The Royal Opera in review: A look back on 2013 from Kasper Holten
The Director of Opera picks out his highlights of the year. Do you agree?
30 December 2013 at 3.36pm | 10 Comments
It’s hard to sum up a whole year in a few words. Not only were there both successes and disappointments, but for those of us lucky enough to work at the Royal Opera House, there was also all the work backstage to put the productions together. In a way, this is the biggest highlight of all: being allowed to work at the Royal Opera House means working with talented and passionate colleagues, and constantly meeting a flux of some of the world’s leading artists coming to work with us.
That said, I’ve picked out a few of my highlights of 2013:
Les Vêpres siciliennes
Introducing Norwegian director Stefan Herheim to UK audiences was something I was hugely looking forward to, and with him and Antonio Pappano getting on like a house on fire for Les Vêpres siciliennes, it was every bit as exciting as I’d hoped for. I was also the very first ever live presenter for a Royal Opera live cinema relay when Vêpres went out to audiences around the world – a wonderful way of sharing our work with tens of thousands around the world.
Directing Eugene Onegin
Directing Eugene Onegin was very special. Getting to work with all the people on the stage, in the chorus and orchestra, I felt like I had finally really arrived at the ROH. Although many audiences and critics did not like the production, I was also lucky to get a large number of very positive and passionate responses. Dividing opinion is not necessarily bad, when we talk about artistic work. I enjoy engaging and discussing with our audiences, both when I agree and when I don’t.
Written on Skin
Maybe the highlight of the whole 2012–13 Season for me was the overwhelming success of the UK premiere of George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s Written on Skin, which we co-commissioned. I have a passion for new music and it is always fascinating to watch a new work come to the stage, but it is rare for it to immediately capture the imagination of an audience in the way Written on Skin did.
During the autumn Wozzeck, Parsifal, Le nozze di Figaro and Elektra made for some very intense moments – and full houses! Simon Keenlyside’s troubled Wozzeck and Mark Elder’s impressive reading of Berg’s score were wonderful, while Christine Goerke, Adrianne Pieczonka and Andris Nelsons’s performances in Elektra are still ringing in my ears. Andris, Mark and Tony Pappano drew incredible performances from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, who seems to be on better form than ever before, and the Royal Opera Chorus made us all so proud in Parsifal.
Outreach work making a difference
Some of the things that make ROH very special do not necessarily get noticed by the general public. The Learning and Participation team at ROH are fantastic, and although some of their projects make a very visible impact, they do great work ‘under the radar’ too. Following the work of the Youth Opera Company, and seeing older people from community centres and housing schemes coming to ROH for the first time to sing together were just two examples of how it feels like ROH can make a difference.
Taking on the Linbury
During 2013, The Royal Opera took over the programming of all opera work in the Linbury Studio Theatre, which feels like a natural and important thing for us to do. It was wonderful to have as potent a piece as Gerald Barry’s Importance of Being Earnest in Ramin Gray’s strong production to start off the new era.
Other notable mentions
Here’s hoping that 2014 will offer many more highlights. The first new production of the new year will be my own take on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty once again!
What were your Royal Opera highlights of 2013?