The new season is upon us - at the Royal Opera, it's kicked off with two revivals of very flawed productions which may yield good singing, but I'll give 'em a miss - and on 7 October I and my loyal students, along with a few new members, reconvene in splendid Pushkin House, Bloomsbury Square, for more journeys through the rich and rare.
In October, we depart from the most usual format of two operas split each 10-week tern with five Monday afternoons on each. This time we start with three classes on Handel's early cornucopia of brilliant ideas Agrippina, to coincide with a new production at the Royal Opera House starring Joyce DiDonato (if it's half as good as the ENO staging with Sarah Connolly, Christine Rice and Lucy Crowe, among others - Crowe returns here - I'll be happy). Moving forwards in time for the following five classes, the focus is on Gluck's incomparably concise balance of classical restraint and romantic emotion in Orfeo ed Euridice - undoubtedly the greatest of English National Opera's chosen operas on the theme of the Greek poet in music. We'll also be taking sideways glances at Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld and Harrison Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus. For the last two Mondays, we get to grips with the music of Berlin-era Weill to coincide with English Touring Opera's rare staging of his acidic fable Der Silbersee (Silverlake).
January sees us resume our four-year journey through Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, in tandem with Vladimir Jurowski's annual performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. We go into the woods and up a mountain with Siegfried, the most fairy-tale-like of the tetralogy.
Summer begins in blood-soaked ancient Mycenae with Strauss's Elektra - the ultimate development of the Wagnerian line, also pointing the way forwards to a more concise form of searing music-theatre. The season needs one hundred-per-cent Italian opera, and it was time to return to the miracle of exquisite orchestration and dramatic timing that is Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Both operas are in the Royal Opera's repertoire - Elektra in a new production starring the phenomenal Nina Stemme, Butterfly a revival witnessing the return of Ermonela Jaho.
If you're interested in joining us, leave a message with your email; I won't publish it but I will respond.
So, off next to Gartmore House in the Trossachs to resume my Ring course for the Wagner Society of Scotland over four Septembers with Die Walküre. I wrote a bit about last year's fun if exhausting experience here. This time sunshine is forecast for a day or two - last year, after the above sunset on arrival, it rained on and off for the whole weekend - so I'll be making the most of my few afternoon hours off between some of the 13 (!) lectures in three and a bit days.