Royal Opera House new season highlights

Published: 28 March 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Edward Watson and artists of the Royal Ballet in The Dante Project Credit: Cheryl Mann

The Royal Opera House's first full season since 2019 features 11 new productions—including 5 world premières—and 20 revivals. Full details will be announced on 1 June.

There will be world premières of three ballets with Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor’s The Dante Project, Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon’s Like Water for Chocolate and a new work (as part of a contemporary mixed bill) by American choreographer Kyle Abraham.

The Dante Project in October 2021, The Royal Ballet’s first co-production with Paris Opera Ballet, takes its inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy and is presented as part of the 700th anniversary celebrations of the poet’s death in 1321 with a collaboration between McGregor, composer Thomas Adès and artist Tacita Dean. Edward Watson performs the role of Dante.

Like Water for Chocolate, based on the Mexican novel of the same name by Laura Esquivel, is a co-commission between The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre and reunites Wheeldon with composer Joby Talbot, costume and set designer Bob Crowley and lighting designer Natasha Katz. Esquivel’s love story will be led by Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé.

Revivals will include Giselle, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, works by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet.

The Royal Ballet will present Company Wayne McGregor at the Linbury theatre in The Dark Crystal: Odyssey, a work for family audiences based on Jim Henson’s 1982 film. Ballet Black returns to the Linbury with a mixed programme by choreographers Mthuthuzeli November and Will Tuckett. Yorke Dance Project also returns, and Dance Reflections by Van Cleef & Arpels Festival will feature a selection of established works alongside new pieces of choreography. The Linbury Theatre will again be host to Draft Works.

The Royal Opera Season will open with a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, directed by Oliver Mears, in September 2021, with Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Carlos Álvarez performs in the title role, alongside Lisette Oropesa and Liparit Avetisyan.

Katie Mitchell will direct a new production of Handel’s oratorio Theodora in January 2022, a work not seen on the stage at Covent Garden since 1750. An international cast includes American soprano Julia Bullock in the title role and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as Irene, alongside British tenor Ed Lyon, Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński and Hungarian-Romanian baritone Gyula Orendt. Harry Bicket will conduct and choreography is by Shelley Maxwell.

Other operas include Claus Guth’s production of Jenůfa, with Henrik Nánási conducting Asmik Grigorian in the title role, Nicky Spence as her jealous suitor Laca, Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička and Andrew Staples as Števa and a new production of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes in collaboration with Teatro Real, Madrid. Deborah Warner directs and Mark Elder conducts a cast that includes British singers Allan Clayton, Bryn Terfel and John Tomlinson alongside Maria Bengtsson and former Jette Parker Young Artist Jacques Imbrailo. This new production will première in Madrid in April 2021 before going to the Royal Opera House in March 2022.

In January 2022, the 75th anniversary of The Royal Opera company will be celebrated in a performance of Carmen. More details on the anniversary celebrations will be announced soon.

Opera revivals will include Anna Netrebko in Nabucco, Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca, Sonya Yoncheva in Madama Butterfly and Simon Keenlyside in Macbeth, plus the return of La traviata with six sopranos singing the role of Violetta in Richard Eyre’s production: Lisette Oropesa, Ekaterina Bakanova, Anush Hovhannisyan, Pretty Yende, Angel Blue and Hrachuhí Bassénz. Keith Warner’s production of Otello is revived in summer 2022 with American tenor Russell Thomas in the title role. Daniele Rustoni will conduct a cast including Hrachuhí Bassénz as Desdemona and Christopher Maltmann as Iago. Jonas Kaufmann takes the lead roles in Damiano Michieletto’s double production of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci alongside Albanian soprano ErmonelaJaho and Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili.

Little Bulb Theatre returns to the Linbury with a new Christmas show for family audiences and a new opera, The Blue Woman, by composer Laura Bowler and librettist Laura Lomas. Directed by Katie Mitchell, this new commission explores violence against women. Bajazet, co-produced with Irish National Opera and directed by Adele Thomas, will see the ROH’s first opera by Vivaldi presented on the Linbury stage.