Everything about English National Opera’s spring/summer season feels shiny and fresh. Six of its eight productions are new, although that is no reason to discount the two revivals.
In fact, the tip of the season has to be Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production of Parsifal (begins 16 February). Universally acclaimed as one of the great Wagner stagings of our time, it has appeared across the world and now returns to the London Coliseum for a final time. Jonathan Miller’s The Mikado (26 February), which transfers the action from Japan to 1930s England, also enjoys a 25th anniversary revival, and if you want to see either book sooner rather than later.
Of the new productions, the season starts with Lucrezia Borgia (31 January), one of Donizetti’s most psychologically profound operas. Renowned film-maker Mike Figgis makes his operatic directorial debut with the work, as does Python Terry Gilliam with Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust (6 May). ENO is also staging a joint production with the Young Vic of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses (from 24 March at the Young Vic), one of opera’s earliest masterpieces.
There are high hopes for the new production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (19 May). ENO has recently scored hits with two of the composer’s works, The Turn of the Screw and Peter Grimes, director Christopher Alden’s track record with the company is exemplary, and the cast couldn’t be better. Simon Boccanegra (8 June) may not be seen as Verdi’s greatest creation, but the appearance of Placido Domingo in the Royal Opera House’s own production last year sparked a renewed interest in the opera, making the chance to examine it further most welcome.
But the newest of the new productions is Nico Muhly’s Two Boys. Not only will 24 June witness the world premiere of the opera, but the subject matter couldn’t be more contemporary, questioning whether a murder might better be described as suicide by internet. This promises to be a hard hitting affair, and is a great reminder that when it comes to innovative opera ENO is constantly at the cutting edge.
By Sam Smith
ENO’s spring / summer season begins on 31 January. For further details and tickets visit ENO website or call 0871 911 0200.
Photo: Jonathan Miller’s production of The Mikado enjoys a 25th anniversary revival in February, © Alastair Muir.