opera for children of almost all ages (the opera house says children from 8 years old just in case they are frightened by the witch). There are seventeen performances: Markus Poschner conducts many, and Fabio Luisi conducts just one, probably for the fun of it. Robert Carsen produces, luxury casting is Anna Stéphany as Hänsel and Olga Kulchynskaya as Gretel (Hamida Kristoffersen in some performances). Opening night 18 November 2018. Three performances are reserved exclusively for school kids, and prices for all children are substantially reduced.

Sweeney Todd, or The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim. Apparently when Bryn Terfel was singing the Dutchman in Zurich a few years ago, he convinced the management of the Zurich Opera to put on Sweeney Todd. I’m sure it will be a big success, Terfel sings in all 10 performances, over the Christmas period, and none other than Angelika Kirchschlager will be Mrs. Nellie Lovett. Andreas Homoki directs, David Charles Abell conducts. Sung in English, of course. Opens on 9 December 2018.

Le Grand Macabre by György Ligeti opens on 3 February 2019, conducted by Fabio Luisi, Tatjana Gürbaca directs. The plot involves a Breughelian end-of-the-world scenario complete with Sodom and Gomorrah and corrupt ministers. First performed in 1978 and described by Ligeti as an Anti-anti-opera. We shall see. Leigh Melrose stars as Nekrotzar.

La finta giardiniera (Mozart) which translates as ‘The pretend garden-girl’. Tatjana Gürbaca returns to direct, Gianluca Capuano conducts, Mauro Peter is Contino Belfiore, Myrtò Papatanasiu as Arminda. Opens on 17 February 2019, the orchestra is the Musikkollegium Winterthur.

Massenet’s Manon is up next, opening on 7 April 2019. Marco Armiliato in the pit, Floris Visser directs. Elsa Dreisig sings Manon Lescaut and Piotr Beczala as Des Grieux.

Rossini’s Il turco in Italia should be fun, opening on 28 April 2019. Conductor is Enrique Mazzola, director Jan Philipp Gloger. Julie Fuchs sings Donna Florilla.

There will be three concert performances of Bellini’s opera La sonnambula. Unsure why it is only a concert performance, but they will be popular as Pretty Yende will surely sparkle in the title role; Lawrence Brownlee also stars. First performance is on 5 May 2019.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia will play in Winterthur, with the Musikkollegium Winterthur. Antonino Fogliani conducts, Johannes Pölzgutter directs. Opens 15 May 2019 at Theater Winterthur.

Hippolyte et Aricie, by Jean-Philippe Rameau, opens on 19 May 2019. Emmanuelle Haïm conducts, Jetske Mijnssen directs. Stéphane d’Oustrac stars.

There will be a concert performance in Paris on 26 May 2019 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

For Verdi lovers, Nabucco conducted by Fabio Luisi, produced by Andreas Homoki. Michael Volle sings the title role, Catherine Naglestad as Abigaille. Opens 23 June 2019.

Revivals include:

La verità in cimento (Vivaldi), 25 September 2018.

Macbeth (Verdi) (a Barrie Kosky production) 27 September 2018.

La bohème (Puccini) 29 September 2018.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Mozart) 21 October 2018.

Madama Butterfly (Puccini) cond. Luisi, 25 November 2018.

The Pearl Fishers (Bizet) 16 December 2018.

Semele (Handel), William Christie conducts, Cecilia Bartoli in title role. 31 December 2018.

Rigoletto (Verdi) with Quinn Kelsey in title role. 17 January 2019.

Der Rosenkavalier (Richard Strauss), Luisi conducts, Anna Stéphany as Octavian, Sabine Devieilhe as Sophie. 15 February 2019.

Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti), Nello Santi conducts, Diana Damrau as Lucia. 22 February 2019.

Tannhäuser (Wagner) in a Harry Kupfer production, Stephen Gould in the title role, with Lise Davidsen as Elisabeth. 23 March 2019.

Norma (Bellini), Luisi conducts, Michael Spyres and Maria Agresta star. 2 June 2019.

Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) 10 June 2019.

La forza del destino (Verdi), Luisi conducts, Homoki produces. Anja Harteros returns as Donna Leonora for three of the five performances (30 June 2019).

Last – but by no means least – Richard Strauss’ Elektra with Waltraud Meier and Evelyn Herlitzius; Simone Young conducts (7 July 2019).

For details of ballet performances (including an intriguing Winterreise using the Hans Zender orchestral scoring, choreographed by Christian Spuck), recitals (including Thomas Hampson, Anna Stéphany, Lise Davidsen, Javier Camarena, Anja Harteros, Pavol Breslik, Angelika Kirchschlager and Rolando Villazón) and concerts by the opera-house orchestra Philharmonia Zurich (including  Shostakovich’s Fifth (Rustioni), Schubert’s Ninth and Beethoven’s Third (Luisi), Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances (Trevino), and two Beethoven piano concertos with Beatrice Rana (described by Fabio Luisi as ‘a shooting star’), may I refer you to the opera house website (click here).

John Rhodes

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