The coronavirus pandemic brought a real streaming boom with it, but the arts broadcaster ARTE had already taken on a pioneering role in online opera, initiating its first digital opera season in 2018. The success of their project, now realised in cooperation with 22 partners in 13 countries, speaks for itself when you look at the numbers. Last season reached 1.1 million opera enthusiasts around the world. The most successful stream in 2021-22 came from the Wiener Staatsoper – Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia registered 97,000 viewers. This would correspond to almost 49 sold-out nights of live performance at the Haus am Ring!

Lakmé from the Paris Opéra Comique
© S. Brion

For centuries, opera as an art form has sought to “bring together people and ideas across borders and language barriers,” says ARTE programme director Emelie de Jong. To meet this task, all broadcasts are available across Europe, and additionally – thanks to the EU funding programme Creative Europe – subtitles in six languages ​​are provided throughout (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Polish). To give audiences the greatest possible flexibility, productions are not only streamed live, but are also available as video on demand.

The digital season 2022-23 opened in October with a production of Léo Delibes’ Lakmé from the Opéra Comique in Paris, with Sabine Devieilhe in the title role. The opera, in which a British officer falls in love with the daughter of a Brahmin priest, who in turn kills herself with a toxic flower, does not offer much excitement in terms of content, but impresses musically thanks to the infamous Bell Song and the beautiful duet “Viens, Malika! ... Sous le dôme épais”. 

With “Nessun dorma”, Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot also has a veritable smash hit. A performance from June this year is already available as a video on demand, in a surreal staging by Philipp Stölzl. Elena Pankratova and Yusif Eyvazov embody the central couple, with maestro Zubin Mehta conducting.

Das Rheingold from Berlin State Opera
© Monika Rittershaus

Also included is Dmitri Tcherniakov’s staging of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen from the Staatsoper Berlin. His research laboratory setting caused debate among opera fans and animal rights activists alike – due to the presence of 30 live rodents on stage. The musical direction is in the capable hands of Christian Thielemann, and the cast is strong: Michael Volle as Wotan, Andreas Schager as Siegfried and Anja Kampe as Brünnhilde. Das Rheingold has already been broadcast as an appetiser in October, and the entire Ring cycle will be available online from mid-November.

La Tempesta from Wexford Festival Opera
© Clive Barda

There is a rarity to be experienced from the beginning of December: Fromental Halévy’s La Tempesta, based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, laid unperformed despite a successful premiere in 1850. The Wexford Festival Opera now revives the work and transports the audience to the enchanted island of the magician Prospero.

In the new year, the first Baroque opera of the season will be on the programme, with the broadcast of Handel’s Giulio Cesare from Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam. In a staging by Calixto Bieito, countertenor Christophe Dumaux sings the title role, and Julie Fuchs takes over the role of Cleopatra. Emmanuelle Haïm and her orchestra Le Concert d’Astrée contribute Baroque expertise from the pit.

Dmitri Tcherniakov’s staging of Das Rheingold at Berlin State Opera
© Monika Rittershaus

In the spring, Sergei Prokofiev’s War and Peace – in another staging by Tcherniakov – will be seen for the first time at the Bayerische Staatsoper. (The conductor is General Music Director Vladimir Jurowski.) The opera, which is based on Tolstoy’s novel of the same name, tells an epochal story in 13 scenes about love in the time of war, and is rarely performed in Central Europe. Fans of Russian opera and lovers of works outside of the standard repertoire should not miss the livestream on 5th March! 

We can also look forward to Barrie Kosky’s interpretation of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, premiered at the Wiener Staatsoper in March. On the podium is departing chief conductor Philippe Jordan. The assembled ensemble cast promises a musically delightful evening, with the rising stars of the house, Andrè Schuen, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Ying Fang, Peter Kellner and Patricia Nolz on stage.

“To be or not to be” is not only the crucial question for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but likewise for the main character of Ambroise Thomas’ opera of the same name. Krzysztof Warlikowski directs, his productions always illuminating the abysses and hidden corners of the human psyche. With Ludovic Tézier in the title role and Lisette Oropesa as Ophélie, we are guaranteed fireworks.

Another opera based on Shakespeare is scheduled in April: Benjamin Bernheim and Julie Fuchs embody the most famous lovers of literary history in a new production of Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Oper Zürich.

Gaetano Donizetti set four operas in the Elizabethan era. In Brussels, director Olivier Fredj and conductor Francesco Lanzilotta reduce these operas to a two-evening, six-hour fresco depicting the reign of Elizabeth I from a historical and psychological perspective. Titled Bastarda!, it is an ambitious experiment, which can be enjoyed from the end of May 2023.

L’incoronazione di Poppea at Zurich Opera, 2018
© Monika Rittershaus

Calixto Bieito staged Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea in Zurich in 2018, relocating ancient history to a modern setting dominated by hollow glamour, obsession with power and self-centeredness. In July 2023 the staging can be seen at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. From her beginnings as a courtesan to her coronation as empress, Julie Fuchs is a scrupulous Poppea. Baroque expert Jordi Savall will helm the musical direction of this revival.

From Handel to Prokofiev, from repertoire classics to rarities, ARTE's digital opera season offers a wide range of broadcasts – turning every living room into Europe’s most exciting opera house!

This preview was sponsored by