Auditorium de Dijon © Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Auditorium de Dijon
© Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
The Opéra de Dijon is about more than just opera: its season, which runs from September to June, also comprises a wide selection of orchestral, choral, chamber and solo concerts, as well as a series of events and workshops for kids. The opera programme packs a considerable level of interest and variety into a relatively small number of productions.

The most obvious crowd pleaser is Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, an opera buffa whose music somehow manages to turn madcap farce into something far more bewitching and life affirming. Christopher Alden’s staging is a co-production with the Aix Festival, the Teatr Wielki and the Teatro Regio Torino, where our reviewer described it as “developing the most modern aspects of the libretto”.

If it’s a starry cast you’re after, look no further than Mozart’s Mitridate, Re di Ponto. Accompanied in the pit by the impeccable pedigree of Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert d’Astrée, the pairing of Michael Spyres and Patricia Petibon should be enough to attract the most seasoned attendee of the big houses, not to mention a supporting cast of Cyrille Dubois and Cristophe Dumaux, whom our reviewers have described as “elegant and shining” and having a “shimmering technique“ respectively.

Mitridate © Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Mitridate
© Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Jean-Yves Ruf’s production Cherubini’s Medée may not feature quite such a starry cast, but if you haven’t seen the opera before, it’s a fantastic piece of drama. We’re not sure why it isn’t performed more often, because it gets five stars almost every time we see it, on both sides of the Atlantic.

For something well out of the ordinary, head to the Grand Théâtre for Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River, a 90 minute opera originally described as “A Parable for Church Performance”. The work’s unusual genesis is the transformation of a 16th century Japanese play into the form of a mediaeval mystery, and as you can expect from Britten, there is a profusion of vocal and instrumental timbres.

An hour or so East of Dijon, the company is putting on Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the Théâtre Ledoux in the picturesque medieval city of Besançon. And further still into the mountains, you can take your children to see Hänsel und Gretel and have a picnic at “a secret location in the High Jura”.

Orchestre Dijon Bourgogne © Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Orchestre Dijon Bourgogne
© Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
The orchestral season has plenty of quality to enjoy, including some top class talent that you may not be familiar with if you do most of your listening outside continental Europe. David Grimal and Les Dissonances are celebrating their 10th anniversary with a series of concerts: they play conductorless in a style that is always fresh and vivid, and Grimal himself is a superb violinist. Both programmes look appealing, with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony headlining the first, and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto the high point of the last.

Another orchestra which may not be as familiar to UK or US audiences, but has its own unique approach, is Anima Eterna Brugge. They and founder Jos van Immerseel have made a mission of period accuracy and are extending the into much more recent past than the early and Baroque periods to which the label “historically informed performance” is usually applied, with concerts including Schubert, Ravel and Falla.

There’s no shortage of top international stars in the concert programme. François-Xavier Roth and the SWR Symphony Baden-Baden Freiburg play a Mahler 3 in January with the highly rated Petra Lang as soloist, followed three days later by Fazil Say performing his own music as well as Mozart with Camerata Salzburg. And the lead up to Easter sees a Bach St Matthew Passion starring Stéphane Dégout as Jesus. At the end of March, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra is joined by Isabelle Faust. For baroque lovers, there's a treat not to be missed on March 13th, when tenor Ian Bostridge is singing opera excerpts from Lully, Rameau (Bostridge's French language singing is particularly fine) as well as Handel, in the company of Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques, who feature in two of the six Bachtrack Opera Awards nominations for best opera of 2014-5.

Les Traversées Baroques © Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Les Traversées Baroques
© Opéra de Dijon - Gilles Abegg
Solo recitals include artist in residence Brice Pauset performing the complete works of Louis Couperin in a series of recitals on harpsichord and organ, and late Schubert piano works played by Maria João Pires.

Chamber works include a series of Shostakovich concerts by the Casals Quartet with pianist Alexander Melnikov. A mixed programme of early and contemporary music on the theme of Mythology is headlined by baritone Georg Nigl and pianist Andreas Staier.

If you are visiting the Dijon Auditorium for the first time, don’t let its brutalist conference centre looks mislead you: go inside and you will find a hall that is attractive, comfortable and has excellent acoustics – which may go some way to explaining the range of top talent that you might not expect in a city Dijon’s size.

 

This article was sponosred by Opéra de Dijon.