It's with no little emotion that Tobias Richter presented what will be his last season at the head of the Grand Théâtre de Genève. As he reaches the end of a ten year tenure, the house's General Director will be entitled to take his bow with a feeling of mission accomplished: the company has survived undamaged by the move to its temporary home at the Opéra des Nations (a structure which had been used once already, for the Comédie-Française), and after three years of major renovations, the Geneva audience will be able to see the Grand Théâtre's ambitious productions in its proper home.

Tobias Richter
© GTG | Nicolas Schopfer

But before the grand reopening in the place de Neuve, several new productions are still scheduled for the Opéra des Nations. Bizet's Carmen will open the season, staged by Reinhild Hoffmann, a well-known personality in the dance world. Under the baton of John Fiore, the title role will be taken by the warm voice of Ekaterina Sergeeva, while ebullient tenor Sébastien Guèze will be watched with interest as he makes his début as Don José.

October will see the arrival in Geneva of a coproduction which delighted the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord: John Gay's The Beggar’s Opera, a baroque musical black comedy depicting the low life of London, will be conducted by William Christie. set in giant cardboard containers by the ingenious director Robert Carsen. The season's third new opera production, Mussorgsky's Boris Godounov, brings together once more director Matthias Hartmann and conductor Paolo Arrivabeni, who collaborated on a refined Bohème two years ago which particularly impressed us. Mikhail Petrenko and Alexey Tikhomirov share the title role. Geneva's safe pair of hands Melody Louledjian sings Xenia, Swiss mezzo Marina Viotti, recent prizewinner at the Kattenburg Competition, sings Fyodor.

The new year festivities will feature hilarious opera-within-an-opera Viva la Mamma !; Laurent Pelly, a frequent visitor to Geneva in Richter's time here, stages a dizzying coproduction which has already had the Opéra de Lyon audience in stitches. As a croaking matron in charge of an opera troupe which disintegrates as the story unfolds, Laurent Nauri will be demonstrating a hitherto unexpected expansion of his baritone voice and comedic gifts. With the usual Orchestre de la Suisse Romande taking a break from the pit, it will be the Orchestre de Chambre de Genève that performs Donizetti's score, under young conductor Gergely Madaras.

The wooden theatre of the Opéra des Nations will be dismantled and heading off to China, but before that happens, it will host one final new production: in January, the Peking Opera Company will stage a typically Chinese show based on Goethe's Faust

Renovation work at the Grand Théâtre de Genève
© GTG | Nicole Zermatten Villedegeneve

In 2019, therefore, performances will take place in the original Grand Théâtre at the place de Neuve on the left bank of the Rhône. Festivities open at the renovated house on February 12th with no less than Wagner's imposing Ring Cycle. Geneva will be able to reacquaint itself with Dieter Dorn's sober staging, which impressed us in 2014, and Ring lovers will appreciate the chance to see the full cycle of operas in six days. Georg Fritzsch conducts a cast which includes Mikhail Petrenko, Aleksey Tikhomirov and the eagerly anticipated, explosive voice of Petra Lang as Brünnhilde.

In April, with the Ring Cycle completed, Richter resumes his exploration of the myth of Medea (Cherubini's Medea and Cavalli's Il Giasone have been performed in the past): David McVicar has been invited to direct a new production of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Médée, with soprano and celebrated tragic actress Anna-Caterina Antonacci in the title role. The experienced Cappella Mediterranea and its founder-director Leonardo García Alarcón, Geneva regulars in recent seasons, will return to the pit. The season's last new production, Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, will be staged by Giancarlo Del Monaco and conducted by Pinchas Steinberg. Costume designer Richard Peduzzi was high on the list of artists whom Tobias Richter was most desirous of inviting to his last Geneva season, and it's his new Verdian sets that will close the Grand Théâtre's opera season on 22nd June 2019.

The programme is enhanced by several concerts and recitals: the visit of MusicAeterna, the orchestra and chorus directed by the spectacular and idiosyncratic Teodor Currentzis, for a performance of Verdi's monumental Messa da Requiem will be a high spot of the season. As for recitals, Luca Pisaroni, Piotr Beczała, Sarah Connolly and Christian Gerhaher will each make their Grand Théâtre debuts. The end of season attraction will be soprano Patricia Petibon, a major artist whose visits have been regular and welcome through the Richter years, for a recital with the Amarillis Ensemble on 21st June 2019 which promises to be exceptional. 

© GTG | Carole Parodi

The more compact dance season comprises four programmes. With its time often taken up by prestigious tours which are major contributors to its presence overseas, the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève will only be present for two of them, for the Geneva debut of choreographer Abou Lagraa and for a programme to honour the celebrated Jiří Kylián. Much enjoyed by the Opéra des Nations audience a few months ago in Voces, the captivating Sara Baras and her flamenco company have been invited to return, towards the end of February 2019, to present their latest creation: Sombras. The second dance company visiting from overseas in 2018-19 will be the Yacobson Ballet from St Petersburg, who will be closing the season with their recent Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Jean-Guillaume Bart.

The above makes it clear: with a volume of unmissable new productions and the return of notable guests, this renewal season for the Grand Théâtre de Genève has all the signs of a Grand Finale for Tobias Richter's tenure.


Click here for full listings of the 2018/19 season.
This preview was sponsored by the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Translated from French by David Karlin