The Royal Opera’s 2013/14 season, announced today, is the second under the directorship of Kasper Holten. It’s becoming easier to understand the thinking behind the current style of programming, both explicitly (from hearing Holten talk at the press conference) and implicitly (by looking at the programme and making a few inferences).

Firstly, Holten makes clear that he intends to keep increasing the number of new productions, from five in 2012/13 to six in 2013/14 and seven in 2014/5. Since new productions are expensive things, there are a lot of co-productions with other opera houses and not every production is going to involve lavish expenditure.

But they’ve made an exception for next season’s big rarity: Giuseppe Verdi’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes, performed in its original Parisian version complete with extensive ballet scene. It’s their nod to Giuseppe Verdi’s anniversary (although the October 17th première is a week late for his birthday), it adds a bit of Holten’s Danishness (it’s a co-production with the Royal Danish Opera) and, taken with last season’s Robert le Diable, indicates that someone has a soft spot for French Grand Opéra. Apparently, this is going to be next year’s most expensive production by a country mile, with huge ballet resources from both British and Danish Royal Ballet companies to add to everything else.

The new productions demonstrate a desire to include a variety of directorial styles. Stefan Herheim’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes is going to be distinctly conceptual, a sort of inside-out effort set in the Paris Opéra rather than in Sicily, and we can expect conceptual takes from Stephen Langridge’s new Parsifal and from Holten himself when tackling Don Giovanni, which he describes as “a well known directors’ graveyard” and therefore a directorial task not to be handed to anyone else. I’m guessing that we can expect something far more straightforward from Jonathan Kent’s Manon Lescaut (starring Jonas Kaufmann), and I have no idea whatsoever about what to expect from Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s Maria Stuarda which, we are told, will blend “historical and contemporary resonances” - although we can expect some world class singing from Joyce DiDonato and Carmen Giannattasio.

These four world premières are augmented by two imports of productions already seen elsewhere in Europe: Robert Carsen’s Dialogues des Carmélites from DNO Amsterdam, and Claus Guth’s Die Frau ohne Schatten from La Scala, which is one of three Richard Strauss operas being staged to mark his anniversary in 2014.

The notable absentee is any new work on the main stage. Although Holten and Antonio Pappano trumpeted the success of their new pricing policy in persuading audiences to take a chance on The Minotaur and Written on Skin (they have, we are told, sold 98% of the house), new work for the 2013/14 season is being exiled downstairs to the Linbury Studio. The other total absentee is any baroque or early opera whatsoever, with Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni the only pre-1800 works performed.

For the revivals, the Royal Opera are going for a good variety of repertoire, with the straightforward technique of packing in as many fabulous casts as they can. For example, the Wozzeck revival stars Simon Keenlyside, Karita Mattila and John Tomlinson (Mattila is also singing Ariadne); the first Carmen cast has Elina Garanča and Roberto Alagna, La Fille du Régiment has Patrizia Ciofi and Juan Diego Flórez (plus the spoken word cameo from Kiri te Kanawa). Starriest of all, if no-one cancels, is the casting for Gounod’s Faust: Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel and Simon Keenlyside. All of the productions have at least one big name, even in the “B” casts for the dual-cast revivals.

There is a deliberate attempt to bring in a wide variety of conductors - 17 in all. Pappano particularly highlights Cornelius Meister, who is conducting La Bohème, as an example of young talent being brought in to Covent Garden, although (to my perhaps overly cynical eyes) that looks like the exception rather than the rule: five of the conductors have knighthoods and most of the rest are established figures on the scene.

But the essence of this season seems to be that it manages to be interesting while remaining pretty safe. Wozzeck is the only “difficult” opera (although you can make a case for Elektra and Ariadne auf Naxos being hard to get to grips with), with a large number of safe favourites, notably from Puccini, Mozart and Verdi. But while the programme may not be outlandish, I look through it and see lots that I want to go to - either because it’s a new production (like Parsifal), or a director I like (for example Laurent Pelly directing Manon) or a work not performed so often (Carmelites or Maria Stuarda) or simply because there’s a mouth-watering cast.

Finally, I have to say that I’m really looking forward to Les Vêpres Siciliennes. Not having been that much of a fan of Grand Opéra, I found myself thoroughly enjoying Robert le Diable this season, a production about which I felt that many other critics were both unkind and missing the point. Although the Eugène Scribe libretto for Les Vêpres is a bit of a disaster, I suspect it will work better in its original French language and context than in the Italian translation more commonly performed, and Les Vêpres Siciliennes does contain some music to match Verdi’s finest.

And, of course, I’ll be joining in the usual bunfight to try to get to see Kaufmann!

You can see full details of the new season here.