Opera House Panorama
Opera House Panorama

Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Theatre has an illustrious history, located in the Kongens Nytorv since 1748. It was the theatre where Hans Christian Andersen began his theatrical career and opera and ballet have played an important role in the Theatre since its earliest days. Performances (mainly those of the Royal Danish Ballet) still take place on the Old Stage, but since 2005 the Opera House on the island of Holmen has hosted Royal Danish Opera’s productions. Designed by architect Henning Larsen, the Opera House casts an imposing sight across the waterfront, and is wonderfully equipped to deliver first class opera to an international audience.

Kasper Holten's production of <i>Die Frau ohne Schatten</i> © Miklos Szabo
Kasper Holten's production of Die Frau ohne Schatten
© Miklos Szabo
Kasper Holten is no stranger to London audiences, but for the eleven years before taking up his appointment at The Royal Opera, he was artistic director of the Royal Danish Opera. This season opens with a revival of his 2011 production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, his last new production before leaving his post. Links between London and Copenhagen are strengthened with a new Holten production of Der Freischütz, which opens in November and heads to London the following season. Freischütz is a supernatural tale to send Gothic shivers down the spine as the hunter Max is tempted into a chilling bargain with the shady Caspar so he can win a shooting contest, and with it the hand of Agathe in marriage. The Wolf’s Glen scene, where Caspar calls upon Samiel, the Black Hunter, to help forge seven magic bullets, is a gift to any director and it will be fascinating to see how Holten stages it.

Another eagerly anticipated new production comes from Norwegian director Stefan Herheim, who is at the helm for Strauss’ biblical shocker Salome. Herheim’s productions have earned him the title of Opera Director of the Year three times by the German magazine Opernwelt. Royal Danish Opera has assembled a fine cast for Herheim, led by John Lundgren as Jochanaan (John the Baptist), who loses his head to Ann Petersen’s Salome.

Opera House Auditorium © Lars Schmidt
Opera House Auditorium
© Lars Schmidt

Lohengrin, Wagner’s Romantic opera is about the knight who arrives by swan to rescue Elsa from accusations of having murdered her brother. She agrees to marry him, but Lohengrin sets a single condition… that Elsa never ask him to reveal his name nor where he has come from. Guess what happens next?! Nicola Raab directs this new production which stars Burkhard Fritz and Anne Margrethe Dahl in the lead roles.

Boulevard Solitude is Hans Werner Henze’s post-World War 2 take on Manon Lescaut. Lottie de Beer’s new production is conducted by Jérémie Rhorer and stars Sine Bundgaard and Gert Henning-Jensen as Manon and Armand des Grieux. Orpha Phelan directs another (late) 20th century opera, Thomas Adès’ Powder her Face which charts the scandal surround the English Duchess Margaret of Argyll. Since its 1995 debut Adès’ opera has been staged in a number of countries. This is its first production in Denmark. The Old Stage is the venue for a new production of Mozart’s evergreen Le nozze di Figaro, with Danish stage director Elisa Kragerup making her first foray into opera.

The Royal Danish Opera is one of the few left in Europe to employ a regular ensemble from which it casts most of its operas. Many of its singers have strong international careers, such as Danish baritone Johan Reuter, who appears three times this season in Copenhagen: as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten (a performance described as “heartfelt, clear and smooth” when we reviewed him in London); Michele and Gianni Schicchi in Puccini’s Il trittico; and in the title role of Falstaff.

The Royal Danish Ballet’s programme for 2015-16 is varied, and exciting. The season opens with a triple bill of works by some of today’s most sought after choreographers. Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon’ Short Time Together – which lends the programme its title – and Natalia Horecna’s The Death That Best Preserves frame a new piece by Idan Sharabi.

Ulrik Birkkjær (Romeo) and Susanne Grinder (Juliet) in RDB's <i>Romeo and Juliet</i> © Costin Radu
Ulrik Birkkjær (Romeo) and Susanne Grinder (Juliet) in RDB's Romeo and Juliet
© Costin Radu
Both the Slovakian Horecna and the Israeli Sharabi were members of Nederlands Dans Theater, and both have created works for the company. Whilst the programme opens the Royal Danish Ballet’s season on modern notes , the emphasis on contemporary creation also sets the tone for the exciting visit of the Dutch powerhouse itself. NDT’s main company will grace the stage of the old theatre in January, and for their Copenhagen run the Dans Theater brings together three of its directors’ most successful works. Shoot the Moon, Same Difference (both set to Philip Glass) and Stop Motion (Max Richter) have won international critical acclaim.

Another contemporary highlight this season will be Tilman O’Donnel's new piece, which will première on the 27th October after a performance of Swan Lake’s White Adagio. Under the umbrella name of Dans2go, the performances run throughout the Autumn with “wallet-friendly” ticket prices giving the audience as wide as possible the chance to enjoy first-class performances at affordable prices.

The three-act classics scheduled this season are well chosen. The Festive Season sees the return of the traditional Nutcracker. Danish audiences are privileged to have George Balanchine’s magical production – otherwise unseen in Europe – which centres the ballet around children dancing the lead roles of Clara (Maria) and her prince, and a huge sparkling Christmas tree.

© Natascha Thiara
© Natascha Thiara
John Neumeier’s Romeo and Juliet tempers the early days of Spring with lyrical tenderness and a poignant adaptation of the greatest love story of all times, before Nikolaj Hübbe’s Don Quixote floods the stage with light, colour and sensuality.

Storytelling is a forte of the company, and the 15-16 season sees the return of Shane Brox and Esther Lee Wilkinson’s The Fantasy Traveller. Strong in its tradition, and the legacy of its past, the ballet company also continues to stage some of August Bournonville’s beloved romantic repertoire, and this year La Sylphide (staged by Nikolaj Hübbe) runs throughout the winter months.

The Royal Danish Orchestra play a number of concerts, including the chance to hear them play home-town composer Carl Nielsen, celebrating his 150th anniversary this year. A chamber concert series entitled Nordic Sounds runs through the season, giving listeners the chance to explore repertoire by Langgaard, Berwald and Sibelius among other Scandinavian composers.

 

Article sponsored by Det Kongelige Teater.