The Royal Opera announced its 2011-12 season yesterday. The season has an unusual profile: there is a large clutch of interesting work that's not heard all that often, a large clutch of old faithfuls, and not all that much in the middle.

The old faithfuls include seven operas in the "world top 20" category: La Traviata (with no less than 22 performances), Rigoletto, Otello, La Bohème and all three Mozart/da Ponte operas. La Fille du Régiment, Salome, Rusalka and Faust are also very standard repertoire currently, making that an awful lot of the season in the "totally safe" bucket. Even safer will be the pair of "Plácido Domingo Celebration" evenings in October, in which Domingo is singing the third acts of Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra and Otello. I predict tickets to be harder to get than the teeth of golden-egg-laying hens.

But if you're looking for fine operas that you don't get the chance to see all that often, there's plenty to excite. My top pick is the season's opener: Pappano will conduct the full set of Puccini's tryptch: new productions by Richard Jones of Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica join a revival of his Gianni Schicchi. I saw Il Trittico in Paris last year (see the review) and I think it makes an outstanding evening, so this is really one to look forward to.

A "Meet the Young Artist Week" in October gives us a pair of rarities in the shape of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été and Massenet's Le Portrait de Manon (a sequel to the better known Manon). Rossini fans get a single performance of Il Viaggio à Reims, and an ancient-Greece-themed nod to the Olympic summer is given with a new production of Berlioz's epic Les Troyens. The UK première for the season is Judith Weir's Miss Fortune, billed as a "contemporary retelling of a Sicilian folk tale", directed by Shi-Zheng Chen, whose 2007 debut as a flim director won him a prize at the Sundance Film Festival (Weir has form of working with Chinese artists, in the shape of A night at the Chinese opera).

And finally, in that sparse in-between category, there's a new production of Verdi's Falstaff, a couple of Wagners and a Bellini.

As usual from Covent Garden, there's a fair sprinkling of the top singers. Jonas Kaufmann, Vittorio Grigolo and Roberto Alagna will be the biggest draws in the tenors, while Angela Gheorghiu and Anna Netrebko will pull in the soprano-loving crowds. There's a particularly strong cast in Le Nozze di Figaro, where you can see Aleksandra Kurzak and Kate Royal along with Ann Murray, Simon Keenlyside and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo: that's a lot of quality in one cast.

Take a look at the full listings. You'll probably find a ton of other stuff that didn't catch my eye!

David Karlin 14th April 2011