From Alban Berg’s Wozzeck to Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg and Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, the title characters of Deutsche Oper Berlin’s new season are on the fringes of society. It is a season that promises to be full of gloom, dark magic and unfulfilled love.

Deutsche Oper Berlin
© Bettina Stöß

Deutsche Oper is known for bringing rarely played works to the stage, and this season is no exception. David Butt Philip – praised for his “mesmeric” performance as Hamlet in Brett Dean’s new Shakespearean opera at Glyndebourne last autumn– sings the title role role of Alexander von Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg. It tells the story of a dwarf who is given to the Spanish Infanta Donna Clara as a birthday present. Unaware of his physical deformity, he falls in love with her and sings her a love song. But after being rejected and seeing a reflection of himself in a mirror, the dwarf dies of a broken heart. Ensemble member Elena Tsallagova sings Donna Clara in Tobias Kratzer’s debut production at Deutsche Oper.

Robert Carsen returns for his fourth production at the Bismarckstraße, the world première of Detlev Glanert’s Oceane. For Theodor Fontane’s bicentenary, Glanert and librettist Hans-Ulrich Treichel continue their collaboration after Caligula in 2006 to bring Fontane’s novella Oceane von Parceval to the opera stage. Swedish soprano Maria Bengtsson sings Oceane, a mysterious woman from the sea, who tries to find her place in a male-dominated 19th-century society but, being unable to feel human emotions, she returns to the sea again.

After attending the first production of Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck in 1914, Alban Berg knew at once that he wanted to base an opera on it. The Austrian composer adapted the libretto himself for what is regarded as the first opera of the 20th century telling the story of the soldier Wozzeck who is driven mad by humiliation. But instead of showing Wozzeck’s murder of Marie, the mother of his illegitimate child, and his subsequent suicide as a big drama, Berg expresses emotions and depicts his characters by using atonality, intensifying the growing alienation of Wozzeck. After this season’s Carmen, the Norwegian star director Ole Anders Tandberg returns to Deutsche Oper for this new production, conducted by General Music Director Donald Runnicles. Danish baritone Johan Reuter – a more than reliable singer for 20th-century repertoire – sings the lead role, joined by Elena Zhidkova’s Marie.

Jakob Ahlbom’s Hoffmann
© Thomas Aurin

Expect magic windmills from Jakob Ahlbom’s Don Quichotte! The Dutch director, choreographer, performer and magician is celebrated for his unique approach to musical theatre and will most likely live up to his earlier success with Hoffmann at the Tischlerei at Deutsche Oper. Alex Esposito gives his role debut as Don Quichotte who heads towards yet another adventure with his comic, but faithful, squire Sancho Panza (Mikheil Kiria) to retrieve La belle Dulcinée’s stolen pearl necklace in Jules Massenet’s penultimate opera, which is marked by the composer's own illness and reflections on death.

Alex Esposito also appears as Lindorf, the nemesis of Daniel Johansson’s Hoffmann, in Laurent Pelly’s production of Jacques Offenbach’s opéra fantastique Les Contes d’Hoffmann. The French director originally staged the tale of the poet, who is unlucky in love with not just one, but four women (all sung by Kathryn Lewek here), at the Opéra de Lyon. Our critic when it played in San Francisco described it as a dark and sinister production that “emphasises on Hoffmann’s interior life”. After this season’s new Le Prophète, the Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola returns to the Deutsche Oper’s pit.

In Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto opera La sonnambula, Elvino’s idyll in the Swiss Alps collapses when Amina is discovered in another man’s bedroom, not realising that his fiancée is a sleepwalker. In May, the love between Pretty Yende’s Amina and Lawrence Brownlee’s Elvino is put to the test in the Oper Stuttgart’s production by Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito and Anna Viebrock, conducted by Diego Fasolis.

Christian Spuck’s gloomy Flying Dutchman
© Thomas Jauk

Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet has a happy ending, at least for Florian Sempey’s Danish Prince who eventually ascends to the throne. Yet, in a concert performances conducted Yves Abel, Diana Damrau’s Ophélie and Nicolas Testé’s Claudius meet their usual Shakespearean fate.

The repertoire season includes the revival of Rolando Villazón’s production of La rondine with Ermonela Jaho as Magda, while Klaus Florian Vogt sings the lead role in La Damnation de Faust to celebrate next year’s Berlioz anniversary (150 years after his death). Wagner fans are in for a treat when the German tenor appears in Kasper Holten’s Lohengrin, as well with Philipp Stölzl’s production of the rarely staged Rienzi and the revival of Christian Spuck’s gloomy Flying Dutchman.

Click here to see complete Deutsche Oper Berlin listings.

This preview is sponsored by Deutsche Oper Berlin.