Oper Frankfurt announces gutsy 2019-20 seasonOp-Ed
Pénèlope (G. Fauré) - Dec. 1, 2019-Jan. 23, 2020
Fauré is an idiosyncratic, anti-dramatic composer whose work depends on subtlety. How will his music fare on the opera stage, which can reward boldness over taste? If there’s a single moment that matches the blissful sequencing melodies of his C minor piano quintet, the exuberant, shifting harmonies of La bonne chanson, or the austere, mercurial shapeshifting of his late songs, it’ll be a worthwhile evening at the opera.
Tamerlano (G.F. Händel) - Nov. 7-24, 2019
R.B. Schlather directs a new production of Tamerlano featuring the fastidious countertenor Lawrence Zazzo in the title role. Händel opera is director fodder and Schlather’s open-hearted approach should undergird the work’s enormous stakes with full-fleshed humanity.
Otello, La gazzetta, and Bianca e falliero (G. Rossini)
Three new productions of unknown Rossini operas in one season? Oh boy. Maybe it’s a shot at redemption for last season’s I puritani directed by Vincent Boussard, which, despite a loaded cast, was interminable. Now Boussard is out of the picture and Rossini has replaced Bellini. Add to the mix soprano Elizabeth Sutphen and other excellent Frankfurt regulars and it’s a trilogy to look forward to.
Manon Lescaut (G. Puccini) - Oct. 6-Nov. 23, 2019
After a taste of the gutsy soprano Asmik Grigorian (International Opera Award’s Best Female Singer 2019) in Tchaikovsky’s one-act Iolanta last season, I (and the rest of the Oper Frankfurt audience) hoped she’d be back in a role that allowed her to stretch out and wail away. Lucky for us, she’s taking on the epic lead in Manon Lescaut, one of the most punishing (and thrilling) soprano roles in the repertoire.
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (D. Shostakovich) - Nov. 3-Dec. 12, 2019
As far as I’m concerned, the more Shostakovich the better. The composer belongs to a group of masters – including Scriabin and Chopin – whose work reaches vocal music devotee’s ears far less than it should. Lady Macbeth’s explosive score teems with a pathos that lives up to its fascinating offstage history of censorship under Stalin.
Salome (R. Strauss) - Mar. 1-Apr. 13, 2020
Baritone Christopher Maltman has had an ideal career trajectory. After years as a leading interpreter of Mozart, art song and other repertoire generous to the developing voice, Maltman has transitioned to heavy duty rep like Jochanaan and Rigoletto (also in repertory this season).
Barrie Kosky, whose beloved Carmen is back after selling out its entire 2018-19 run, brings a new Salome to Frankfurt, starring Ambur Braid and Maltman. It’s surely the most anticipated production of the season.
The 2019-20 series is replete with big names in opera including current MET stars Pretty Yende and Peter Mattei, and Frankfurt favorites Jakub Józef Orliński and John Osborn. However the recital I’m most looking forward to is Florian Boesch’s (Feb. 25, 2020). The rich-voiced baritone is in league with Matthias Goerne and Dietrich Henschel as one of the great Lieder interpreters of the modern era.
Carmen (G. Bizet) - Jan. 31-Mar. 7, 2020
It’s premature to call it timeless, but Barrie Kosky’s Carmen is aging well. It was the most popular revival of 2018-19 and should sell out again this coming season. Particularly exciting is the addition of Gordon Bintner as the toreador Escamillo. The baritone has a deliberate elegance to his movement and effortless blooming high notes. In other words, he’s made for the role.
Don Giovanni (W.A. Mozart) - Apr. 24-Jun. 26, 2020
This stark psychological production debuted with a baritone possessing similar qualities in the title role, the cerebral Christian Gerhaher. Now, Bintner takes the lead (for half of the run) joined by Božidar Smiljanić (Leporello), who demonstrated his startlingly facile instrument in smaller roles last season.
Three Short Operas (Křenek) - Oct. 11-Nov. 1, 2019
Ernst Křenek was an enormously influential composer Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weil, Marc Blitzstein and others of that era. The integration of modern colloquial idioms, instruments, and ideas into his work led to a grittier realism than verismo ever accomplished. Despite that, you could find a hundred Street Scenes for every Johnny spielt auf and, at least in North America, he remains largely unperformed.
The Cunning Little Vixen (L. Janáček) - May 1-23, 2020
The beloved score bursts with folkloric verve and heady, gut-tumbling lyricism. Two Americans lead the cast: The exuberant soprano Elizabeth Reiter stars in the title role and mezzo-soprano Kelsey Lauritano as her counterpart.