Opera features a number of brooding outsiders and a handful of them appear in new productions next season at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper. From Wagner’s Flying Dutchman to Gustav von Aschenbach in Britten’s Death in Venice, the new productions allow audiences to explore the psyche of these characters.

Donald Runnicles © Simon Pauly
Donald Runnicles
© Simon Pauly
Wagner’s cursed Dutchman is condemned to sail the seas, only permitted to head ashore once every seven years in order to seek redemption through the love of a woman pure of heart and faithful. Samuel Youn is the dour Dutchman in Christian Spuck’s new production. Promising bass Tobias Kehrer sings Daland, the Norwegian sea captain whose daughter, Senta (Swedish soprano Ingela Brimberg) has an obsession with the tale of the ghostly Dutchman. Could she be the one to deliver redemption? Music Director Donald Runnicles has excellent Wagnerian credentials to guide listeners through this tempestuous work.

Runnicles is also at the helm for another watery opera – Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice, which traces the final weeks of the loner Gustav von Aschenbach, a fictitious great writer who visits Venice to burst the dam of writer’s block. There, he becomes obsessed by the beauty of a Polish teenager Tadzio, before contracting cholera which eventually kills him. Britten’s opera is a spare, stark work, allowing the director plenty of freedom for interpretation. Graham Vick directs his fourth production for Deutsche Oper, with a cast headed by tenor Richard Croft as Aschenbach. Britten casts a baritone in many roles, each of which seem to foil Aschenbach’s progress. Seth Carico plays these multiple roles, while countertenor Tai Oney is the ethereal Voice of Apollo, who appears to Aschenbach in a dream.

Sometimes, outsiders can be a group of people rather than an individual. Take the French Huguenots, slaughtered by the Catholics in the 1572 St Bartholomew Day’s massacre, one of bloodiest in European history. They are at the centre of Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots, which was hugely popular in the 19th century, but has now fallen into neglect. Although based on an historical event, the love interest between the Catholic Valentine (daughter of the Count de Saint-Bris) and the Protestant Raoul is entirely fictional. It was the first work to be performed at the Paris Opéra more than 1,000 times but is fiendishly difficult to cast, requiring seven lead roles – the Met Opera often billed it as “the night of the seven stars”. Deutsche Oper has assembled a fine cast for David Alden’s new production, part of its ongoing cycle of Meyerbeer works. Star billing goes to Juan Diego Flórez as Raoul, with Patrizia Ciofi as Marguerite de Valois and Olesya Golovneva as Valentine. Following Deutsche Oper’s starry Vasco da Gama last season, Les Huguenots is set to be one of the big draws in the Berlin calendar next season.

Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini © Christof Borner
Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini
© Christof Borner
Edward II, King of England from 1307 until he was deposed in 1327, is the subject of a new opera by Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini, to a libretto based on Christopher Marlowe’s play. It charts the king’s friendship (possibly homosexual) with Piers Gaveston and the jealousy and suspicion aroused in court, where the nobles took their bloody revenge, having Gaveston murdered and the king deposed. Scartazzini’s work will look at the role of Edward as outsider and explore society’s attitudes – then and now – to homosexuality. It promises to be a powerful work, directed by the experienced Christof Loy with Thomas Søndergard conducting.  

Boris Godunov may not be an outsider, but in Mussorgsky’s opera he is a loner – at least in Richard Jones’ new production – haunted by memories of the murder of the young tsarevich, carried out on his orders. This is a co-production with the Royal Opera, where it was seen this spring. Jones chooses the 1869 original version of the opera, for years shunned in favour of a glossier revision. The original focuses much more closely on Boris and the way guilt preys upon him, always looking over his shoulder for a challenge to his crown. Ain Anger, who played the monk Pimen in London, now takes up the role of the tsar, which should suit his inky bass superbly. Kirill Karabits, familiar in the UK as principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, is in the pit.

The other new production this season is Mozart’s Così fan tutte – not an opera about outsiders, but about four young lovers who are taught a lesson about love by the cynical Don Alfonso. Mozart’s opera is, appropriately, subtitled “La scuola degli amanti” (The school for lovers). Robert Borgmann directs, with a fine young cast headed by the Fiordiligi of Australian soprano Nicole Car, who became known to London audiences last auutmn with important Covent Garden debuts.

Among the many revivals at Deutsche Oper next season, choice casting should draw you to Die Entführung aus dem Serail (for Olga Peretyatko’s Konstanze), Eugene Onegin (for the dream pairing of Sonya Yoncheva and Andrei Bondarenko as Tatyana and Onegin) and L’elisir d’amore, with real life husband and wife Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak as Nemorino and Adina. The spring also sees Donald Runnicles conduct two cycles of Wagner’s Ring, with Evelyn Herlitzius, Iain Paterson and Stefan Vinke among the cast.

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This preview was sponsored by Deutsche Oper Berlin.