Popcorn with Don Giovanni

Preview of opera – spring/summer 2014

Now that the Royal Opera House in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York regularly bring opera live to cinema worldwide, no one has any excuse to berate the art form as elitist.   The much heralded new staging by Kasper Holten of Mozart’s Don Giovanni may be sold out at Covent Garden, except for day seats and returns, but if I didn’t get there on opening night I could catch it at my local picture house twelve days later.

At the Brixton Ritzy, a stalls seat for the opera on 12 February costs just £20, with a special deal offered on popcorn and cola.  You’ll be able to see in close up acclaimed baritone Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni being dragged to hell by the ghost of the Commendatore.   The international cast includes Swedish soprano Malin Bystrom, French soprano Veronique Gens, and Italian bass Alex Esposito.

Second new production is Jonathan Kent’s take on Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, which has a live cinema showing on 24 June.  With Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais as Manon and German superstar Jonas Kaufmann as her lover Des Grieux, it will be another sell-out show.  Music director Antonio Pappano conducts both operas.   Puccini’s tragedy about the pleasure-loving country girl turned courtesan is less often seen than Massenet’s romantic Manon, which returned in Laurent Pelly’s stylish confection in January with Ermonela Jaho in the title role.

The final new production of the season is Donizetti’s historical opera Maria Stuarda, starring American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Mary Queen of Scots.   Central to the opera is the fictional confrontation between Mary and Queen Elizabeth (Carmen Giannattasio), which was invented by Schiller and seized on by Donizetti as being more dramatic than the truth – Elizabeth ensured that she never met her ill-fated cousin.

Other productions new to Covent Garden, are Strauss’s allegory Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Woman without a Shadow) and Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmelites.  David McVicar’s staging of Gounod’s Faust, is revived in April with a gold-plated cast – Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel and Simon Keenlyside.

English National Opera launches into cinema with a live screening of its acclaimed production of Britten’s Peter Grimes  on 23 February.  In June it screens former Monty Python Terry Gilliam’s new production of Benvenuto Cellini, Berlioz’s tale of the colourful 16th century Italian artist.  After Gilliam’s success with Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, this will be the most eagerly anticipated event of ENO’s season.

With Jonathan Miller’s 1950s New York Little Italy Rigoletto finally laid to rest, Christopher Alden directs a new production, opening 13 February, and set in the time that Verdi wrote it in mid-19th century.    Among other attractions, a new production by Richard Jones of Handel’s Rodelinda stars Rebecca Evans in the title role, with counter tenors Iestyn Davies and Christopher Ainslie.  There’s also a world premiere of a new opera Thebans by British composer Julian Anderson.

Glyndebourne Festival Opera kicks off on 17 May with a new production of Richard Strauss’s nostalgic Der Rosenkavalier, and a live cinema screening on 8 June.  Verdi’s La Traviata, opening 17 July, will be in cinemas on 10 August.   Garsington Opera celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with three productions from 6 June, Beethoven’s Fidelio, Offenbach’s Vert-Vert, and Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.  Opera is alive and well, whether on stage or screen.

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