2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper

Semperopera’s Opera and Ballet in 2020-2021

Following a highly successful year, the Semperoper Dresden starts the new season with an ambitious and highly topical programme featuring stellar guests:

  • Return of Der Ring des Nibelungen under the baton of Christian Thielemann
  • Happy birthday! The Junge Szene turns 10
  • Dancing into the future«: Semperoper Ballett celebrates its 15th anniversary under Director Aaron S. Watkin
  • Presentation of premieres with visual motifs by Cornelius Völker

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Around 292,000 guests visited the Semperoper Dresden in the calendar year 2019. This translates into almost 92% of seats sold in all artistic categories. With a solid cost recovery rate of over 38% in 2018, the Semperoper Dresden is feeling confident as it enters the third season under Managing Director Peter Theiler. These excellent results consolidate the leading position of the Saxon State Opera in the list of the world’s top cultural institutions. Peter Theiler: ‘At the same time, they confirm the huge interest of international audiences in its wide-ranging programme as well as that of the Staatskapelle Dresden, both of which act as impressive cultural ambassadors at a global level, highlighting Saxony’s great musical and artistic heritage.’

In the 2020/21 season, the Semperoper looks forward to a total of 281 performances and eleven premieres (five opera premieres in the Semperoper, two in Semper Zwei as well as two ballet and two Junge Szene premieres) and 32 repertoire works in all genres. The eleven premieres scheduled for the upcoming seasons, which include two German and three Dresden premieres, in opera, ballet and the Junge Szene programme are dedicated in different ways to how we can find orientation in a world undergoing radical upheaval, in which seemingly fixed norms and ideals are subject to reinterpretation.

Ticket sales for the 2020/21 season began on Wednesday, 11 March 2020. This does not include bookings for the Ring cycles, for which special conditions apply. The concerts of the Staatskapelle Dresden will be presented in a separate programme.


The new productions of Puccini’s Turandot, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Zimmermann’s Weiße Rose and the new ballet production after Grieg’s Peer Gynt choreographed by Johan Inger are great examples of this theme of finding’s one position in the transition from passive endurance to active action. The series of opera premieres for 2020/21 is launched by Gioachino Rossini’s politically timeless and highly topical ode to freedom William Tell in a new staging by Georg Schmiedleitner. With its impressive choral scenes and spectacular overture, this grand opéra will be conducted by the Italian Giampaolo Bisanti. The Semperoper’s Principal Guest Conductor, Omer Meir Wellber, who has already delighted audiences in past seasons with his interpretations of the Mozart-da Ponte operas, will conduct a peerless cast for the premiere of a new Dresden Magic Flute, staged by Josef E. Köpplinger. The new Dresden production of the original version of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo gives audiences the chance to become reacquainted with Rolando Villazón, who sings the title role. Director and puppeteer Nikolaus Habjan, a shooting star of the Austrian theatre scene, brings the Orpheus myth to the stage in a spectacular mix of singing actors and life-size puppets. Under the direction of Baroque music specialist, conductor and lutenist, Wolfgang Katschner, guest musicians will perform period instruments from the age of Monteverdi to complement the players of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Richard Strauss’s musical conversation piece Capriccio, staged by Jens-Daniel Herzog, on the other hand, explores the fundamental question of which takes primacy: music or words? Prima la musica, poi la parole? Krassimira Stoyanova returns to the Semperoper as the Countess for the premiere of this work in May 2021, for which Christian Thielemann, the Staatskapelle’s Principal Conductor, will conduct. For the new Dresden production of Turandot, the French director Marie-Eve Signeyrole returns to the fairy-tale drama of the same name by Carlo Gozzi, which was musically transposed into the operatic sphere by Giacomo Puccini. Under the baton of Croatian conductor Ivan Repušić, this final premiere of the upcoming season will see a brilliant cast perform Puccini’s multi-layered masterpiece, whose rich score is infused with Chinese folk melodies.


The absolute highlight of the upcoming season is certain to be the eagerly awaited return of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the legendary Dresden production by Willy Decker. Two complete Ring cycles can be experienced in the Semperoper at the end of January and the beginning of February 2021, both under the baton of the Staatskapelle’s Principal Conductor, Christian Thielemann. The star-studded international cast includes Jennifer Holloway, Petra Lang, Christa Mayer, Albert Dohmen, Markus Eiche, Stephen Gould, Michael Volle and Georg Zeppenfeld. The two cycles will be accompanied by a lecture series run in cooperation with Dresden’s »Carl Maria von Weber« College of Music and the Saxon Academy of Arts.

Returning productions in the 2020/21 season deserving special mention are Don Giovanni, the second Mozart opera of the season to be conducted by Omer Meir Wellber, as well as David Bösch’s staging of Verdi’s Nabucco, for which, as in 2019, the Semperoper stage will be graced by Andrzej Dobber in the title role and Saioa Hernández as Abigaille. In Semper Zwei, the aim of establishing an ambitious and socially-relevant programme that examines our current conditions using a contemporary musical and visual vocabulary is confirmed by the return of two extremely successful productions: Philip Venable’s 4.48 Psychosis and Peter Eötvös’s Der goldene Drache.


Under the theme Dancing into the future, the 2020/21 season marks the 15th anniversary of the Semperoper Ballett under the direction of Aaron S. Watkin. The first of two premieres is Johan Inger’s epic narrative work Peer Gynt, in which the choreographer parallels his own career with Peer Gynt’s journey through life. Created in 2017 for the Basel Ballet, the Semperoper Ballett is the first company to take on this work which will premiere in November, 2020. George Balanchine’s Serenade, Crystal Pite’s Plot Point and William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP) make up the second premier program under the title Playlist, which both will premiere as German premieres in  June, 2021. From the classical full-lengths the company will perform La Bayadère, The Nutcracker & Swan Lake as well as the mixed bill Four last Songs and the award winning full-length creation COW by Alexander Ekman. From next season, British choreographer David Dawson will become Associate Choreographer to the Semperoper Ballett. This title represents the mutual collaboration and commitment between the choreographer and the ensemble over the next seasons. New additions to the company include internationally renowned French Ballerina Sofiane Sylve and Brazilian ballet star Marcelo Gomes, who will join the team as both Ballet Masters and Principal Dancers, as well Carlo Di Lanno, who will joining the rank of the principal men. Maria Kochetkova and Dmitry Semionov will be returning to guest with the Semperoper Ballett. The Company will close its season with a tour to National Theatre Taipei, Taiwan with a mixed program, including Balanchine’s Serenade, Forsythe’s Playlist (EM) and David Dawson’s The Four Seasons.


Visitors to Semper Zwei can also look forward to a varied programme featuring no fewer than four Dresden premieres. These works have a common theme, namely the influence of the past on the current morals of our human constellations. Stefan Hunstein will stage Aribert Reimann’s opera  Die Gespenstersonate, which appears on the programme from April 2021. Reimann, familiar to Dresden audiences as the current Composer-in-Residence to the Staatskapelle, has transformed August Strindberg’s chamber play The Ghost Sonata, with its clever dissection of a society, into a brilliant work of modern music theatre. In the lively staging by Manfred Weiß, Artistic Director of Semper Zwei, the Blues Brothers Jake and Ellwood undertake a divine mission to Dresden. While John Landis’s original cult movie from 1980 immortalised many of the featured songs, this Dresden production can be understood as an homage to the lively blues scene of the GDR.

For ten years, the Junge Szene programme in Semper Zwei has provided space for experimentation in young music theatre, exploring unconventional forms of expression, as well as for numerous musical series, scientific colloquia and dance projects. On 10 October 2020 the Junge Szene will celebrate its birthday by commemorating its diverse range of its offers.  Casting an eye back over the past years, the premiere of Udo Zimmermann’s Weiße Rose can be seen to closely follow the philosophy of Semper Zwei. The Dresden composer created this haunting work, which premiered in 1986, by drawing on an earlier opera, Die Weiße Rose, completed twenty years before. It examines the last hours of sibling anti-Nazi agitators Hans and Sophie Scholl. Director and stage designer Stephan Grögler will make his debut at the Semperoper with the production of this work, which is the most frequently performed chamber opera in Germany. Martin Smolka’s children’s opera Das schlaue Gretchen is also about an individual’s decision to buck authority, albeit in a far more vibrant and cheerful way. In Andrea Kramer’s production for Semper Zwei, which is a Dresden premiere, this story of girl power will be narrated by actor Alexander Ritter. Audiences of the Junge Szene can also enjoy the return of another of Andrea Kramer’s youthful productions, namely the fairy-tale opera Schneewitte by Sophie Kassies and Jens Joneleit, which also features a strong girl as the main character.


Following on from Andreas Mühe and Gerhard Richter, the Semperoper Dresden is delighted to have gained the internationally acclaimed painter Cornelius Völker as a partner in presenting its premieres for the 2020/21 season. Based in both Düsseldorf and New York, the freelance artist is one of the great representatives of contemporary German painting. Alongside his numerous solo and group shows in Germany and abroad, many of Völker’s works can be found in prestigious collections and museums.

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