Opernhaus Stuttgart © A T Schaefer
Opernhaus Stuttgart
© A T Schaefer
In Oper Stuttgart’s 2014/5 season, the Baroque offering was Calixto Bieito’s take on Rameau’s Platée, which turned out to be a gloriously over the top and bewildering riot (accompanied by some impressive orchestral and vocal performances). For the 2015/6 season, Bieito is back, collaborating with theatre company Schauspiel Stuttgart to create a new production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen in which, it is promised “the genre’s boundaries will start to float”. Given what Platée was like, I hardly dare imagine in what directions the boundaries might float, but conductor Christian Curnyn has impeccable Baroque credentials so the musical quality should be assured.

The Fairy Queen is one of six premières in 2015/16, fairly evenly spaced across the operatic age range. The youngest is Philippe Boesmans’ 1993 Reigen, based on the eponymous Arthur Schnitzler play of sexual entanglements that was banned when it was written in 1903 and caused immense scandal when it was first performed in the 1920s (you might know the play by its French name La Ronde). Boesmans’ eclectic and melodic score should make this an exciting offering of modern opera. Performances run towards the end of the season, from April to June.

Richard Strauss’ Salome was no less scandalous in its day: after all, anything which quite so overtly melded religious scripture and sexual obsession was guaranteed to shock, the more so when coupled with such a hard-hitting score. Stuttgart’s new production is directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, a Russian film and stage director who isn’t exactly a stranger to controversy, describing himself as a provocateur, but for whom “provocation should be backed up by sense”. Performances run from November to January.

© Martin Sigmund
© Martin Sigmund
The bel canto era is represented by Bellini’s I puritani. Conductor Gabriele Ferro has been praised in these pages for his faithfulness to operatic scores, but expect anything but faithfulness to the original stage directions from the long standing directorial team of Sergio Morabito and Jossi Wieler (Oper Stuttgart's intendant), who can generally be relied upon to add modern dress and new concepts to their stagings of classic works.

Our Spanish reviewer Fernando Remiro used the words “masterful” and “unforgettable” to describe Christoph Marthaler’s Tales of Hoffmann at Teatro Real in May, enjoying both the surrealist rendering and Sylvain Cambreling’s nuanced conducting. As with many operas these days, this was a co-production: Marthaler and Cambreling (Stuttgart Opera's award winning General Music Director) will be bringing it to Stuttgart in March. The combined role of the Four Villains is shared between Alex Esposito and Vito Priante.

In October, Cambreling joins Morabito and Wieler for the first of the 2015/6 premières: Beethoven’s Fidelio: Morabito and Wieler's staging will be developed “particularly from analyzing the opera’s spoken passages which helps to bring out all the sides in plot and characters that were originally denied and lost to censure”. A clue to their intentions may lie in the casting of  Florestan: we’ve described Michael König in a past Fidelio as “convincing with rough timbre and candid phrasing”.

<i>Khovanshchina</i> © A T Schaefer
Khovanshchina
© A T Schaefer
Stuttgart operates a repertory schedule, with a programme which changes nightly (if you include the various concerts, there are close to 300 events per season). Complementing the season’s premières are a set of fifteen revivals and repertory works, three of which stand out as operas not too frequently performed elsewhere. Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa is a searing verismo tale of the moralistic claustrophobia of life in a 19th century Moravian village. Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, less performed than his masterpiece Boris Godunov, is similar to it in drawing on the grand sweep of Russia’s history: in this case, the rebellion of the Old Believers against Peter the Great. Niccolo Jommelli’s Il vologeso (also known as Berenice, Queen of Armenia) is more of a rarity still: first performed in 1766 at the wonderfully romantic palace of Ludwigsburg, just outside Stuttgart, it was revived for the first time in Stuttgart on 15th May this year by the Morabito-Wieler-Ferro team, the opera’s first performance in nearly 250 years. The production was described by our German reviewer as “as theatrical as opera can be, in the best possible way”; it’s returning to the Stuttgart stage in May and June 2016.

Oper Stuttgart is perhaps more focused on staging and less on bringing in star singers than bigger houses like Covent Garden or the Met, but you can still find some of the names that you will see starring in the biggest houses. To give just a sprinkling: Dimitri Platanias sings Rigoletto in April and May, Thomas Blondelle sings Max in Der Freischütz, Catherine Nagelstad sings the title role in Madama Butterfly in November, Angela Denoke sings the Kostelnička in Jenůfa. Overall, the company feels like the United Nations, with soloists from 17 countries and chorus members from 20.

The more common repertoire is well represented, from bel canto comedy (Barber, Cenerentola, Così) through Verdian and Wagnerian angst (Rigoletto, Tristan) to three of Puccini’s biggest (Tosca, Bohème, Butterfly). Children are catered for (if German speaking) with Schaf (a story build around Purcell, Handel and Monteverdi’s music), Richard Ayres’ Peter Pan and Johannes Harneit’s Alice Im Wunderland.

 

This article was sponsored by Staatstheater Stuttgart.