Der wendende Punkt, the point of inflection – a moment of suspense where the past, present and future meet, and where the poet can absorb both the visible and invisible to overcome transience. Taking Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus as a poetic starting point, the Bayerische Staatsoper offers a season of Ovidian transformations, of the divine and human struggle, of time and death. With two world premieres and six new productions spanning from Mozart to Aribert Reimann, the season itself depicts the constant change of style in opera and life alike.

Nationaltheater © Wilfried Hösl
Nationaltheater
© Wilfried Hösl

After a morbid Les Vêpres siciliennes in 2018, German theatre director Antú Romero Nunes returns to Munich’s opera stage with a new production of Mozart’s Idomeneo (1781). Portraying the conflict between the gods and humans, it tells the story of the King of Crete, Idomeneo, who sees himself forced to sacrifice his son Idamante to pacify the god of the sea, Neptune, who saved his life during his journey home after the Trojan War. Popular tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role and Olga Kulchynska – praised for her silvery soprano – takes on the role of the Trojan princess Ilia, who saves her beloved Idamante (Emily D'Angelo). Greek conductor Constantinos Carydis will offer mythological storms from the pit.

Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821) changed an entire genre; one could even say it is the magic bullet that fired German Romantic opera. It tells the thrilling tale of the huntsman Max who enters into a pact with the devil so that he is able to cast Freikugeln (bullets that will always hit their mark). This is crucial to the upcoming shooting contest in which Max must compete to win the hand of his sweetheart, Agathe. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s approach to finding new angles certainly makes him one of the most interesting – and controversial – directors of our times and his new productions of Weber’s Romantic opera will be no different. Maybe Ännchen has to go through therapy, who knows!? Conducted by Antonello Manacorda, Pavel Černoch sings the luckless Max, while Golda Schutz is his beloved Agathe. Anna Prohaska joins the cast as Agathes’s cousin Ännchen.

<i>Tristan und Isolde</i>
Tristan und Isolde

A love potion transforms Tristan and Isolde’s feelings into eternal passion for each other, but one question remains unanswered. Is it a love that is chemically induced or does the fact that they both think it is a death potion give them the freedom to express their feelings, because they know it’s ultimately consequence free? As part of the Munich Opera Festival at the end of the season, Krysztof Warlikowski will shine a light on this question in his new production which sees Munich’s Traumpaar, Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros, in the title roles of Wagner’s masterpiece. The last performance of the run will also mark the Festival’s finale and Kirill Petrenko’s last night as General Music Director in the Nationaltheater pit.

Strauss' comic opera Der Rosenkavalier (1911) is full of trials and tribulations, misunderstandings and costumes changes, and offers a refreshing contrast to the other new productions of the season, especially with a director like Barrie Kosky, who is always good for a bit of Vaudeville! Looking at the cast – Marlis Petersen as the Feldmarschallin, Samantha Hankey as Octavian, Katharina Konradi as Sophie, Johannes Martin Kränzle as Herr von Faninal, it promises to be an ecstatic treat for the Munich audience. Vladimir Jurowski, taking over as General Music Director in the 2021-22 season, will highlight the verve, thoughtful moments and musical gimmicks of the score.

The first new production of the season, Walter Braunfels’ Die Vögel (The Birds), is based on the comedy of the same name by Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. Good Hope and Loyal Friend, two disillusioned human citizens of a big city, decide to go looking for Hoopoe, the king of the birds. They persuade the birds to build a real kingdom to call their own, the sky being their domain, with Loyal Friend as their lord and master, but they underestimate the resentment and revenge of Zeus. Bruno Walter conducted the world premiere at the Nationaltheater in 1920 and the opera saw more than 50 performances in Munich alone the following two years. Now almost forgotten in most opera houses, Frank Castorf will resurrect the kingdom of birds... but will his signature crocodile feature as well? We’ll find out on opening night in October, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.

<i>Die Vögel</i>
Die Vögel

Another work that saw its world premiere at the Nationaltheater is Aribert Reimann’s Lear (1978) based on Johann Joachim Eschenburg’s translation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau inspired Reimann to turn the subject into an opera as early as 1968, and it quickly proved to be one of the most successful German works of the 20th century. Christoph Marthaler’s new productions sees another Lieder god in the title role: Christian Gerhaher. Angela Denoke (Goneril), Aušrinė Stundytė (Regan) and Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (Cordelia) join him as Lear’s daughters and Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducts.

The first world premiere of the season seizes another tragedy by Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, which tells the fate of a wealthy and generous Athenian gentleman renouncing society. A former student of both Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luciano Berio, composer Luca Francesconi is not reluctant to use live audio and video on stage and with Andreas Kriegenburg – praised not only for his Wozzeck and The Snow Queen in Munich – it is in safe directorial hands. The second Uraufführung is Miroslav Srnka’s Singularity, staged by Nicolas Brieger and performed by the Opera Studio and Klangforum Wien. It is the second work by the Czech composer at the Bayerische Staatsoper, who had his international breakthrough with his opera South Pole in 2016. 

Highlights of the repertoire season include a revival of Dmitri Tcherniakov’s Dialogues des Carmélites with Ermonale Jaho, Jamie Barton, Adrianne Pieczonka and Christina Gansch (to name a few of the stellar cast) in November and a double-cast Tosca starring Anna Netrebko and Kristine Opolais. The latter also revives her mesmerising performance in Martin Kušej’s breathtaking Rusalka. Sonya Yoncheva returns to Munich as Manon Lescaut in January, while this season’s triumphant productions of both Judith and The Snow Queen return with unamended main casts. 

   

Highlights of the Bayerisches Staatsballett season include the company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella. Forget the fairy godmother, the clock, the pumpkin; Wheeldon and Basil Twist create magic in the transformation scene as Cinders is whisked off to the ball in this stylish production of Prokofiev’s classic, previously seen at Dutch National and San Francisco Ballet. The focus is very much on the imagery of a tree that grows at the graveside of Cinderella’s mother. It promises to be a very special production for the Munich audience. 

In April, the Staatsballett gives the world premiere of Andrey Kaydanovskiy’s Der Schneesturm, based on Alexander Pushkin’s short story The Blizzard. Maria Gavrilovna decides to elope with her young officer lover, Vladimir Nikolayevich, but a snowstorm intervenes with alarming – sometimes amusing – results. Kaydanovskiy is a talented young choreographer, who has created works on the Wiener Staatsballett (where he was a company member) and the Bayerisches Staatsballett, where Discovery was premiered in 2017. 

Last, but no means least, the eagerly awaited programme for the Munich Opera Festival at the end of each season. While the list of operas itself is reason enough to celebrate – Warlikowski’s Tristan and Salome, Das Rheingold with John Lundgren and Johannes Martin Kränzle, Konwitschny’s Holländer with Sir Bryn Terfel, Figaro with Alex Esposito and Ludovic Tézier, among others – there is one concert that captures the supreme grandeur of the festival. Named after the season’s theme, Der wendende Punkt, the special concert offers a line-up that melts in your mouth like chocolate: Anja Harteros, Ermonela Jaho, Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Netrebko, Christian Gerhaher, Georg Zeppenfeld, Marlis Peterson, Kirill Petrenko, Pavol Breslik and more. Bon appétit!


This article was sponsored by Bayerische Staatsoper.