English National Opera has something to suit all tastes for the 2021-22 season – ranging from the seriousness of actuality to the frivolous and lighthearted, with a healthy dash of passion and tragedy thrown into the mix.
Satyagraha, Philip Glass’s account of Mahatma Gandhi’s early years in South Africa, opens the season. Set to a text from the ancient Sanskrit scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, it looks at Gandhi’s concept of non-violent protest as a positive force for change, relating the experiences which were instrumental in his development as a great leader. Staged by Phelim McDermott, Satyagraha stars Sean Panikkar as Gandhi, Musa Ngqungwana as Lord Krishna and William Thomas as Parsi Rustomji. With conductor Carolyn Kuan – making her ENO debut – Satyagraha runs between 14th and 28th October.
Award-winning Cal McCrystal stages Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera HMS Pinafore (29 October – 11 December) for the first time in the Company’s history. It tells the hilarious story of a group of preposterous characters aboard a naval ship, and – with its tale of forbidden love – takes a swipe at the British class system. Will the captain’s daughter marry the lowly sailor or the First Lord of the Admiralty as expected? Les Dennis is Sir Joseph, John Savournin is Captain Corcoran, and the roles of Ralph and Josephine are played by Elgan Llŷr Thomas and Alexandra Oomens. The conductor is Chris Hopkins, and HMS Pinafore runs between 29 October and 11 December.
Norse mythology, scheming Gods and the conflict between Wotan, leader of the gods, and his warrior daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, form the backdrop to Richard Wagner’s The Valkyrie – the second part of his Ring cycle. Richard Jones directs this dramatic production in which Wotan’s son Siegmund, together with Sieglinde, is fleeing for his life from her husband Hunding, with a showdown looming between the two men. The cast includes Matthew Rose as Wotan, Rachell Nicholls as Brünnhilde, Nicky Spence as Siegmund, Emma Bell as Sieglinde, Brindley Sherratt as Hunding, and Susan Bickley as Fricka. The ENO Orchestra is conducted by Music Director Martyn Brabbins in a production which runs from 19th November to 10th December. Over the next five years, the other three parts of Wagner’s Ring cycle – Das Rheingold, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung will be staged at London’s Coliseum.
La bohème, Puccini’s passionate and heartbreaking portrayal of love, friendship and loss in the bohemian quarter of Paris, brings to the stage of the Coliseum some of the most beautiful music ever written for opera. This Jonathan Miller production – which returns to ENO – was inspired by the photographs of Paris and Parisians taken during the 1930s by Hungarian-born French photographer Brassaï. The role of Mimi is shared between Sinéad Campell-Wallace and Nadine Benjamin, and that of Rodolfo by David Junghoon Kim. Louise Alder is Musetta, Charles Rice is Marcello, William Thomas is Colline, and the role of Schaunard is shared by Benson Wilson and Alex Otterburn. Ben Glassberg conducts the performances which run between 31 Jan and 27 Feb 2022.
Leoš Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen explores the relationship between man and nature, as Sharp Ears, the clever Vixen of the title, is captured by a Forester. She ultimately manages to escape, but he is forever haunted by her memory. Progressing through the different worlds of both Vixen and Forester, the opera shows how just one chance meeting between two beings can change the lives of both. This new production is directed by Jonathan Manton, and ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins leads the orchestra, chorus and soloists who include Sally Matthews as the Vixen and Lester Lynch as the Forester. The Cunning Little Vixen runs between 18 February and 1 March 2022.
Director Phelim McDermott brings Mozart’s Così fan tutte forward to the brash and gaudy Coney Island in the 1950s, where sisters Fiordiligi (Nardus Williams) and Dorabella (Hanna Hipp) are holidaying with their fiancés, Ferrando (Amitai Pati) and Guglielmo (Benson Wilson. Don Alfonso (Neal Davies), however, decides to gamble with the lovers’ feelings, causing much confusion and delivering some surprising results. Some of Mozart’s best-loved music is conducted by Kerem Hasan in a production which runs between 10 and 22 March 2022.
Poul Ruders’ The Handmaid’s Tale is based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Attwood. This production, directed by ENO’s Artistic Director Annilese Miskimmon, tells of a Handmaid named Offred, one of the women forced to reproduce with Commanders of the Republic of Gilead. This sobering production focuses on the daily terrors experienced by Offred, as she endures the lack of rights and freedom which is the fate of all of the women of the Republic. The score by Danish composer Ruders – influenced by minimalism, medieval chanting and gospel music – is conducted by contemporary music specialist Joana Carneiro. Kate Lindsey takes the role of Offred, Susan Bickley is her mother, Emma Bell is Aunt Lydia, and John Findon is Luke. The production runs between 4 and 14 April 2022.
Visit the ENO website for more information and for tickets.
Information sourced from ENO programme notes