Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
|The English National Opera (ENO) announces our 2023/24 main stage season.
Following a difficult six months for the company beginning with the Arts Council’s removal of its National Portfolio status and a delay in the confirmation of future funding, the ENO returns with an opera season showcasing the work the company is most renowned for.Nine world-class opera productions will be staged at the London Coliseum across the 2023/24 main stage season:Marina Abramović’s masterful 7 Deaths of Maria Callas receives an exciting UK premiere.
A new semi-staged concert of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, the first ENO performance of the work in 15 years, with Martyn Brabbins conducting.David Alden’s spectacular and award-winning production of Britten’s most enduring opera, Peter Grimes returns.
Following a string of hits which have cemented the ENO’s place as a major home of Gilbert and Sullivan works, Iolanthe, one of the most successful productions in company history returns for its first revival.
Peter Konwitschny’s Olivier Award winning production of Verdi’s most famous opera La traviata returns.
After its success in the 2021/22 Season, Annilese Miskimmon’s The Handmaid’s Tale returns for its first revival.
An audience favourite, Jonathan Miller’s masterpiece that was first staged in 1987 The Barber of Seville returns.
Simon McBurney’s accessible operatic event and family-favourite The Magic Flute returns to the London Coliseum in collaboration with pioneering theatre company Complicité for this world famous production.
David Alden’s double Olivier Award winning production of Janáček’s Jenůfa returns, maintaining the ENO’s strong connection with the composer’s work.
The opera season in the London Coliseum stars some of the opera world’s finest British and international talent.The ENO’s successful free ticket offer for under 21s, for all ENO operas at every level of the house, continues, as do substantial discounts for under 35s. Ticket prices for everyone still begin at £10. The ENO’s relaxed performance programme on the main stage will be for two productions this season: Iolanthe and The Magic Flute. For one performance, The Barber of Seville will be the ENO’s first Discover Opera Experience – deconstructing the opera for audiences, providing a shortened and guided version, which will be performed in a relaxed setting.
Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director of the ENO, says: ‘This past season has been challenging following the Arts Council’s removal of the ENO’s NPO status but also incredibly rewarding with sell out, critically acclaimed productions across a huge breadth of repertoire. We are thrilled that 64% of our audience has been new to the ENO – the highest recorded in the last six years – including record numbers of Under 35 and Under 21 attendees. We’re looking forward to an exciting and dynamic future, and continuing to bring opera of all types to both new and current audiences in unforgettable and exciting ways. This 2023/24 Season at the London Coliseum showcases some of the productions and repertoire that the company is most renowned for. We have curated this season to delight our ENO regulars and newcomers alike with the return of old and new favourites that highlight the drama, beauty and emotion of this fascinating art form. It is a huge privilege to work with such exciting talent on stage, in the pit, and behind the scenes. This new season sees the whole company working together with hugely talented guest artists bringing these spectacular operas to the London Coliseum. We very much look forward to welcoming audiences back in September.’
New Productions at the London Coliseum
7 Deaths of Maria Callas
In an exciting UK premiere, celebrated performance artist Marina Abramović makes her ENO debut with her production of 7 Deaths of Maria Callas. Exploring the life, work and death of one of opera’s greatest stars, this staging marks 100 years since the American-born Greek soprano’s birth. Callas – whose private life was never quite able to be separated from her performances – has fascinated Abramović for decades, and she has conceived this operatic project as a homage to the great prima donna. The production premiered in September 2020 at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper and has since toured to co-production partners: the Greek National Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Opéra national de Paris, and the Teatro San Carlo di Napoli. Immortalised through her place in popular culture, Callas (sometimes referred to as ‘La Divina’ – the divine one) is invoked on stage through a series of her most famous arias from La traviata, Tosca, Madam Butterfly, Carmen, Otello, Lucia di Lammermoor and Norma. These arias are woven together with new music by Serbian composer Marko Nikodijevic. Abramović is the director and set designer, and the conductor is Yoel Gamzou who has conducted this work across Europe. Accompanying each of these aria performances are a series of short films starring Abramović and actor Willem Dafoe. Present on stage throughout the performance, Abramović plays the sleeping Callas, haunted by her greatest roles, in a set that recreates the Paris apartment where Callas died. The cast of singers playing Callas in her greatest roles includes the ‘sensational’ (Bachtrack) soprano Eri Nakamura in the role of Violetta; and the ‘tremendous’ (The Spectator) former ENO Harewood Artist Nadine Benjamin as Desdemona. Karah Son sings Cio-Cio San’s ‘Un bel di’, an aria praised as ‘very finely done’ (The Telegraph) when sung in 2016 at Glyndebourne. Sarah Tynan sings Lucia from Lucia di Lammermoor, a role in which she gave ‘a performance to touch the heart’ (The Times) at the ENO in 2018. They are joined by the critically acclaimed mezzo-soprano Aigul Akhmetshina singing Carmen, a role that soprano Callas never played on stage, but whose arias she frequently performed in concert. Soprano Elbenita Kajtazi sings Tosca’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ making her UK operatic debut, and soprano Sophie Bevan sings Norma.
Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
Closing the season at the London Coliseum is a new semi-staged concert of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, the first ENO performance of the work in 15 years.Following the success of the concert of Britten’s Gloriana in December 2022 – an ‘exceptionally fine evening, with ENO absolutely at the top of its game’ (The Guardian) – Martyn Brabbins again leads the award-winning ENO Orchestra in this thrilling score. The one-act opera, based on Charles Perrault’s French folk-horror, sees the Duke introducing his new wife Judith to her foreboding new home where terrible secrets hide within.‘Opera’s new superstar’ (The Telegraph), Natalya Romaniw makes a role debut as Judith, reuniting with the ENO Orchestra following numerous roles with the ENO including Mimi in La bohème, the title role in Tosca, and Mary Kelly in Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel. Joining her on stage is renowned bass-baritone John Relyea as the fearsome Bluebeard, his second role with the company this season after The Magic Flute, and following praise for his ‘world-class’ (The Arts Desk) Wotan in 2023’s The Rhinegold.
Revival Productions at the London Coliseum
The opening of the ENO’s 2023/24 Season is marked by the return of David Alden’s searing psychological drama, Peter Grimes. A ‘superb company achievement’ (The Guardian), this production that previously won a South Bank Sky Arts Award following its premiere in 2009 showcases the acclaimed ENO Chorus, along with the award-winning ENO Orchestra, conducted by the ENO’s Music Director Martyn Brabbins.Among Britten’s best-known operas, Peter Grimes is the tale of an ostracised outsider turned upon by the community, set against the melodramatic and claustrophobic backdrop of a Suffolk fishing village. The opera received its premiere by the ENO (then Sadler’s Wells Opera) in 1945.‘One of the UK’s most eloquent’ (Bachtrack) tenors, Gwyn Hughes Jones makes a role debut as Peter Grimes. Also making a long-awaited role debut is soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn as Ellen Orford, whose last roles at the London Coliseum were the ‘superb’ (The Times) Luisa Miller in 2020, and as a soloist in the BBC Two broadcast of Mozart’s Requiem in November 2020. Returning to the ENO is bass-baritone Simon Bailey in the role of Balstrode after his ‘noble singing and depth of feeling’ (Financial Times) performing the role of Fasolt in The Rhinegold. Joining them are ENO favourites Christine Rice as Auntie, Clive Bayley as Swallow, David Soar Hobson, and former ENO Harewood Artist Alex Otterburn as Ned Keene.
One of the most popular productions in company history, ‘all-round, knockout success’ (Financial Times) Iolanthe was debuted by notable comedy director Cal McCrystal in 2018, and now gets its first revival.Flying fairies, quarrelsome lords, and an ensemble of quirky characters gather in this hilarious satire on British government, law and society. The jewel in the ENO’s Gilbert and Sullivan crown, this topsy-turvy masterpiece has been praised by critics and audiences alike. ‘Britain’s funniest director’ (The Guardian), McCrystal is the mastermind behind some of the most celebrated comic scenes in theatre (Mother Goose, One Man, Two Guvnors) and film (Paddington and Paddington 2). McCrystal returns to the director’s chair to lend his characteristic slapstick panache to the production, with Chris Hopkins conducting after his success with The Yeomen of the Guard, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado.Returning to their ‘beautifully sung’ (The Guardian) roles are mezzo-soprano Samantha Price as titular Iolanthe, with soprano Ellie Laugharne as Phyllis, and baritone Marcus Farnsworth as Strephon. Bass-baritone John Savournin performs the role of the Lord Chancellor, following a notable turn as Captain Corcoran in 2021’s HMS Pinafore. The ‘exceptional’ (The Times) mezzo-soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers makes a role debut as the Queen of the Fairies.
Returning to the London Coliseum is Peter Konwitschny’s ‘sharp and refined’ (The Guardian) production of La traviata. Romantic and tragic in equal parts, Verdi’s most famous opera tells of heart-breakingly beautiful Violetta’s doomed love for Alfredo, for which she would sacrifice everything.Cutting to the heart of the opera’s themes of all-consuming love and tragedy, this production is renowned for its modern, focused staging and exceptional drama, earning an Olivier Award for ‘Best New Opera Production’ on its premiere in 2013.Having sung Violetta at Staatsoper Hannover, Bremen Music Festival, Stuttgart Opera and Theatre Basel, soprano Nicole Chevalier sings the doomed courtesan. She made her ENO debut in the 2022/23 Season in the rarely staged Symphony of Sorrowful Songs where she sang with ‘perfect clarity and power’ (The Stage).Praised for his ‘power, passion and lyrical finesse’ (Opera Magazine), her lover Alfredo is sung by tenor Jose Simerilla Romero who is returning to this role having performed it internationally. Alfredo’s father Giorgio is sung by baritone Roland Wood who reunites with Conductor Richard Farnes and the ENO Chorus and Orchestra following South Facing Festival’s Tosca (2021), where he captivated audiences with his ‘deliciously evil, suavely sung’ (The Guardian) villainy.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Hot on the heels of its critically acclaimed production premiere in 2022, is the first revival of the ENO’s Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon’s acclaimed production of The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood. Joana Carneiro returns to conduct.Set in a totalitarian state in which women, stripped of their identities and rights, are subjected to the whims of a patriarchal republic, this thought-provoking work magnifies the issues of state control and the fragility of freedom as heroine Offred struggles against the nightmare she finds herself in.Returning to lead the cast is mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey as Offred, a role for which she won the 2023 Broadway World Award for Best Opera Performer. Also returning to their roles are contralto Avery Amereau as Serena Joy, tenor John Findon as Luke, and soprano Rhian Lois as Janine/Ofwarren. Joining the cast in role debuts are soprano Rachel Nicholls as Aunt Lydia, bass James Creswell as The Commander, and soprano Nadine Benjamin as Moira.
The Barber of Seville
Jonathan Miller’s much-loved production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, first staged in 1987 at the ENO is back to entertain audiences in February 2024. Set in eighteenth century Seville, Rossini’s comic masterpiece is the first in Beaumarchais’s ‘Figaro trilogy’, making it a prequel to the story of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The opera sees dashing Count Almaviva attempt to win the beautiful Rosina from the clutches of her guardian Dr Bartolo, enlisting the help of his barber Figaro and a series of cunning disguises along the way.Leading this revival is Director Peter Relton, who previously did so in 2017 and 2015. Conductor Roderick Cox makes his ENO and UK opera debut, having conducted this score for San Francisco Opera’s drive-in version in 2021.Returning to the ENO following his ‘outstanding’ (The Telegraph) performance in Gloriana during the 2022/23 Season, is baritone Charles Rice in the role of Figaro. The role of Rosina is performed by the ‘bright soprano’ (The Telegraph) Anna Devin, making her ENO and role debut. Current Harewood Artist and tenor Innocent Masuku is performing the role of Count Almaviva. He is returning to the London Coliseum stage after he ‘shone’ (The i) in Gloriana, Carmen, The Dead City and The Yeomen of the Guard during the 2022/23 Season. Antagonist Dr Bartolo is bass-baritone Simon Bailey in his second role of the season.
The Magic Flute
Simon McBurney’s The Magic Flute, a ‘life-enhancing, gloriously creative example of what opera in the 21st-century can be’ (The Spectator), is staged at the London Coliseum in collaboration with pioneering theatre company Complicité. This unique rendition of one of Mozart’s most enduring operas combines singers and actors to evoke a magical world of monsters and mystery. Armed with only a magic flute, Prince Tamino is given a fantastical quest to rescue the Queen of The Night’s daughter Pamina from the High Priest Sarastro. A contemporary setting, with live sound effects, drawing, animation and the ENO Orchestra raised to stage level make this a joyously accessible operatic event. Making her ENO debut conducting the ENO Orchestra is Erina Yashima. Tenor Norman Reinhardt makes his ENO debut as Tamino, a role he has made his signature, performing it at San Francisco Opera, Teatro Real and the Bregenz Festival. Similarly experienced is Rainelle Krause as The Queen of the Night, a role she has sung at Danish Royal Opera, Berlin Staatsoper, and Deutsche Oper Berlin. She is noted for having performed the character’s iconic aria whilst performing an aerial routine, captivating the opera world. Soprano and former ENO Harewood Artist Soraya Mafi, whose ‘outstanding’ (The Stage) Mozart roles have earned her critical praise, makes her role debut as Pamina, with ‘stand-out’ (The Arts Desk) baritone David Stout singing Papageno, bass-baritone John Relyea as Sarastro, and tenor Peter Hoare as Monostatos.
David Alden’s double Olivier Award-winning production of Janáček’s Jenůfa returns to the London Coliseum, maintaining the ENO’s strong connection with the composer’s work, which began with Charles Mackerras’ championing it in the 1950s.Based on the original late nineteenth century play by Gabriela Preissová, Jenůfa explores honour, love and sacrifice against the backdrop of a small, claustrophobic community and tangled family relationships. Premiering in Brno in 1904, the work launched Janácek’s operatic career.Alden updates the opera’s original setting from a traditional Moravian village to an isolated twentieth century industrial estate in the Eastern Bloc. Last seen at ENO in 2016, it was deemed ‘an unmissable show’ by the Evening Standard.Founding conductor and music director of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts.‘Star’ (The Telegraph) soprano Jennifer Davis makes a role debut as Jenůfa. Making welcome returns to the ENO are internationally acclaimed soprano Susan Bullock singing Kostelnička, and mezzo-soprano Fiona Kimm as Grandmother. Tenor Richard Trey Smagur makes his UK debut as Laca, with tenor and current ENO Harewood Artist John Findon singing his second ENO role of the season as Števa.