Opera Australia launched its 2010 season on Wednesday night. I gather subscribers received their booklets today. I am knee deep in media releases. So it's time to start talking. When I'll stop is anybody's guess.
It is, as has been pointed out, a very GFC sort of season: on the conservative side, with perhaps more than the usual number of moneyspinners. In a single season, we'll see Tosca, La traviata, Rigoletto AND Le nozze di Figaro — all perpetual favourites — not to mention a musical (A Little Night Music) and surely the most lucrative of the company's G&S productions, The Pirates of Penzance with Anthony Warlow doing his best Captain Jack Sparrow. But then again, there are surprises lurking beneath that conventional surface. Tosca and Figaro are both new, modernised productions with what looks like definite feather-ruffling potential; and Traviata and Rigoletto are familiar productions but very strongly cast.
Maybe the feeling was that the presence of a brand new and much-hyped Australian opera was filled the risk-taking quotient on its own: certainly Brett Dean's Bliss is looking more exciting by the second. It's slightly disappointing, if not entirely surprising, to note that this season breaks two recent habits: at least as far back as 2006 (which is where my memory starts) the company has produced one baroque work and one Russian or Czech opera in every season, but the line-up for 2010 contains neither. Just quietly, I can live without the baroque for a year — Pinchgut fills that gap better anyway — but I hope that the absence of anything Slavic is a one-off. If Opera Australia doesn't give me a Katya Kabanova soon, I will have to consider drastic action.
Casting seems mostly pretty solid, although there are a few headscratching choices, and evidence that Fiona Janes's concerns about the misuse of younger singers (whether or not to the detriment of their elders) were not unfounded. But there are also some very exciting prospects indeed, and a couple of promising imports. Not too many of the latter, though: this is a season full of familiar Australian names.
It's not hard to see which singers the company has latched on to as its Future Stars, although it can sometimes be hard to see why. The established headliners, however, are out in force: we have good vehicles for Emma Matthews, Peter Coleman-Wright, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Dennis O'Neill, Aldo di Toro and of course she whose name is bolded more times in the media releases than anyone else's, Cheryl Barker. Not too many scandalous absences, although there are a few from whom we might have liked a more substantial presence. Joshua Bloom appears in Melbourne only, much to my dismay and that, I suspect, of many other Sydneysiders. Jonathan Summers, who I think is one of this country's finest singing actors (of any voice type) will be a wonderful Giorgio Germont, of course, but I'd have loved to see him in an even more prominent role. There's nothing for the excellent Emma Pearson either, but I imagine that's just a matter of time.
But others among my favourites have some juicy roles ahead: Shane Lowrencev as one of three Figaros, Lorina Gore as Honey B in Bliss (I'd have liked her as Susanna or Sophie too, but that's just being greedy, I suppose), Rachelle Durkin as both the Countess Almaviva and Britten's Tytania, and Catherine Carby as — swoon — Octavian. There's also a significant role début for a Young Artist, when the very promising David Corcoran takes over as the Duke of Mantua; and in the same production, David Parkin returns to sing Sparafucile, the role he sang when he won Operatunity Oz back in 2006, now with an ensemble contract and a prestigious scholarship under his belt — proof that TV talent show fame sometimes is the real thing.
And with all that (and much more) in mind, my top five picks are probably Bliss, Tosca, Midsummer Night's Dream, Der Rosenkavalier and La Sonnambula. Not necessarily in that order. Of course, this is all (well, some of it is) subject to change: there's always the possibility of something like Fidelio, which far exceeds my expectations. Although, let's be honest: not that much chance. As seasons go, this one's not exactly unpredictable.
Right. That's the short version. Now comes the play-by-play. Come with me if you dare...
TOSCA - NEW PRODUCTION
Jan 8th - Mar 27th (Sydney)
Apr 14th - May 13th (Melbourne)
A Cheryl Barker Tosca was always going to be an unmissable prospect — not just for me — in any incarnation. I'd assumed they'd just use the same Copley production they've had for decades, a thought which neither thrilled nor particularly upset me; but I'm very very excited that this will in fact be a new production. And not just new, but controversial, too: it's Christopher Alden's Opera North production, which moves the opera out of Napoleonic Rome and into the present day, setting it (all of it) in a derelict church vestry. The production has had great reviews in the UK, but it's bound to raise more than a few eyebrows — no bad thing, I say. Pictures here (link now fixed), if you want a preview, and reviews are easily found online too, if you don't mind a few spoilers. Cheryl is not the only drawcard. The wonderfully dastardly John Wegner is her Scarpia, a pairing which is bound to be an explosive pairing. The usual suspects make up the supporting cast: Jud Arthur as Angelotti, Warwick Fyfe as the Sacristan, Graeme Macfarlane as Spoletta, Luke Gabbedy as Spoletta and Sian Pendry as ... the Marchese Attavanti. Yes, really. The only spanner in the works is Rosario La Spina as Cavaradossi, whom I sincerley doubt will reach the same level, vocally or dramatically, as his two extraordinary co-stars. Nicole Youl, Carlo Barricelli (whom I would have loved to see cast opposite Cheryl) and Warwick Fyfe take over the three lead roles from February 16th. Tosca has a Melbourne season in April/May with a combination of the two Sydney casts: Nicole, Rosario and John. Andrea Licata and Tom Woods conduct in Sydney; Melbourne has Shao-Chia Lü, who gave us such a magical Butterfly earlier this year.
Jan 15th - Feb 13th
The first Opera Australia production I ever saw was Manon with Amelia Farrugia and Julian Gavin. Now it's back and so are they. My vague memories (and the blog post I wrote back then) are mostly positive, I think, although it might be strange to come to terms with Massenet's Manon so soon after Puccini's. But Amelia should be well suited to it, maybe even more so now than then, and I'm very pleased to have another chance to hear Julian: in 2004 I wasn't much good at appreciating male voices, but I'm his fan now. And speaking of male voices, the cast for this Manon also includes one of the company's most beautiful: José Carbo sings Lescaut. I love having José on a cast list: it's a sort of guarantee that even if everything else is terrible (not that I'm expecting it to be) there will at least be one person on stage singing and acting up a storm. We also have the bonus of Stephen Bennett doing what he does best (stern father) as the Comte des Grieux. Kanen Breen is Guillot de Morfontaine, Richard Anderson is De Brétigny and Richard Alexander is the Innkeeper. The three actresses are Taryn Fiebig, Amy Wilkinson and Jacqueline Dark, which seems like pretty starry casting (in OA terms) for these not very large roles: couldn't one of these have been given to Jane Parkin, who'll be a Young Artist next year? Frédéric Chaslin conducts, his Australian début.
Jan 22nd - Mar 29th
The last time OA did La traviata, it was double cast, and there was just one single, magical night when Elvira Fatykhova and Aldo di Toro coincided. That was the night I chose, and they were both gorgeous. So this time round the company has very sensibly given them a whole season together. It's wonderful to have Elvira back after such a long absence — she's not been back since that last Traviata — and Aldo is just the dreamiest Alfredo I've ever seen. He made me feel like the opera was about him and not her. I went back a second time just to hear him again, the first time I'd ever done that for a boy, and in fact, it was that experience which marked the beginning of my really beginning to get tenors, full stop. But wait, there's more: Giorgio Germont is none other than the magnificent Jonathan Summers. I've been known to take rather a dim view of this character in the past, but if anyone can bring out all his subtleties and make a sympathetic figure of him, it's Jonathan. This production might be a warhorse through and through, but with these three in the cast, I'm suddenly excited. And even when Jonathan departs halfway through the season, it's still a great cast: he's replaced by the similarly stylish Michael Lewis. At least two of the supporting cast are back from last time: Dominica Matthews as Flora (the first role I ever heard her sing) and Shane Lowrencev as Baron Douphol. Stephen Bennett is in there too, as the doctor. Teresa La Rocca is Annina (she deserves something bigger, don't you think?) and Andrew Jones — who I'm delighted to see is joined the 2010 Young Artists Program — is the Marquie d'Obigny. Conducting duties are shared between Philippe Auguin and Brian Castles-Onion.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Feb 18th - Mar 24th (Sydney)
Dec 4th - 18th (Melbourne)
Nothing baroque, nothing Slavic, but at least we still get our annual Britten fix. (I heard rumours of an Albert Herring for this season too, but apparently not — or at least, not any more.) I have to say that when I heard OA was doing this opera, I hoped they'd be using the production which Neil Armfield has just done for Houston Grand Opera. And while I'm slightly disappointed not to have a chance to see that production (it looked fabulous), I'm very intrigued to see Baz Luhrmann's, for which I've heard such rapturous praise. The cast list makes me pretty happy, especially the girls: Rachelle Durkin is Tytania (yes!), Catherine Carby is Hippolyta and Sian Pendry (whose Dorabella I suspect I'm about to love) is Hermia. And then there's Lisa Harper-Brown, whom I've never heard but whose reputation precedes her, and whose Helena I can't wait to hear. I love Helena. (I also have a bit of a literary crush on this play, in any incarnation.) Among the boys, I'm most excited to hear James Egglestone — he was amazing in, of all things, Christmas at the House, and I've been hoping to hear him in real opera ever since — and the lovely Tobias Cole. Then there's Luke Gabbedy (in real life married to our Hermia) as Demetrius, Jud Arthur as Theseus, Graeme Macfarlane as Flute, a couple of Richards (Alexander and Anderson) and a couple of Andrews (Brunsdon and Moran) and best of all, one Conal Coad as Bottom, guaranteed, I should think, to steal the show. Melbourne has a few arrangements for its Spring Season: Dominica Matthews is Hermia, Henry Choo is Lysander and (pangs of jealousy, although I do get Rachelle) Lorina Gore is Tytania. Alexander Briger conducts in Sydney, Britten expert Paul Kildea in Melbourne.
BLISS - WORLD PREMIERE
Mar 12th - 30th (Sydney)
Apr 20th - May 1st (Melbourne)
The one we've all been waiting for, no? I don't remember when I first heard that this was going to happen, but it was a while ago, and it's been in the works for much longer even than that: the commission was started by Simone Young, for heaven's sake. With so much build-up, expectations are inevitably going to be high, so I hope and pray it lives up to them. Something tells me it will. The fact that it's been built around Peter Coleman-Wright as Harry Joy helps, although we probably need to forget about Mandryka and Don Pizarro for a moment and cast our minds back to Sweeney Todd for a sense of the brutal realism he can bring to the stage. I keep meaning to read the novel in preparation; I just know that when I do, it will be Peter I'll be seeing in my mind. Meryln Quaife, whom I've only heard briefly but whose reputation as a singer of new music is second to none, seems an ideal choice for Harry's mad wife Betty, and Lorina Gore has a chance to shine brighter than ever as Honey B. (Is Peter ever in an opera which doesn't also contain Lorina? Arabella, Fidelio, Peter Grimes and now Bliss.) The formidable Milijana Nikolic has what seems to be her only role of the year as Mrs Dalton, Kanen Breen is somebody called Johnny, and David Corcoran is, funnily enough, David. Barry Ryan is Harry's friend Alex: how nice to see such a lovely pair of baritones together for once. Then there's some role doubling: Henry Choo is both Aldo (an Italian waiter) and Nigel Clunes, Shane Lowrencev is Reverend Des/Police Officer 2/"Nurse" and Stephen Smith is Police Officer 1/Betty's Doctor — whether this doubling just economical or has some kind of Wizard of Oz style symbolism remains to be seen, I suppose. And we even get an onstage violinist (shouldn't it be a violist?), Erkki Veltheim. The production has wisely been entrusted to the safe and revelatory hands of Neil Armfield, and Elgar Howarth conducts. This production is also noteworthy for its rather extraordinary promotional headshot of Peter C-W; if you have a subscription booklet, you know what I mean.
LA SONNAMBULA - NEW PRODUCTION
Apr 30th - May 15th (Melbourne)
Aug 5th - 24th (Sydney)
Like this year's Bellini, Sonnambula starts in Melbourne and comes later to Sydney. And again, Emma Matthews stars, with Hye Seoung Kwon scheduled to sing a couple of the Sydney performances only. Aldo di Toro is her Elvino here in Sydney; I'm not entirely sure who sings it in Melbourne, because I have two conflicting press releases — a detailed Autumn Season summary, which says it's Aldo, and a National Overview which names Jorge Lopez-Yanez for the role. I'd imagine it's the latter (update: yes, it is - see comments), although I think Melburnians would be delighted with either. There is, however, a minor tragedy in the casting for this production. The wonderful Joshua Bloom is Count Rodolfo, but only in Melbourne. We've not had Joshua at OA since Cenerentola two seasons, and now we have to go without him for another year? They'd better have something brilliant in the works for him. Taryn Fiebig is the jealous Lisa in Melbourne; here we have lovely Lorina (does she need a surname by now?). And lo and behold, more Stephen Bennett — he's Sydney's Rodolfo, and while I'll miss Joshua awfully, I shan't complain at the prospect of Stephen. Jacqueline Dark gets to play another matron as Amina's guardian Lisa; in Melbourne Elizabeth Campbell takes the role. Richard Bonynge conducts in both cities. And the production is a brand new Opera Conference venture directed by Julie Edwardson and "inspired by the writings of Freud and Jung, the vibrant colours of German Expressionist art, and, of course, Bellini's exhilarating tumble of sweet melodies", apparently. You can see the set models here.
DIE FLEDERMAUS - MIT SPECIAL GUEST
May 11th - 22nd
This is the annual Melbourne-only production, so according to tradition, we'll probably have it here next year. I've been thinking it would be nice to have some operetta (other than G&S) and I do have a special place in my heart for Fledermaus, the first work I was ever moved to own multiple recordings of. Lord knows how many times I sat at my piano and played my way through the thing. And yet, I have to be honest, the advance publicity for this Melbourne production doesn't exactly have me seething with jealousy. Rosalinde and Gabriel von Eisenstein will be sung by Antoinette Halloran and David Hobson, and while I've enjoyed them both in other contexts, I can't really picture either of them (or their voices) fitting into those roles. Actually, I don't really want to hear David Hobson sing anything operatic; he's great to watch on stage but I can't abide that voice. Stephen Smith, on the other hand, will be just right as Alfred, and likewise Kanen Breen as a no doubt camp-as-anything Blind. The cast also includes Taryn Fiebig, Catherine Carby, Warwick Fyfe and John Bolton-Wood, presumably as Adele, Orlofsky, Falke and Frank respectively. However, the major selling point of this Fledermaus (apart from a slightly disconcerting mention in the press release of David's and Antoinette's being not just opera singers but "popular television personalities) is none of the above, but rather the special guest at Orlofsky's party — none other than Yvonne Kenny, singing whatever party piece happens to take her fancy. (Please, not Vilja.) It's a nice gimmick, and I guess also a nod to her status now as the grande dame of Australian opera, but it seems just a little bit odd to me, and I can't help wonder if this is a sign that a certain announcement might be on the horizon. We'll see. A couple of years ago I probably would have flown to Melbourne for this, but not now.
A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
Jun 28th - July 13th
This show premiered in Melbourne earlier this year. It hits Sydney in 2010, still with Sigrid Thornton as Desirée. She and Nancye Hayes are the only cast members named in the publicity, so I don't know whether we can expect the rest of the Melbourne cast too, or whether it will be a new line-up. It's only a short, opera-length season, but then, that's how My Fair Lady began too; the 8-shows-a-week schedule and venue change came later. Musical theatre (Rodgers & Hammerstein excepted) isn't really my bag; I like it well enough but my knowledge of Sondheim is, I'm afraid to say, more or less limited to the songs used in the revue Putting It Together, which I bought and devoured during my Julie Andrews phase. I did like Sweeney Todd a lot, however. But I don't even know that I should review a show like this, it makes me feel even more a phoney than usual; My Fair Lady was hard enough to write about, and that's a show I happen to know inside out (again, Julie Andrews phase).
LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST - NEW PRODUCTION
Jul 14th - Aug 6th
This is an Opera Conference production, which means it will do the rounds of the state companies as well. In fact, it's just finished up a season in Adelaide. (That link even includes a "sneak peak" video of the production.) Lisa Gasteen was to have sung Minnie, and made it as far as the subscription booklet, but has now withdrawn from the production; her replacement hasn't yet been named, but right now I think my vote is for Anke Hoeppner, who's singing in the same production in Perth later this year — I mean, surely it's much easier to cast her now than to wait until half an hour before the show starts and then make the call. As in Adelaide, Jack Rance is John Wegner. Honorary Australian Dennis O'Neill is Dick Johnson: I don't imagine he's going to be the most convincing mysterious stranger/bandit in the world, but the man sure can sing, so we can cope. They're supported by a cast of ever more improbably named men and one very improbably named woman, Wowkle (Dominica Matthews). I could list all those men, or you could just look at a list somewhere else; I'm opting for the latter on your behalf, because I've really nothing to add. But it's a nice selection of some of my favourite supporting-actor type singers. Arvo Volmer conducts, another carry-over from the SA production.
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO - NEW PRODUCTION
Jul 23rd - October(!) 23rd (Sydney)
Nov 17th - Dec 17th (Melbourne)
Yes, a new production of Figaro. I didn't think the Neil Armfield staging was particularly old (especially not compared to some of the productions still in repertory) but we're waving it goodbye already and saying hello to a brand new staging by Benedict Andrews, who recently won a Helpmann for The War of the Roses with (sigh) Cate Blanchett. (Yes, I did just want a chance to bold her name on this blog.) This one, like the Tosca, might make a few people less than happy, and I have to say, it's a weird concept: Figaro in a modern day gated community. But it might work. I remain utterly open-minded. And the promo photo of Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Fiebig is quite special, not that that's necessarily anything to go by. So, yes, Teddy and Taryn are our Figaro and Susanna; or at least, they're the first Figaro and Susanna. Teddy hands over to Richard Anderson on September 14th, and he in turn is replaced by Shane Lowrencev for the last six Sydney performances. I hope it's a good production, because I'd quite like to see all three of them. Taryn sings Susanna until August 18th, and then Australia's Susanna par excellence, Tiffany Speight, takes over. Two of my favourite baritones in the world share the role of the Count: first Peter Coleman-Wright and then José Carbo — c'est trop! Melbourne gets the first Figaro and Count and the second (only in the chronological sense, of course) Susanna: Teddy, Peter and Tiffany. Sian Pendry shares Cherubino with Dominica Matthews in Sydney, and sings it Melbourne as well. Three sopranos divide Countess duties, and this is where it gets a bit strange. Rachelle Durkin starts the Sydney season: a logical progression after her Donna Anna last year and Fiordiligi this year, and I think a nice fit for her voice and artistic temperament (provided the character is allowed to be at least a little bit mad.) But in the second hald of the Sydney season, Amy Wilkinson takes the role, and in Melbourne it's Hye Seoung Kwon — and I'm sorry, but I just don't think either soprano has the artistic maturity to do this role justice. Yes, I know the character is younger than she's usually portrayed, but there's a gravity and poignancy to her music which I think requires a voice more ingrained with experience than either of these sopranos currently has at her disposal. They are (or at least, Amy is) welcome to prove me wrong. Sydney's Marcellina is Jacqui Dark, which is guaranteed to be wonderful fun; Melbourne's is Elizabeth Campbell. Warwick Fyfe is Bartolo in both cities, although he shares the role with Jud Arthur here. Basilio and Curzio are Kanen Breen and Graeme Macfarlane. Sydney has a triumvirate of conductors: Patrick Summers, Stephen Mould and Anthony Legge and Melbourne adds a fourth, Marko Letonja.
Just one final word I want to say about this Figaro (and I'm sure I'll be misunderstood): I'm as open as it gets to modernised productions. I also like traditional productions, and everything in between: anything goes, provided it's not stupid or obstructive. Nevertheless, it worries me a little that Opera Australia will now have a Mozart-Da Ponte repertory consisting entirely of thoroughly modern stagings: Elke's drug-fueled Don Giovanni, whatever Jim Sharman's done with Cosi, and now a gated community Figaro; not to mention Entführung in an airport. And while all of these have their individual merits, I think it would be both nice (for us) and sensible (for OA) to have one vaguely eighteenth century Mozart production in the stable. Not necessarily a rigid period productions,but just something that looks and feels a bit more typically Mozartean: like Neil Armfield's Figaro, which brings in modern appliances here and there but does it in eighteenth century costume. Variety is a positive thing, and it works both ways. Now go ahead and yell at me for being a such a stick-in-the-mud, even though that's obviously not what I mean.
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
Aug 25th - Sep 24th; Oct 28th - Nov 6th
It had to happen. I'm not complaining. Even if I loathed and despised Pirates and everything associated with it, I'd still have to be grateful to it for funding some of the less lucrative (and much better) operas in the season. And I don't loathe and despite it. Actually, I don't really know it — you know what I'm like with G&S. But I enjoyed The Mikado and I'm sure I'll enjoy this, especially with Anthony Warlow as The Pirate King; although maybe the Jack Sparrow thing will start to grate after a while. The subscription booklet lists no further cast details, but the press release fills the gap. Amy Wilkinson is Edith, Andrew Brunsdon is Samuel (about time he had more than two lines in something) and Richard Alexander is the Chief of Police. I wish I could say more but I don't know who these people are. The characters, I mean. All I know is that Edith Mabel (not yet cast) has a very fun aria; the aria, in fact, which first revealed the coloratura talents of a very very young Yvonne Kenny.
Sept 18th - Nov 4th (Sydney)
Nov 22nd - Dec 18th (Melbourne)
I can't claim to have been desperate for another Rigoletto, but then again, it's one of those operas I always like much more in practice than in theory. Besides, this one is quite richly cast. With Sonnambula, it's one of the year's Obligatory Emma Vehicles: she sings Gilda in both Sydney and Melbourne (although she splits the role with Natalie Jones in Melbourne). I don't know about this. Gilda isn't as light as "Caro nome" would have you believe, and Emma is a small scale singer; whether she can carry to the back of the house in this role remains to be seen. She's singing it in Brisbane first, so it will be interesting to see what the response there is like. In any case, she's surrounded by some pretty promising talent. Alan Opie, last heard here in OA's concert performance of The Pilgrim's Progress, sings the title role for the first half of the Sydney season, before handing over to Warwick Fyfe. The lecherous Duke is sung by two young Australian tenors (yes, we actually have young tenors, all hope is not lost...) — first Paul O'Neill, in his OA début, and then Young Artist Program alumnus David Corcoran. A quick Google search tells me that O'Neill has also sung (this role, in fact) at Opera Holland Park, which for my own biased reasons is a point in any singer's favour. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, Rigoletto is the excellent Michael Lewis, maybe our best Verdi baritone, and the Duke, like it or lump it, is Rosario La Spina. Melbourne beats Sydney on the Maddalena/Giovanni front: they get Jacqui Dark, we get Elizabeth Campbell. (Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Elizabeth, but as Maddalena? And also, Opera Australia, isn't it just a little early to be trying to turn Jacqui into the New Elizabeth?) It's great to see David Parkin back singing the role which was his Operatunity prize, Sparafucile; in Melbourne Richard Anderson is the assassin. Giovanni Reggioli and Ollivier-Philippe Cunéo conduct in Sydney, Marko Letonja in Melbourne.
Oct 1st - 30th
If anything can comfort me for the fact that I'm awake at 3am typing endlessly and aimlessly to complete a post which I doubt anybody's still reading closely by now, it's that I get to finish up with this. How long have I waited for this? All my life? I was brought up to love this opera, even if it took me a while to do so. I remember having my homework interrupted by my father, who ordered me to come into the other room and marvel at the beauty of Lucia Popp's Sophie. Then I watched that film again myself, and was transfixed by Gwyneth Jones. My heart has always been with the Marschallin. I love her more than probably any other operatic character; only Butterfly, in a very different way comes close. This opera is my opera, the opera I'm sure Richard Strauss devised with me specifically in mind. (None of this means it's my favourite, by the way. It actually isn't. But it does come very close.)
And for five years, I've wanted nothing more than to hear — and see — my most adored soprano sing the Marschallin. That dream has persisted: the only thing that's changed is, well, the identity of the soprano. For a long time, I regretted bitterly that Yvonne had sung the role in New Zealand just months before I discovered opera properly. But lately, I've had a new Marschallin in mind, and she's one who's granting my wish. Cheryl Barker will be the Marschallin in my first ever live Rosenkavalier. I could not ask for anything more perfect.
Oh, but Catherine Carby as Octavian would be nice. Another, more recent wish granted. I'd hoped to make it three, with either Lorina Gore or Emma Pearson as Sophie, but that was stretching the friendship I suppose: our Sophie is Hye Seoung Kwon, and while she's not my first choice, she's also far from being my last, and it's possible she might just be wonderful. Clive Bayley is our Ochs, an English import and not a name I know; Warwick Fyfe is Faninal, the right kind of role for him. Jacqui Dark is our Annina (we're really getting quite a lot of Jacqui, but I still want her to be the star for once) and Teresa La Rocca is Marianne. No word on Valzacchi yet. Stephen Bennett is the Police Commissioner and Attorney, Andrew Brunsdon is the Landlord and Struhan, and the Italian Singer is the not very Italianate Henry Choo; I'd been semi-hoping that this run might coincide with Fanciulla so that they could poach Dennis O'Neill for a bit of superluxury casting, but no such luck.
Anyway, it all comes back — for me, anyway — to the Marschallin and to Cheryl. And yes, I'm planning to see every performance. Which equates, yes, to 34 hours (including intervals). I'm curious to see how I cope with the Marschallin-free second act: on the one hand, I might be tempted, after the first few, to just go and have a meal somewhere; and on the other — that duet. I'm fascinated to see what Cheryl does with this character, whom I already adore, and in how that character develops throughout the season. Besides, she's going to look drop dead gorgeous in those frocks.