“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I've left the opera house.” Not just for Maria Callas, but for any other singer and audiences around the world alike, opera is a series of extraordinary moments, of emotional ups and downs and magnificent music that stays with you long after the last musician has left the pit. With ten new productions from Baroque to operetta, Zurich Opera offers a versatile new season, covering every operatic taste.

© Marcin Białek | Wikicommons
© Marcin Białek | Wikicommons

For 30 years, Cecilia Bartoli has been the darling of the Zurich audience, and this season will see her first collaboration with the artistic director, Andreas Homoki, who stages a new production of Iphigénie en Tauride. Gluck’s opera tells the stories of Agamemnon’s children, after the Trojan War. Iphigénie dreams of Oreste avenging their father’s murder by killing their mother, Clytaemnestra, and prays to be united with her brother, who, indeed, has been shipwrecked on the shores of Tauris with his friend Pylade and is brought to the Priestess of Diana to be sacrificed. After four acts of misunderstandings and friendship vows, the siblings recognise each other and Diana herself sends Oreste back to be king over Mycenae. Stéphane Degout sings Iphigénie’s brother, while Frédéric Antoun is his devoted friend Pylade. Gianluca Capuano conducts.

Girl with a Pearl Earring © Jan Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring
© Jan Vermeer

Operas can be based on novels, historical events or inspiring personalities, Greek tragedies or a simple rom-com, but not many are inspired by a painting. The young Swiss composer Stefan Wirth based his work on the story of Jan Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has already been turned into a bestselling novel by Tracey Chevalier, itself adapted into the 2003 film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. In Zurich, Thomas Hampson takes on the role of Jan Vermeer in a production by Ted Huffman. The starry cast also includes Dame Felicity Palmer and Laura Aikin, conducted by Peter Rundel.

Leoš Janáček’s rarely performed opera The Makropulos Case brings eternal life to Zurich. Jakub Hrůša conducts a production by the enfant térrible director Dmitri Tcherniakov about the 337-year-old femme fatale Elina Makropulos who enjoys life on the operatic stage – and men behind the scenes – for centuries before the past catches up with her. Evelyn Herlitzius will sing her first new production in Zurich.

During the 2019-20 season, Fabio Luisi establishes a focus on Verdi. Besides La traviata and Nabucco – with a cast including Michael Volle, Catherine Naglestad and Georg Zeppenfeld – the general music director of the Opernhaus conducts a new I vespri siciliani by provocative director Calixto Bieito. Quinn Kelsey sings his role debut as Guido di Montforte, while Bryan Hymel returns to Zurich in a role for which he is world-renowned, the young Sicilian resistance fighter, Arrigo. Johannes Martin Kränzle will sing the title role of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale in a new staging by the German director Christof Loy under the baton of Enrique Mazzola.

All eyes will be on young Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński when he gives his role and Zurich debut as Cyrus in a staged version of Handel’s oratorio Belshazzar by Sebastian Baumgarten. With this new production, Zurich Opera continues its emphasis on the Baroque repertoire, inviting Laurence Cummings and the period instrument ensemble La Scintilla. On the other side of the repertoire spectrum is operetta, which has found a new home in Zurich since Andreas Homoki took over as artistic director. With Emmerich Kálmán’s Csárdásfürstin, one of the most popular works of the genre will be shown on stage. Jan Philipp Gloger will bring Viennese charm to Zurich with a cast featuring Annette Dasch as the infamous Gipsy Princess and Pavol Breslik as her admirer, Edwin. Piotr Beczała will not only repeat his successful Lohengrin in a revival of Homoki’s staging in June, but also sing in an Operetta Gala together with Camilla Nylund and the Philharmonia Zürich under the baton of Fabio Luisi.

Roberto Carsen directs a new Arabella, the last collaboration between Richard Strauss and his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, that combines Viennese waltz bliss with sincerity. Julia Kleiter, Julie Fuchs and Josef Wagner will give their debuts as Arabella, Zdenka and Mandyrka respectively, while Luisi will conduct the Straussian Komödie about love and society.

In Coraline, Mark-Anthony Turnage constructs a parallel world that seems identical to the real one, only nicer, based on Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novella. Yet, when the 11-year old heroine Coraline discovers the true evil nature of the “Others”, she lives up to the task and saves the day. After last year’s world premiere by the Royal Opera, Nina Russi brings a new staging to Zurich, for audiences young and old.

<i>Faust</i> © Gregory Batardon
Faust
© Gregory Batardon

Last but not least, members of the International Opera Studio will show their talent in a new production of Joseph Haydn’s rarely performed Il mondo della luna, staged by the young Japanese director Tomo Sugao at Theater Winterthur.

Further special moments of the season include Juan Diego Flórez’ role debut as Rodolfo and Christian Gerhaher and Gun-Brit Barkmin’s return as the tragic couple in Wozzeck. To celebrate the Beethoven bicentenary, both Andreas Schager and Wolfgang Koch will give their Zurich debuts as Florestan and Don Pizarro respectively. Gounod’s setting of Goethe’s drama Faust offers a truly starry cast with Saimir Pirgu as Faust, Anita Hartig as Marguerite and Ildebrando d’Arcangelo as the mischievous Méphistophélès.

Hot on the heels of Gounod’s operatic take on the Faust legend comes a revival of Edward Clug’s ballet version. Set to a score by Milko Lazar, the Slovenian choreographer has Mephisto as less of a devil but more a part of Faust’s split personality.

The Zurich Ballet season opens with a new creation on the familiar story of The Little Match Girl. Christian Spuck, director of the company, sets Helmut Lachenmann’s music theatre piece Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern and the performance will feature Lachenmann himself. The company marks William Forsythe’s 70th birthday with a new triple bill, all setting of Thom Willems, including Approximate Sonata which Zurich performs in a new version created for Paris Opera Ballet in 2016. A new double bill brings Johan Inger’s Walking Mad to the company for the first time. Largely set to Ravel’s Boléro, it features surreal, clownish choreography. It is paired with Kleines Requiem by the great Dutch choreographer, Hans van Manen.

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Article sponsored by Zurich Opera and Ballet