Browsing through the new season brochure of a repertoire opera house is like going to your favourite candy shop or ice cream parlour. You are spoilt, if not overwhelmed, for choice, trying to mix and match your favourite flavours without forgetting to include some all-time favourites. With an eclectic new season of new productions, world premieres and revivals structured into a handful of mini-festivals, Deutsche Oper Berlin offers its audience a tempting menu for perfect flavour combinations, from zingy Italianità to creamy Grand Opéra.

<i>Don Giovanni</i> © Bettina Stöß
Don Giovanni
© Bettina Stöß

It is a dearly beloved tradition of the company to start the new season with an AufTakt (kick-off) opera that allows visitors to buy tickets at a generous flat rate. This year, Samuel Dale Johnson, a former Royal Opera Jette Parker Young Artist, allures the audience back into the opera house as Don Giovanni in Roland Schwab’s pitch-black production after a long summer break. Viva Italia! is the motto for the rest of September, a month entirely dedicated to Italian opera. Besides Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci with Roberto Alagna and Eva-Maria Westbroek, Un ballo in maschera with Piotr Beczała, La traviata and a revival of Keith Warner’s Nabucco with Maria Guleghina, Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov star in a concert performance of Adriana Lecouvreur. It also sees the much anticipated Berlin opera debut of Frank Castorf who directs a new La forza del destino. Verdi’s extreme opera has always inspired directors to create radical and disturbing productions – Deutsche Oper’s previous production by Hans Neuenfels, for example, shocked the audience with tanks on the stage in 1982 – and Castorf will be no exception. In the season brochure, he shares what interests him about Forza: “The intense sensations of guilt and vengeance that drive the three main characters all have something ecstatic about them.” Castorf is once more collaborating with the set designer Aleksandar Denić with whom he has created the Bayreuther Ring.

After Billy Budd, Death in Venice – Ian Bostridge stars in the revival of Graham Vick’s production in November – and Peter Grimes, Donald Runnicles, General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, continues his “Great Britten” cycle with a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Shakespeare’s enchanting play has inspired numerous composers, from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Weber’s Oberon to Mendelssohn’s incidental music, before Benjamin Britten premiered his version at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1960. The young American director Ted Huffman, who made his Royal Opera debut in 2016 directing the world premiere of Philip Venables’ 4.48 Psychosis, is creating a playful production that is entirely cast with members of Deutsche Oper’s ensemble.

<i>Death in Venice</i> © Marcus Lieberenz
Death in Venice
© Marcus Lieberenz

“Götz Friedrich would chuckle if he knew we were still showing it”. In 2015, Donald Runnicles announced the final instalment of Friedrich’s legendary Tunnel-Ring for 2017. Deutsche Oper Berlin has always been one of the world’s greatest stages for Wagner and the much loved director Friedrich left behind big shoes to fill. None less than Stefan Herheim, a former student of Friedrich’s in Hamburg, accepted the challenge and presents his Rheingold in 2020, conducted by the Music Director and featuring Derek Welton as Wotan. The cycle concludes in October 2021. The Vorabend is the culmination of a true spell of Wagnermania in May. Michael Volle leads the cast in Christian Spuck’s gloomy Flying Dutchman, while Klaus Florian Vogt tackles the challenge of singing the title role in both Tannhäuser and Parsifal within a couple of weeks. Runnicles also conducts Graham Vick’s Tristan und Isolde, with Stephen Gould and Iréne Theorin.

Long before Wagner’s rise to stardom, Giacomo Meyerbeer was the most successful opera composer of his generation with triumphs in Paris and beyond. Wagner’s own works were more influenced by the Berlin-born composer than he was ever willing to admit. With acclaimed productions in recent years, Deutsche Oper has certainly spurred the Meyerbeer renaissance. During one weekend in March, the audience can experience three of his grandest operas: Les Huguenots in a production by David Alden, Le Prophète – with conductor Enrique Mazzola and Gregory Kunde (Jean de Leyde) returning for Olivier Py’s production – and a concert performance of Dinorah with Sabine Devieilhe in the title role.

<i>Le Prophète</i> © Bettina Stöß
Le Prophète
© Bettina Stöß

For the British director Graham Vick, Pique Dame is like a “great Russian buffet”, the best of 19th-century Russian opera. Psychological character studies, ghost stories, Russian folklore: Tchaikovsky’s draws a colourful picture of society in his opera. In Vick’s new production, conducted Sebastian Weigle, German-Brasilian tenor Martin Muehle stars as Hermann, while Hanna Schwarz takes on her prime role as Countess. The fifth new production of the season is Rued Langgaard’s Antikrist. The largely unknown Danish composer spent most of his life as a musical outsider in his homeland, which was dominated by Carl Nielsen’s neoclassical style. Although Langgaard composed his Antikrist in 1921-23 and reworked it in 1926-30, the work was not premiered until 1980, almost 30 years after his death. It tells the story of the Antichrist who’s sent to earth and it ends with his final destruction, reflecting Langgaards own perception of society in the 1920s: godless and shattered. It is the first opera production for the young director Ersan Mondtag in Germany, who is known for his artificial and experimental theatre productions.

If you are open to new and more adventurous flavours, Claus Guth directs the world premiere of Chaya Czernowin’s Heart Chamber, “an opera of smallest moments, the smallest physical and psychological changes, that draw the two strangers to each other, but also push them apart”. It is another opera love story, yet the Isreali composer brings new twists and light to it by using electronic music in combination with orchestral sound clouds. The starting point for Malte Giesen’s Wolfsschlucht (Wolf’s Glen) is the Wolfsschlucht scene of Weber’s Der Freischütz. Max signs a pact with the devil, and questions of guilt and responsibility are taken to extremes. The premiere takes place at the Tischlerei which is completely empty at the beginning and is being filled with disturbing images during each of the seven scenes.

Click here to see the full season listings.

This article was sponsored by Deutsche Oper Berlin.