If everything goes to plan, the Grand Théatre de Genève will be moving back to its eponymous home in 2018, so the 2017-8 season will be the last in its temporary home of the Opéra des Nations, as well as being the penultimate chance for the company’s director Tobias Richter to make his mark: Richter has announced that he will be leaving when the 2018-9 season has been published.

The Opéra des Nations, Geneva © GTG | Samuel Rubio
The Opéra des Nations, Geneva
© GTG | Samuel Rubio
Even before the “back to school” trumpet has been sounded, the season opens with a fanfare. For the last four years, Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis has been holed up in Perm with a band of hand-picked musicians, producing a set of recordings of the Mozart/da Ponte trilogy that have been astounding the critics, who are using words like “reverberates with raw energy” and “changed my life forever”. On August 27th, Currentzis and that band of musicians, MusicAeterna, arrive into Geneva to give a concert version of his latest Mozart: the opera seria La clemenza di Tito. A top class cast includes Stéphanie d’Oustrac, whose “Sultry, fiery, coquettish” Carmen is making almost as many waves as Currentzis.  This month’s première in Salzburg is a sellout.

Mozart also closes the opera season, with a new David Bösch production of Don Giovanni featuring an even starrier cast, at least in terms of international recognition: Simon Keenlyside, Patrizia Ciofi and Ramón Vargas. But perhaps the most intriguing context for Mozart comes early in the season, in the shape of the company’s “Figaro Trilogy”. The barber’s life story takes him from early days in Seville (with Rossini) to the “day of madness” of his wedding (with Mozart) to… to what, exactly? Beaumarchais wrote a third play, La mère coupable, whose operatic version never made it past obscurity, but Elena Langer has now written an alternative third episode with a surreal, eclectic treatment (the word “unique” in Richter’s season introduction doesn’t quite cover it), Figaro Gets a Divorce. Following a successful 2016 première with Welsh National Opera, director David Pountney is bringing many of the same cast to Geneva to complete a cycle in which the three Figaro operas will be performed in three successive evenings (repeated four times, starting on September 12th).

If operatic rarities are your thing, November is the month for you. Offenbach’s operetta Fantasio languished unperformed for years, partly because of violent Parisian anti-German sentiment when it opened in 1870, and partly because a proper score wasn’t available until Offenbach expert Jean-Christophe Keck reconstructed one in 2000 at Opéra de Rennes. Keck considers Fantasio to be one of the composer’s masterpieces and Geneva audiences will now get their own chance to decide: Thomas Jolly’s production was a triumph when it opened this season at the Opéra Comique and it comes to Geneva from November 3rd. Another unmissable rarity is Ascanio by Saint-Saëns, which receives two concert performances thanks to a collaboration with Geneva's Haute école de musique. Of the thirteen operas written by Saint-Saëns, only Samson et Dalila is performed regularly. Following on from the Opéra Comique's recent exhumation of Le Timbre d'Argent, the Grand Théatre is staging Ascanio in the first ever showing of the work's 1888 autograph score. Through five acts and seven tableaux, the composer delivers his personal vision of Benvenuto Cellini's memoirs in an opera that paints a broad canvas with leitmotifs, French musical sensuality, the passionate accents of Italian lyricism and the refinement of Renaissance melodies and dances.

WNO, <i>Figaro Gets a Divorce</i>, Marie Arnet (Susanna) & Alan Oke (The Major) © Richard Hubert Smith
WNO, Figaro Gets a Divorce, Marie Arnet (Susanna) & Alan Oke (The Major)
© Richard Hubert Smith
There’s more operetta to close the year, with Johann Strauss II’s ever-popular The Gypsy Baron: how better to bring in the New Year than with a tale of a hidden treasure, a corrupt commissioner, the lost daughter of a Turkish Pasha and a sausage-obsessed pig farmer, not to mention Strauss’s rousing overture? Christian Räth’s new production promises to enchant, with a particular trump card being soprano Mélody Louledjian.

In February, it's time to devote a pair of operas to another of the great characters of operatic heritage, Faust: first up will be a new production of Gounod's Faust, with John Osborn in the title role. Director Georges Lavaudant is a major figure in straight theatre, with Hôtel Feydeau his most recent success, but he is no stranger to opera, with a well-received production of Philippe Fénelon’s The Cherry Orchard at Palais Garnier in 2012. Gounod’s opera is a staple of the French repertoire, but the Grand Théâtre also offers a little known take on the story, which arguably has a great deal more to do with the essence of Goethe: Schumann’s Szenen aus Goethes Faust. It took Robert Schumann ten years to write the oratorio, which he eventually gave as a birthday present to his wife Clara.  Rarely performed, it will be conducted by Peter Schneider in a concert version at Victoria Hall.

As if to counterbalance Faust's philosophical musings, March turns to verismo, with the inseparable Cavalleria Rusticana et Pagliacci, co-produced with le Teatro Communale di Bologna: Nino Machaidze sings Nedda. April gives early opera fans their chance, with a new production of Purcell's King Arthur. Leonardo García Alarcón conducts his Cappella Mediterranea; the staging is by Alain Maratrat, another long standing director of straight theatre who has also seen substantial operatic success.

Nina Stemme © Neda Navaee
Nina Stemme
© Neda Navaee
There’s a rich programme of concerts and recitals from international stars. Nina Stemme, Dorothea Röschmann and Sonya Yoncheva provide three very different soprano voices, with this being a return to her roots for Yoncheva, who studied at the Conservatoire de Genève and sang in the chorus at the Grand Théâtre.  Also on the recital line-up are contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux and basses Mikhail Petrenko and Willard White (who also sings Publio in La clemenza di Tito at the start of the season). On May 27th, Riccardo Muti conducts the lOrchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini in a special concert.

Of the season’s three dance productions, the first will attract opera fans as well. Choreographer Reinhild Hoffman was one of the pioneers of the German Tanztheater movement: she is restaging one of her most successful works from Tanztheater Bremen: Callas, originally created in 1983. Hoffman’s work often looks at women in society and is usually somewhat dark; her portrayal in movement of that most theatrical of operatic divas should be fascinating.

The flamenco company of Sara Baras follows in February with Voces. Those looking for all-new choreography will have to wait for 28th June, when they will get a double bill entitled “Romantic Vertigo”, each based by a different choreographer on music by different Romantic era composers. Canadian Andrew Skeels’ Fallen is set to music by Tchaikovsky and Schumann, while Natalia Horecna's Return to Nothingness is based on Schubert’s Op.100 Piano Trio: Horecna trained with John Neumeier at Hamburg Ballet and has danced with Nederlands Dans Theater, so her aesthetics should be well suited to the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Click here to see the full listings for the 2017-2018 season. 

 This article was sponsored by the Grand théâtre de Genève.