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© Cooper 2011
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© A. Bofill. All rights reserved Premsa Liceu
Gran Teatre del Liceu
The interior of Barcelona's impressive Liceu opera house
Despite the continuing crisis in Spain that is draining jobs, social programmes and cultural offerings, the Liceu is stalwartly going ahead with a varied programme for the coming year, including, as is its custom (one might almost say its mission), rarely performed works to keep a broad operatic repertory alive. In a year when many other well-known opera houses are cautiously sticking to works calculated to bring in the middlebrow audiences, this is a brave move. Furthermore, the roster of acclaimed international stars is, this year, even larger than usual. Bravo, bravo, Liceu, for setting such a proud example.
The first round goes to Verdi, with a series of four concerts as part of the ongoing celebration of the composer’s bicentennial with, as the Liceu puts it, “fragments” of both well-loved and little-known operas.
The first concert, on September 30th and October 3rd, will present excerpts from the popular Rigoletto and Nabucco, Simone Boccanegra and Luisa Miller, but also from the rarely heard King for a Day and Oberto. On October 6th and 9th, the major operas will include La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Un Ballo in Maschera and Sicilian Vespers. Less well-known are arias from Stiffelio, Jerusalem, Joan of Arc and I Masnadieri.
October 13th and 17th showcases Aida, Macbeth, Ernani, Il Corsaro, Alzira and I Lombardi. And the final concert, on October 19th and 21st, offers the great Don Carlo, Otello, Falstaff, Attila, Harold and The Battle of Legnano.
All in all an intriguing mix of familiar and less known works.
The opera season proper begins in mid-November, with Handel’s Agrippina, with the lush Danielle de Niese, whose specialty is Handel, and conductor Harry Bicket, highly regarded for his understanding of such works. Agrippina, first produced in 1709, is a thoroughly confusing story, full of love affairs—appropriate and inappropriate—lying, cheating and plotting (it would do well to read up on it beforehand and try to sort out the various machinations). Two strong women, the Empress Agrippina and Poppaea, dominate the action, which surrounds the effort to put their particular champion on the throne. It should be a lively evening.
November 16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 26th and 29th
Spanish composer Manuel de Falla composed this cantata, which he later expanded into an opera, in the Twenties. It is based on a Catalan poem by Jacint Verdaguer and has not been heard at the Liceu since 1992. It tells the story of the sinking and creation of the mythical underwater Atlantis, and contains powerful roles for baritone (the narrator), mezzo and soprano (the two queens). This will be a concert performance in cantata format.
November 27th and 28th
Nearly one hundred years after the youthful Rossini composed his lighthearted version of the story of Cinderella (Cenerentola), French composer Jules Massenet turned his hand to the same theme. The result, Cendrillon, which debuted in 1889, is a rich mix of the airiness and light touch of the 18th century, as heard in the Rossini version, and the influence of Richard Wagner and the heavier romanticism of the end of the 19th century, especially in the love music. We are lucky to have, for its debut at the Liceu, mezzo Joyce DiDonato, who dazzled in her concert performance last season, and Laurent Naouri, fresh from his brilliant singing and acting in the Liceu’s 2012 Tales of Hoffmann. There will be two casts performing this opera, so if you have a preference, check the dates carefully.
December 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 27th, 28th and 30th. January 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th
Bellini’s sleepwalking heroine was last seen at the Liceu in 1987, so this is a welcome return for a lively, romantic, bel canto opera. Furthermore, it has two casts, both with exciting performers. The majority of the performances will include the well-matched pair Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez, as the lovers almost separated by the nocturnal and totally unconscious wanderings of the heroine, Amina. The second cast will include Patrizia Ciofi as Amina and Celso Albelo, who recently sang the role at Covent Garden. Hard to choose between them.
January 27th, 28th, 30th. February 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 17th
Puccini’s melodramatic warhorse comes equipped with three casts, none to be sneezed at. Sondra Radvanovsky, who triumphed as Tosca in Los Angeles this past May and is singing the role at New York’s Met this fall, will pair with Ambrogio Maestri, who has a busy season as Falstaff at the Met, Cavaradossi at the Liceu and Dulcamara in the Bavarian Staatsoper production of Elisir D’Amore. The second cast will contain Martina Serafin, fresh from her role as the Marschallin in the Met’s Der Rosenkavalier and Jorge de Leon (whose 2011 performance with Radvanovsky at the Teatro Real Madrid was described as “sublime”) and Scott Hendricks (who played Scarpia to Serafin’s Tosca at Covent Garden, also in 2011). The third cast, with Fiorenza Cedolins, who charmed us as Mimi in last year’s La Boheme, and de Leon, also promises a good evening.
March 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th.
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh
When he was writing this little-known but critically acclaimed opera, Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov was convinced that it would be his last work. It turned out not to be so, but evidence of his emotional input permeates this dramatic work, according to the Guardian review of a rare performance in 2012, in which it is described as “one of the 20th century’s most underrated scores.” Last performed at the Liceu in 1970, it had already captured the imagination of the Barcelona audience when it debuted in 1926. This season’s presentation showcases the rising star soprano Svetlana Ignatovich as the forest maiden Fevronia, tenor Maksim Aksenov as the prince who woos her and Liceu regular Eric Halfvarson, bass (the international embodiment of the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlo), as his father Prince Yuriy. Fantasy, love, battle and an uplifting conclusion. Can one ask for anything more?
April 13th, 16th, 22nd, 26th, 30th.
The second phase of Wagner’s Ring, as envisioned by stage director Robert Carsen, bids fair to be an impassioned and depressing view of a violent, decaying world, if last year’s Rheingold is anything to go by. But it is not to be missed, even if it isn’t FUN. It comes with two excellent casts, with Irene Theorin, Anja Kampe and Klaus Florian Vogt in the first, and Eva Maria Westbroeck in the second.
May 19th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 28th, 30th, 31st and June 3rd.
Il Prigioniero and Suor Angelica
The imaginative coupling of a mid-20th-century 12-tone Italian opera, Il Prigioniero by Luigi Dallapiccola, first presented on Italian radio in 1949, and Puccini’s Suor Angelica, which debuted at New York’s Met in 1918, is an exciting change from the usual Trittico performances. Both of these one-act works deal with imprisonment and redemption; the former under the brutal ideological dictatorship of Spain’s Philip II and the latter casting light on the ever-enduring persecution of women who stray from society’s rigid rules of behaviour. Barbara Frittoli and Dolora Zajick, who not long ago delighted Liceu audiences in Adriana Lecouvreur, return, joined by Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet. And Evgeny Nikitin reprises his highly-regarded Parisian performance of Dallapiccola’s prisoner. With two related themes presented in two very different musical styles, this should be a mind-opening evening.
June 22nd, 25th, 27th and July 1st, 4th
These operas represent the core of the 2013-2014 Liceu season, but there is much more on the programme.
In October, the National Ballet of Poland will present a four-day season of works set to the music of Bach, and in February the Monte Carlo Ballet will offer four performances of Belle, a fairytale for adults blending excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet to create a whole new sophisticated and sensual work.
Throughout the season, there will be Liceu-produced concerts at the Auditori or the Palau de la Música.
And recitals by Edita Gruberova (November 17th), Nina Stemme (March 24th), Jonas Kaufmann (March 28th) and Angela Denoke (April 29th) will sell out very fast. So jump to it, if you are interested.
And, of course, the year would not be complete without the Petit Liceu for children, which is, as ever, offering an enticing, simplified selection of operas to ensnare the youthful mind. The Liceu does a magnificent job all round, but deserves high praise for its continual efforts to create the audience of the next generation.
For more details, calendar, performers and location, go the Liceu’s website: www.liceubarcelona.cathttp://www.liceubarcelona.cat