This might look like an odd place for an international company to stage an opera, but it's where the Deutsche Oper Berlin will be showing their first premiere of the 2014-15 season.
From mid-summer until late November their main house is undergoing renovations. A variety of substitute venues will be commandeered - these include the Philharmonie, the Berlin Festpiele House, and, as you see above, the car park behind the Deutsche Oper.
Following the general trend this year for seat-filling favourites, there's not much to get excited about, although the Xenakis should not be missed, and Evelyn Herlitzius in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk could be exciting. The star quotient is mostly to be found in revivals, and remains on a par with previous years,
The premieres are:
Top of the revivals list has to be Lohengrin. Kasper Holten's production was not well received on its first outing, but the cast - Vogt, Harteros, Meier - is pretty much unbeatable. Harteros turns up in Tosca and a single concert Ariadne auf Naxos as well.
On top of his directorial duties, Rolando Villazon is taking on the role of Don Carlo. Elina Garanca perks up the Rosenkavalier casting, and Lyudmila Monastyrka takes on Abigaille in her inimitable fashion.
Full details of the Deutsche Oper Berlin's visit to the Proms are now up on their website.
30 August is the date for a concert performance of Salome, with Nina Stemme in the title role and Donald Runnicles wielding the baton.
Strauss-lovers will be pleased to hear that this performance is just part of a wide-ranging anniversary celebration at the Proms.
(UPDATE - the website page has now been deleted - obviously DOB's collective wrist has been slapped by the Proms secret police).
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is holding auditions. Applicants must submit video evidence that they can:
• sit on command • stay on command • bark on command • stay silent on command
As none of these skills come naturally to professional musicians, the orchestra is looking for four dogs instead. The successful applicants will join musicians on stage in a performance of Leopold Mozart's Jagdsinfonie on 9 June.
If I was in Pittsburgh I'd beg for a ticket for the live final auditions on 13 May.
(With thanks to Amanda Ameer).
La bohème - Royal Albert Hall, 27 February 2014
A Zambello-directed, Gubbay-produced, amplifed version of the world's most over-exposed opera? Only the kind offer of a free ticket swayed me to try my first 'opera in the round' at the Royal Albert Hall.
It turned out miles better than I ever expected.
For a start, the central quartet - Jessica Rose Cambio as Mimi, Sean Pannikar as Rodolfo, Michael Chioldi as Marcello and Anna Leese as Musetta - were all excellent singers who wouldn't disgrace any opera stage in London. The odd intermittent problem with Sean Pannikar's mic aside, the amplification was barely noticeable.
Francesca Zambello's post-Liberation staging really comes into its own in the Cafe Momus scene. Her Broadway skills came into play as roller skating waiters, sailors, tarts and acrobats filled the catwalk platform with minutely directed detail. During the more intimate scenes, the vastness and emptiness of the arena were more apparent, and Zambello's direction less focused, but the music did its tear-jerking work all the same.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, tucked behind perspex screens at the 'regular' stage end, were adeptly conducted by Oliver Gooch. Despite the unusual set up, the vocal balance was perfect and the orchestra never parted company with the singers.
As the work was sung in Italian (not always the case in this kind of show), surtitles were projected at intervals around auditorium, just above the boxes. They could only manage four or five words at a time, which was a little annoying, but still better than the BBC's resolute refusal to use any at all at the Proms.
Although its size and layout means the RAH will never be the perfect opera venue, the ambience and service goes a long way to make up for it. The seats are comfortable, the viewing angles good from most, and there's a relaxed atmosphere you never find at Covent Garden. I was also pleasantly surprised that we were allowed to take drinks in. This is not something that works everywhere, but here it added to the welcoming ambience without in any way distracting from the show. Coincidentally or not, there was NO gratuitous coughing whatsoever. Something to think about.
For their 2014-15 season, the Bavarian State Opera are following a theme already laid down elsewhere - less adventurous programming, fewer non-19th works, less controversial directors, no new (or even recent) commissions. Belt-tightening? Casting remains strong - even where the names are less well-known, they've been intelligently picked.
There are just four main season premieres and a further two which get short runs at the summer Opernfestspiele:
One of the reasons for the shortage of premieres may be the decision to revive the expensive (and excellent) Kriegenburg Ring for four cycles, all conducted by Kirill Petrenko. Evelyn Herlitzius, Stuart Skelton, Stephen Gould and Anja Kampe are just a few of the big Wagnerian names appearing.
As well as her festival premiere, Harteros turns up (if she turns up) in revivals of Tosca, Il trovatore, Don Carlo and La forza del destino. The latter is with Jonas Kaufmann, who has wisely elected not to repeat his Manrico.
Elsewhere, local boy Christian Gerhaher appears in L'Orfeo and Die Zauberflöte. Kristine Opolais tackles Eugene Onegin, with Mariusz Kwiecen in the title role for festival performances. Irene Theorin and Evelyn Herlitzius share the title role in a well-cast Elektra.
Despite claiming she'd never darken Staatsoper doors again after an alleged insult, the legendary Edita Gruberova makes her way back for Roberto Devereux.
The festival revival of Don Carlo features the unbeatable cast of Rene Pape, Ramon Vargas and Simon Keenlyside, and a festival Tristan und Isolde, the brilliant Konwitschny production conducted by Philippe Jordan, features Pape with Waltraud Meier and Peter Seiffert.
Anna Netrebko's replacements (yes, plural) in the ROH's Faust have been announced. Sonya Yoncheva and Alexia Voulgaridou will share the role.
Yoncheva is in for Netrebko on 4, 7, 17 and 22 April and Voulgaridou on 11, 14 and 25 April.
Neither is new to Covent Garden. Both have served in the La bohème trenches: Yoncheva was Musetta in 2012 and Voulgaridou sang Mimì in 2008.
The BFI Southbank is the location for a mini-operafest in April with its programming strand Broadcasting the Arts: Opera on TV.
Examining the way that television has covered opera over the years, it will include both individual opera productions and arts documentaries.
Unfortunately it looks for the most part like a wasted opportunity. The focus is firmly on ancient stagings, with no room for the groundbreaking likes of Channel 4's The Death of Klinghoffer or Powder her Face. However look closely and you may just find something that isn't available on YouTube.
The full programme is:
Tickets for all go on sale from 11:30 on 11 March.
They've just got rid of their incoming Intendant - next to go is 29 years of accumulated filth.
No that's not a Christian Thielemann joke - the Semperoper Dresden have just begun the first major spring-cleaning operation since the renovated house reopened in 1985.
On the hotlist for removal is up to an inch of dust. A squad of specialist cleaners, working from scaffolding, are using brushes and sponges to polish up the delicate plasterwork without damaging it. Not only does dust make the ornate paintings and gilding look duller, if not removed it can eventually damage the surfaces.
At present, just one vestibule is being worked on, at an estimated cost of €130,000. The technicians need to pack everything away each night, as the house is still open for performances. The auditorium will be similarly spruced up over the summer break, which has been extended by two weeks to accommodate the work. Once completed, the operation won't need to be repeated for another 30 years.
The opera world's worst-kept secret is finally out. The 2014-2015 Paris Opera schedule released officially this morning largely confirms what was leaked on a Japanese website in January.
Although it will be Stéphane Lissner's first season in charge, the unadventurous programming bears the imprint of current incumbent Nicolas Joel. Yet again, the 19th century provides most of the goods. Although it's fair to say that other other Paris venues (notably the TCE) cover the baroque with expertise, the shortage of 20th (let alone 21st) century opera in Paris is staggering.
There are three completely new productions - Die Entführung aus dem Serail directed by Zabou Breitman, Tosca by Pierre Audi and a real rarity, Chausson's 1903 Le Roi Arthus by Graham Vick. The latter, amazingly never before performed at the Paris Opera, features Thomas Hampson, Roberto Alagna and Sophie Koch.
New to Paris are McVicar's Adriana Lecouvreur, Damiano Michieletto's Il Barbiere di Siviglia from Geneva, and Massenet's Le Cid, featuring Roberto Alagna and Anna Caterina Antonacci in the 2011 Marseille production by Charles Roubaud.
Bringing the total of Mozart productions to three are revivals of Robert Carsen's Die Zauberflöte and Haneke's Don Giovanni. Heaven knows what an anniversary year would look like.
Rounding out the revivals are La traviata, Hänsel und Gretel, La bohème, Ariadne auf Naxos (with 'Karina' Mattila, Sophie Koch and Klaus Florian Vogt), Robert Wilson's Pelléas et Mélisande, Faust, Rusalkaand Olivier Py's Alceste.
Stalls and stalls circle seats for the ROH's Die Frau ohne Schatten are down to £85 (roughly half price) using the code fraumarch.
The offer is valid for the 17, 20 and 29 March shows only.
If you would like to book by telephone, call the Box Office on +44 (0)20 7304 4000, quoting 'Frau March Offer'.
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