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Commentary

Het Concertgebouw © Emmely Siebrecht
11 Mar 2018

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

The operatic tradition is not as old in the Netherlands as in other European countries, yet opera is a vital part of the Dutch classical landscape. Both Dutch National Opera & Ballet and the Concertgebouw are in Amsterdam, so the capital gets the lion’s share of the opera on offer.

Opera in Amsterdam in 2018-2019

A commentary by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Het Concertgebouw © Emmely Siebrecht

 

The Nederlandse Reisopera takes its productions on tour across the country and they also perform in Amsterdam, at the Royal Carré Theatre. Smaller touring companies such as Opera Zuid, Opera Trionfo and OPERA2DAY also visit the capital, with increasingly interesting productions and emerging talent. Not all their projects and performing dates for next season are public knowledge yet, but the big companies and venues have all announced their 2019-2018 season. Here’s a look at some of the vocal highlights.

Dutch National Opera (DNO) opens its season, an interesting mix of traditional and modern, with an “old” production, Simon McBurney’s darkly fascinating Die Zauberflöte. For those who have already seen it, there are at least three new casting reasons to return: sopranos Mari Eriksmoen (Pamina) and Kathryn Lewek (Queen of the Night) and tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac (Tamino). Robert Wilson’s minimalistic Madama Butterfly, inspired by Japanese Noh theatre, will also be revived. Russian soprano Elena Stikhina, whose star is on the rise, sings Cio-Cio-San. Two new productions, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, are marked out as family entertainment, with attractive pricing for the under-sixteens. This is the first time DNO is presenting Porgy and Bess and the cast includes Eric Owens, Adina Aaron and Latonia Moore. The Baroque era is served by a new staging of Vivaldi’s biblical oratorio Juditha triumphans. Floris Visser directs and Andrea Marcon conducts. The all-female cast is led by mezzo-soprano Gaëlle Arquez. DNO Principal Conductor Marc Albrecht continues his Wagner series with Tannhaüser in a new production by Christof Loy. In the title role, tenor Daniel Kirch is torn between the Elizabeth of Svetlana Aksenova and the Venus of Ekaterina Gubanova. Co-productions making their way to Amsterdam include Àlex Ollé’s staging of George Enescu’s only opera, Oedipe. Johan Reuter and Sophie Koch are the incestuous couple and Amsterdam audience favorite Violeta Urmana sings the Sphinx. 

In March DNO organizes the Opera Forward Festival (OFF) to explore future directions in opera. Four new or very recent operas are programmed for 2019, including György Kurtág’s setting of Samuel Beckett’s play Fin de partie (Endgame), which gets its world premiere at La Scala in November of this year. For the Holland Festival, which takes place every June, DNO is putting on 15 hours of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s seven-opera cycle LICHT. Spread across three days, the performances are at the Gashouder, a circular industrial space within an old gasworks complex. Also on the Holland Festival programming is a new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Daniele Gatti conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO), in their single appearance at DNO, and Olivier Py directs. The cast is yet to be revealed.

The Nederlandse Reisopera kicks off its season with Puccini’s Tosca. As usual, this imaginative company has put together a short but assorted season. Their other two travelling productions will be Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt and Stephen Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music. Amsterdam has to do without staged Verdi next season, but the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series at the Concertgebouw includes a concert version of Nabucco conducted by Giancarlo Andretta. Franco Vassallo sings the title role and Tatjana Serjan is Abigaille. Other operatic matinees include Andrea Marcon conducting Vivaldi’s L’Olimpiade and Mark Elder conducting A village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius. The NTR ZaterdagMatinee season opens with Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Boris Godunov under the leadership of Pablo Heras-Casado.

There are more full-length operas in concert at the Concertgebouw. Barbara Hannigan conducts the LUDWIG ensemble and a cast of young soloists in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. Daniel Harding leads the RCO in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, with Hungarian bass Gábor Bretz as the Duke. The RCO will also perform non-operatic vocal works, including Arthur Honegger’s oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher. The conductor is Stéphane Denève and the cast includes celebrated soprano Christine Goerke. Mariss Jansons conducts Britten’s War Requiem with soloists Elena Stikhina, Mark Padmore and Michael Volle. Antonio Pappano is on the rostrum for the Grande Messe des Morts by Berlioz, with tenor Javier Camarena. Continuing their Eastertide passion tradition, the RCO have invited William Christie to conduct Bach’s St. John Passion. Holland around Eastertime becomes Passionland and there are several other Bach Passion performances, at the Concertgebouw and other venues.

The virtuosic Cecilia Bartoli returns to the Concertgebouw, as she does practically every year, for an evening of Vivaldi. The intimate Concertgebouw Recital Hall hosts great song interpreters such as Sarah Connolly, Simon Keenlyside, Christopher Maltman and Roderick Williams. Soprano Anna Lucia Richter and baritone Georg Nigl perform Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch. Soprano Renée Fleming is also performing a program of French and German songs, but will appear in the Main Hall. Two other American opera stars, Lawrence Brownlee and Michael Spyres, promise an evening of tenorial prowess during a joint program of operatic arias.

The art song series at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ complements the recitals at the Concertgebouw. Next season it features both of Schubert’s great song cycles. Tenor Michael Schade sings Die schöne Müllerin and baritone Florian Boesch takes on Winterreise. Anne Sofie von Otter visits with an intriguing Shakespeare-themed program. The season at this waterside concert hall opens on the 8th of September with a celebration of conductor and composer’s Reinbert de Leeuw’s 80th birthday. Soprano Barbara Hannigan performs Erik Satie’s Socrate. The rest of the program will be a surprise for both De Leeuw and the audience. In May 2019 the Muziekgebouw hosts a festival celebrating the 80th birthday of another Dutch contemporary great, Louis Andriessen, including a staged double bill of his operas Odysseus' Women and Anaïs Nin.

With so much going on, there is a good chance that a visit to Amsterdam can include a classical vocal event somewhere. For those who want to make music the main item on their itinerary, some weeks offer richer pickings. Here are some suggestions.

Season Opener Weekend 7-8 September, 2018:

Friday, September 7: Die Zauberflöte, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 19:30 hrs

Saturday, September 8: Boris Godunov, Concertgebouw at 12:00 hrs

Saturday, September 8: Reinbert de Leeuw 80th Birthday Concert, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ at 20:15 hrs

Midweek Opera 6-7 December, 2018:

Thursday, December 6: Oedipe premiere, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 20:00 hrs

Friday, September 7: Bluebeard’s Castle (+Dvořák’s Piano Concerto), Concertgebouw at 20:15 hrs

Vivaldi 7-9 February, 2019:

Thursday, February 7: Juditha triumphans, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 20:00 hrs

Saturday, February 9: L’Olimpiade, Concertgebouw at 13:00 hrs

Contemporary Opera at the Opera Forward Festival 7-10 March, 2019:

Thursday, March 7: The Second Violinist by Donnacha Dennehy, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ at 21:00 hrs

Friday, March 8: Caruso a Cuba by Micha Hamel, Stadsschouwburg at 20:30 hrs

Saturday, March 9: Girls of the Golden West by John Adams, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 19:30 hrs

Sunday, March 10: Fin de partie by György Kurtág, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 14:00 hrs

Opera and Oratorio May 1-4, 2019:

Wednesday, May 1: Tannhäuser, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 18:30 hrs

Thursday, May 2: Madama Butterfly, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 20:00 hrs

Friday, May 3: Grande Messe des Morts, Concertgebouw at 20:15 hrs

Saturday, May 4: Missa solemnis (Beethoven, conducted by René Jacobs), Concertgebouw at 14:15 hrs

Holland Festival June 1-8 2019:

Saturday, June 1: Die Gezeichneten (Schreker), Concertgebouw at 13:00 hrs

Tuesday, June 4, aus LICHT Part 1, Gashouder, Westergasfabriek at 19:30 hrs

Wednesday, June 5, aus LICHT Part 2, Gashouder, Westergasfabriek at 13:15 hrs

Thursday, June 6, aus LICHT Part 3, Gashouder, Westergasfabriek at 12:30 hrs

Saturday, June 8, Pelléas et Mélisande, Dutch National Opera & Ballet at 19:30 hrs

DNO performances are subtitled in English and Dutch, those of most other opera companies and the NTR ZaterdagMatinee only in Dutch. Printed text translations at concerts and song recitals, when provided, are in Dutch. Buying tickets ahead online is pain free. All venues accept credit cards, allow you to choose your seat and issue e-tickets for printing at home. Single tickets for the coming season at the Concertgebouw go on sale on the 1st of June, 2018. DNO staggers its single ticket sales throughout the season. Detailed information is available on their website. Tickets for the Opera Forward Festival are also sold via DNO. Muziekgebouw aan ‘I IJ single tickets are already on sale. Tour dates for the Nederlandse Reisopera will be published soon. Their website will have links to online ticket sales at the various venues.

Jenny Camilleri

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