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  • Cast change: Jennifer Davis to sing in The Royal Opera's Lohengrin

Cast change: Jennifer Davis to sing in The Royal Opera's Lohengrin

Irish soprano to replace Kristine Opolais in the role of Elsa.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

8 May 2018 at 3.09pm | 47 Comments

Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais has withdrawn from the role of Elsa in The Royal Opera's forthcoming new production of Lohengrin, to ensure her full recovery from a routine abdominal medical procedure.

Kristine Opolais said: ‘I withdraw from Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House with a heavy heart. I am incredibly sorry to disappoint my fans in London, but I look forward to returning to The Royal Opera in the 2018/19 Season as Tosca. I am extremely grateful for everyone’s support.’

The role of Elsa will now be sung by Irish soprano Jennifer Davis.

Jennifer Davis was a member of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme 2015–17, singing Euphrosyne/Lachesis in Orpheus, Nursing Sister in Suor Angelica, Ines in Il trovatore, Ifigenia in Oreste, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Arbate in Mitridate, re di Ponto and in the world premiere of 4.48 Psychosis for The Royal Opera, and in Les Enfants Terribles and Flight Pattern for The Royal Ballet. She returned earlier this Season to sing First Lady in Die Zauberflöte. She returns in the 2018/19 Season to sing Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with The Royal Opera.

Kristine Opolais will also withdraw from the Spring Gala on 30 May 2018.

The rest of the cast remains the same.

If you have a ticket please see terms and conditions of sale

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

8 May 2018 at 3.09pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by David Alden, cast change, Lohengrin, Production

This article has 47 comments

  1. Paul Harris responded on 8 May 2018 at 6:11pm Reply

    As usual a non star replacement for a star performer. Over the decades the ROH must have saved a lot of money.

    • Sarah responded on 11 June 2018 at 1:09am

      Jennifer was brilliant tonight. She is much better than Kristīne actually. She is rising star. I have not seen any soprano like her quality for many years. Bravo!

  2. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 8 May 2018 at 7:27pm Reply

    I would have hoped for a singer with a bit more experience given the high ticket prices. She has no track record in big parts or Wagner as far as I am aware. I hope I can eat my words. I am coming mainly to hear Goerke.

  3. paul responded on 8 May 2018 at 7:54pm Reply

    Great to give new singers a shot...but never performed even a smaller role in Wagner ...you sre?

  4. David responded on 9 May 2018 at 11:05am Reply

    This is a very disappointing announcement. Super high prices, the first new production in over 30 years and here we have the star soprano - arguably the main role - now performed by someone unknown and inexperienced. Was this cancellation such a surprise? Couldn’t somebody else more qualified step in to sing Elsa? You’re testing your public’s loyalty with these moves, ROH.

  5. jeffrey karacs responded on 9 May 2018 at 11:09am Reply

    I agree with the earlier comments is it wise to give the part of Elsa to an unknown singer for a major new production. Were there no more experienced singers available, Camilla Nylund or Emily Magee for instance?

  6. G J Dowler responded on 9 May 2018 at 11:20am Reply

    Quite extraordinary. A major new production, astronomical prices and now a replacement in a key role who has no proven track record. Good luck to Davis, but really...

  7. Patricia Baker responded on 9 May 2018 at 11:52am Reply

    A reduction of ticket prices is surely called for.

    Patricia Baker

    • David responded on 10 May 2018 at 8:00am

      San Francisco Opera has just lost their Brunnhilde for their June ring cycle (Evelyn Herliztius) and she has been replaced by the excellent and world-famous Irene Theorin. That’s surely how to do it.

  8. Russell Hodges responded on 9 May 2018 at 4:36pm Reply

    Not an acceptable replacement at all given the prices- wrong type of voice altogether - going fron First Lady in zauberflöte to Elsa? Really?!!! At these prices ?!!

  9. George Treethorn responded on 9 May 2018 at 4:39pm Reply

    Sorry ROH, this is really not on. Either find a proper replacement or offer a partial refund. To give such a major role to someone with such a minor CV (and with no Wagner in her repertoire!) falls well below our expectations. Shoddy move.

  10. Brendan Sheehy responded on 9 May 2018 at 9:08pm Reply

    RoH patrons may be pleasantly surprised !

  11. Ann O'Shaughnessy responded on 9 May 2018 at 9:53pm Reply

    Very disappointing. Good luck to Jennifer Davis, I hope she can measure up to the part. In his Insight last week Mr Mears spoke of promoting home grown artistes but this is hardly the place to start. A new Wagner production at Covent Garden is rather special and I, for one, have been looking forward to it since it was announced.

  12. Paul Ove responded on 9 May 2018 at 11:32pm Reply

    These things happen. In 1963 a relatively unknown tenor replaced an indisposed Giuseppe Di Stefano as Rodolfo at the ROH. I wonder who that might have been. I’m sure the ROH know what they are doing.

    Anyway, can’t you exchange your ticket if you want. But you might miss something.

  13. William Hill responded on 10 May 2018 at 7:46am Reply

    I'm cancelling my dinner in the Balconies Restaurant @£75- as compensation for this totally unacceptable cast change. Good sandwich bar around the corner.

  14. Robin Bruce responded on 10 May 2018 at 9:39am Reply

    Please - less of the negativity. Jennifer Davis is one of the most exciting voices to sing on the ROH stage in years - and she is far from 'unknown' to regulars - I would have thought some of these commenters might have shown more faith in Oli Mears, maestro Pappano and the ROH in general. If you want to offload tickets I'm sure there will be an abundance of takers!

  15. Andrejs Lasmanis responded on 10 May 2018 at 1:12pm Reply

    Kristine Opalais is excellent in Puccini operas and the Russian repertoire. Still with the Latvian National Opera she has appeared as Freya in Das Rhinegold and Senta in Der Fliegende Hollander. To my opinion her voice is not suited for the Wagnerian roles, though Elsa is not the most difficult one. I believe the replacement will meet the expectations of the ROH audiences.

  16. Tony Newcombe responded on 10 May 2018 at 3:15pm Reply

    If it became necessary to replace Natalia Osipova in a role by more junior dancer like Anna-Rose O'Sullivan, the regular ballet patrons would probably cheer. No offence meant to the wonderful Miss Osipova.

  17. Robert Pullen responded on 10 May 2018 at 10:01pm Reply

    I sometimes think that the real aim of the Jette Parker programme is primarily to have a 'back up' resource for the ROH to provide inexpensive covers when star singers pull out. In any case, it is unacceptable yet again for an inexperienced young singer with no substantial experience of a major role to substitute for an international star in a demanding role who we've paid a lot of money to hear. The leap from First Lady in Die Zauberflöte (Jennifer Davis' last role at the ROH) to Elsa is massive - and if it is to be taken it should not be done at the likes of Covent Garden but in smaller 'testing ground' venues.

  18. Simon responded on 11 May 2018 at 9:33am Reply

    To be in this situation again is certainly at best unfortunate. Given the benefit of the doubt that Miss Davis will be a pleasant and exciting surprise in the role (if the pressure on such an inexperienced singer doesn't prove too great - and she shall have my support and very best wishes for what they're worth as an audience member), the point remains that we have paid to see a cast of experienced and highly qualified singers at a certain level in their professions. We are now not quite getting what has been promised which should at the very least mean a small reduction in the price or at least, a voucher to spend on the next show. If you were bumped from a 4* hotel on your holiday, you would expect your travel agent to provide an alternative of OBJECTIVELY similar or higher quality.

  19. Robin Bruce responded on 11 May 2018 at 11:37am Reply

    I am frankly staggered at some of these comments. Do people really think that there is some sort of rest-home for opera singers out there that can provide - like a travel agency - 'an alternative of OBJECTIVELY similar or higher quality' at days' notice? I thought it was only meant to be Millennials who behaved in such an 'entitled' way - "I paid for XXX and I demand XXX."A true opera fan understands the risk they are taking when they buy their ticket, and accepts it with good grace. What a fabulous opportunity this will be, to see a rising star make a break-out performance.

    • David responded on 11 May 2018 at 2:13pm

      It’s absolutely standard practice for opera houses to seek replacements of a similar standard and reputation, even at short notice. Jonas Kaufmann cancelled a new production of Manon lescaut at the Met, and Roberto alagna took over at two weeks notice. Re-shuffling is possible if the will is there.

  20. William responded on 11 May 2018 at 12:53pm Reply

    I think that some of your correspondents have been particularly unfair to Jennifer Davis. It is of course very unfortunate that Kristine Opolais had to cancel for reasons of health but in all honesty, having attended many performances (mainly Wagner) over more than 50 years, I have to say that I thought that to cast Miss Opolais as Elsa may have turned out to be a bad case of miscasting. However I was prepared to give her a chance, and it is now very important that Miss Davis is also given an equal chance. The Jette Parker programme has been excellent for bringing on young singers and many former members have returned in their own right with great success over the years. Indeed another former member of the class is in the Lohengrin cast, albeit in a much smaller role. Lets give Jennifer Davis the chance to succeed in a complex role and we all wish her well in this part. Hopefully, the big standard cut in Act 3 after the grail narration will be opened so that we will really be given a complete performance of this magnificent opera.. I am really looking forward to seeing Lohengrin on the stage again.

  21. Derek Bryanton responded on 13 May 2018 at 8:47am Reply

    I agree with the general consensus that the ROH should always first seek a like-for-like replacement, or, if not, lower the ticket prices and refund accordingly.

    • Alison responded on 21 May 2018 at 4:32pm

      Hear hear. It was the first time that even the decent standing tickets for an opera I wanted to see were beyond my budget, and I'm now thinking perhaps it's as well I wasn't able to get one. I don't go to many operas at the ROH these days, but at virtually every one I've been at in the last few years at least one major role has ended up being filled by a JP artist. It certainly feels as though it's standard policy to look there before looking outside the House.

  22. It's most noticeable there is no response from someone at CG to the many complaints over this situation. While replacing an artist at short notice may be difficult, there has been ample time to find a replacement of noted stature to take on the role of Elsa including several recent Bayreuth Elsa's (who would be known to A.Nelsons) and the recent splendid WNO Elsa who would have made a first-class substitute. I wish Miss Davis much success for her future but am at a loss to find her having to make her debut in a major Wagner role in an auditorium the size of Covent Garden with an established international cast of experienced Wagnerians in a major and much anticipated new production.

  23. Dietmar responded on 16 May 2018 at 1:34pm Reply

    I have to agree, replacing singers happens all the time ( many years ago F. Lott cancelled rosenkavlier and we had L. Popp and K.te Kanava stepping in) - extremley poor of covent garden not trying to find some one withmore experience and status - it is afer all one of the world leading houses

  24. Rog responded on 17 May 2018 at 12:56pm Reply

    It's worth mentioning that the ROH's resumé for Jennifer Davis unintentionally does her no favours, in that it refers only to the roles she has undertaken with the ROH. In particular it does not mention her very well received Donna Anna for Opera North earlier this year - which I think bodes very well for the role of Elsa.

  25. Rabbie responded on 18 May 2018 at 11:16am Reply

    Why go to 42nd Street for a show with an unknown stepping in to rescue a new production when we can have it all at the Royal Opera House. We hope. And its a lot more expensive (42nd St is great and £55 top)

  26. amac responded on 21 May 2018 at 4:43pm Reply

    Not sure what the protocol is about mentioning another show in another theatre !

    It is the plot of 42nd Street now at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. A good show but a little bit of a lighter show than Lohengrin !!

    Anyway for that to analogy to work Jennifer Davis would have had to bump into Kristine Opolais in rehearsal

  27. Jonathan Sydenham responded on 23 May 2018 at 11:03pm Reply

    How churlish some of these comments seem! Firstly, let’s recall two other sopranos who were put into major roles in new productions with similar cvs to Jennifer Davis: Joan Sutherland as Lucia and Kiri Te Kanawa as the Countess. Secondly, Christine Goerke clearly and very publicly rates her very highly after rehearsing with her pretty intensely. So be nice. We may be in for a revelation.

  28. John R responded on 29 May 2018 at 10:30am Reply

    Well said Jonathan. I've been quite concerned by the negative comments on here about Jennifer Davis taking over the role of Elsa. I presume she was already covering the role for this run of performances and just stepped up when Christine Opolais had to cancel. It would be interesting to have the link to Christine Goerke's comments. For me, I'm very much looking forward to seeing Lohengrin (and Jennifer Davis) on 10th June!

    • Jonathan Sydenham responded on 3 June 2018 at 8:18am

      See CG’s FB post on 23.5 ... including a great selfie.

  29. Eddie Maxwell responded on 30 May 2018 at 2:05pm Reply

    I gather Ms. Davis was already covering the role when Ms. Opolais cancelled. Why are so many people being so negative when they haven't heard her yet? Ms. Davis impressed me mightily at the JPYA Summer Show when she sang Arabella and a very funny Donna Elvira. If she has taken this step too soon, we'll find out soon enough. But are Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera really going to give the part to someone who isn't ready in such an important event (the premiere of a new production) if they think she'll damage their reputation? I think the then-unknown Vittorio Grigolo was given the role of Des Grieux when another tenor withdrew. And what an exciting debut that was! Keep the complaints until Ms. Davis has sung - except those about the prices, of course!

  30. Charles Edwards responded on 1 June 2018 at 1:12am Reply

    The terribly ungenerous, poorly informed and monetarily obsessed tone of some of these remarks is very depressing. One of the most exciting things about the live art of opera is that, when a cast change takes place, new talent of extraordinary quality can suddenly come into the limelight. Sometimes, to coin a trashy phrase, a star is born. The night before Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, a young soprano went on as Sieglinde at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She had never performed an opera role on stage before. Her Siegmund was Lauritz Melchior. The performance was broadcast live. The pressure was immense. That singer was Astrid Varnay, one of the four greatest Wagnerian sopranos of last century, and we celebrated the centenary of her birth this spring. Yes, there are many aspects of her performance which deepened as she matured, but there was no arguing about her suitability for the role and the discovery of a major artist was indisputable and must have been a considerable thrill to all who were lucky enough to be in the house. Please, may I ask, as an artist working in this profession myself, that remarks posted of this kind be considered much more carefully: In the world of internet and social media based communication, it is quite possible that an artist could become aware of these kinds of pre-judging, negative and ungenerous comments in advance of a major role debut. It does no help to an artist who I happen to know is extremely gifted, very well-prepared and very engaging in the role already. And yes, I have been in rehearsal. Come and see and hear with open eyes and ears.

  31. Julian Saipe responded on 4 June 2018 at 10:20pm Reply

    Fear not. I heard Jennifer sing Elsa at today's dress rehearsal and she was world class!

  32. Loge responded on 5 June 2018 at 8:46pm Reply

    Replacing Opolais with this unknown singer who struggled to sing a decent Adina in L'Elisir d'amore one year ago is simply unacceptable and an insult to all of us who bought tickets for this performance.

    • Jonathan Sydenham responded on 8 June 2018 at 8:47pm

      “Lohengrin review, Royal Opera, Covent Garden: Jennifer Davis steps up and a star is born‘. Daily Telegraph.

    • Rog responded on 11 June 2018 at 10:27am

      The absurdity of your comment is amply demonstrated by the ecstatic reviews for Davis.

  33. Robin Bruce responded on 8 June 2018 at 9:37am Reply

    Jennifer Davis storms it! Don’t get trampled in the stampede for tickets after last night’s performance.

  34. Sebastian Petit responded on 9 June 2018 at 3:55pm Reply

    I do hope some of the posters above are feeling fairly silly. Jennifer Davis was, after Zeppenfeld's classic Heinrich, probably the most satisfying portrayal of the night.

  35. John R responded on 11 June 2018 at 11:33am Reply

    What a superb performance from Jennifer Davis! I can't imagine a better performance of the role of Elsa - vocally and acting-wise, this was outstanding.

  36. Dominique Chu responded on 12 June 2018 at 10:05am Reply

    I agree. Jennifer Davis was the star of the night. I think these replacements are a good opportunity to see someone new and clearly up and coming.

    Famous singers are apparently not the only brilliant ones.

  37. Andie Cayne responded on 29 June 2018 at 6:03pm Reply

    I didn't even realise that the young lady was a replacement. Okay, if the other one was such a 'star', maybe the prices should have been reduced a little - or at least a statement made by the ROH, a discount voucher for a future performance, something. I saw the performance last night and it was excellent and I was able to form an unbiased opinion on Ms Davis. Soon a big star as well for sure and lucky to have seen her!

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