"Damned Bodies, Saved Souls": Previewing the Bavarian State Opera's 2009-2010 Season

Classic Arts Features   "Damned Bodies, Saved Souls": Previewing the Bavarian State Opera's 2009-2010 Season
With a new intendant at the helm and a lineup of directors from the worlds of opera, theatre and film, Munich's season will deliver a mix of old favorites, lesser-known classics and brand new works. Frank Cadenhead takes an early look at what's to come.


For Germany's most important opera house, Munich's Bavarian State Opera, the new season announcement is always major news, particularly when the newly-arrived intendant, now in his second season, puts his own stamp on it. Nikolaus Bachler led one of Europe's leading theaters - the Bergtheater in Vienna - before moving to Munich, and his new emphasis on the dramatic potential of opera has created high audience interest and given Munich an increased international profile.

The career path for opera directors is usually entirely within the opera "community" but two recent exceptions have been getting some attention. Peter Gelb at New York's Metropolitan Opera came from the recording and entertainment industry and is exploring new media for a wider audience plus introducing more contemporary stagings for his tradition-minded audiences. In Munich, Bachler has increased the focus on important directors, providing a mix of high-energy interpretations along with the adventurous and often-controversial regietheater stagings.

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Luc Bondy
photo by Uly Martin

Important stage directors are center stage. French cinema giant Luc Bondy, whose opera work always creates news, will stage a new Tosca of Puccini. Also in the season, innovative director Hans Neuenfels stages Giovanni Simone Mayr's 1813 opera Medea in Corinto in March while Barrie Kosky, director of Berlin's Comic Opera, will mount Richard Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau next July. Balšsz Kovalik will make his Munich debut staging the new opera by Peter Eotvos, Die Trag‹die des Teufels (The Tragedy of the Devils). Two other noted theater directors, Stefan Kimmig (Don Giovanni) and David Boesch (L'elisir d'amore) are trying their hand at opera for the first time.

General Music Director Kent Nagano, popular in Munich since his arrival in September 2006, is collaborating again with the young Russian iconoclast director Dmitri Tcherniakov in a new production Poulenc's Les dialogues des Carm_lites, completing the list of seven new productions. Nagano will also conduct the season opener, the premiere of Don Giovanni plus Richard Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau. Peter E‹tv‹s will conduct his new opera, with a libretto by Munich author Albert Ostermaier, when it debuts next February. Other conductors in the pit for the 2009-2010 season include Ivor Bolton, Fabio Luisi, Asher Fisch, Dimitri Jurowski and Marco Armiliato.

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Elina Garanca
photo by Simon Fowler

Opera stars on the season roster include mezzo Elina Garanca and tenor Jonas Kaufmann in Carmen, Nadja Michael as Salome and Nina Stemme as Senta. Angelika Kirchschlager will sing Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, and the role of Elisabetta in Don Carlo will be shared by sopranos Anja Harteros and Olga Guryakova both who will be d_buting in this role. This season's Jenufa (Janacek) will return with the gold-plated soprano duo, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Deborah Polaski as well as a La Traviata with Patrizia Ciofi and Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with Anja Kampe in the title role and Klaus Florian Vogt as Bacchus and The Tenor.

The concert series of the opera orchestra will see Kent Nagano continue his Bruckner symphony series with the broad-scaled No. 7 plus former music director Zubin Mehta returns with a program that includes the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony and the first German performance of Avner Dorman's dazzling Spices, Perfumes, Toxins. Returning also is conductor Marc Minkowski and, for the sixth orchestra concert in the schedule, Heinrich Schiff will act both as soloist and conduct in the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1.

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Jonas Kaufmann
photo by IMG Artists

The Munich Opera Festival, opening June 30 with a gala performance of Aida, traces its origins back to 1875. It provides a concentrated list of highlights of the just finished season for visitors to Munich and runs through July 31 with a performance of another Verdi opera, Falstaff. The July 5th performance of Wagner's Lohengrin will be broadcast live on a giant screen on Max Joseph Square, in front of the National Theater, a first in the ongoing program of open-air events, "Opera for All." Innovation is the key for the related "under construction" program with performances of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti at the historic Cuvillies Theater. Also a rare treat are the three dates for Mozart's Idomeneo in the theater where it was first seen in 1781.

The season is operating under the theme of "Damned bodies, saved souls" and British sculptor Antony Gormley has provided the artistic umbrella for the season announcement.

The Bavarian State Opera, founded in 1653, presents over 350 performances a year of over 50 different operas, plus a full schedule of ballet, concerts and recitals. Performances take place chiefly at the 2000 seat National Theater but are also scheduled at the Prinzregenten Theater and the historic Cuvilllies Theater.

All of the information for the 2009-2010 season and this year's Munich Opera Festival is now online at the opera's website, www.staatsoper.de. Most pages are available in English.

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