I’m not sure how often you can compare the classical music world to bus timetables, but I have recently been reminded about that well-worn maxim that you wait for one for ages and then three come at once.
It’s like that with Bellini’s Norma – one of those bel canto standards, for too long out of the repertoire, which I have only seen staged once in some thirty years. Before, that is, ENO’s recent London production of Opera North’s Christopher Alden production (although there was an OHP version in 2014). Then there is the advance notification from the Edinburgh International Festival, which has now released its full programme, that Leise & Caurier’s Salzburg Festival production of Norma with Cecilia Bartoli will spearhead its opera programme in August. And on the same day (6 April) the Royal Opera announced its 16-17 Season, which opens with – guess what? Yes, Norma! – in a production by the Catalan collective La Fura dels Baus with Antonio Pappano at the helm and Anna Netrebko in the title role. And if you’re desperate for Norma, you’ve got a month left at the Coliseum to catch Glenn Close as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. And what are the bets there will now be no staging of the Bellini for years!
Another opera – coincidently – shared between this year’s Edinburgh Festival (August 5-29) and the Royal Opera next season is Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Edinburgh brings Festival d’Aix-en-Provence’s Christophe Honoré production, conducted by Jérémie Rhorer (August 25, 27 & 28 August), while, for the Royal Opera, Semyon Bychkov conducts Jan Phillipp Gloger’s production, by which he makes his UK debut (September 22-October 19).
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, the Usher Hall boasts a very strong Festival programme, with – appropriately for this article if nothing else – another Royal Opera connection in its opening concerts, as Pappano conducts Rossini’s Stabat Mater (August 6) and Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande (7th) – although these are with his Orchestra di Santa Cecilia. The Schoenberg is matched in the closing concert with Gurrelieder, marking the final concert for Donald Runnicles as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (August 28).
In between there are the Mariinsky Opera with Gergiev (Das Rheingold, August 15), Harding and the Swedish Radio SO with Daniil Trifonov (Beethoven Piano Concerto No.1 and Mahler 9, August 19), two concerts with the Russian National Orchestra with Kirill Karabits conducting two second symphonies and founder Mikhail Pletnev as soloist (August 20: Mozart Piano Concerto 24 with Tchaikovsky’s ‘Little Russian’ Symphony; August 21: Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto and Scriabin’s Second Symphony), Marin Alsop and São Paulo Symphony (Villa Lobos, Bernstein, Shostakovich, 22 August), Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra (Sibelius and Beethoven, 23 August), Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic (Mahler/Cooke Tenth Symphony, August 25) and two concerts with Herbert Blomstedt and the Leipzig Gewandhaus (Bruckner 5, August 26; Mendelssohn Scottish, August 27).
Meanwhile home-grown talent includes the St Matthew Passion with Gardiner and his Monteverdi forces (August 13), and Gardiner and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Schumann (August 11) and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Ticciati (August 18), the RSNO with Edward Gardner in Elgar’s Apostles (August 14) and a Boulez celebration with Matthias Pinscher and the BBC Scottish (August 12).
And perhaps by the time you’ve read this, the BBC Proms programme will be out (due April 13), so there will be more exciting programmes to report on.