Countdown to the Britten Centennial: Key 2010-2011 Productions in Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles

Over the past couple of years, a selection of Benjamin Britten operas, including major new productions of  “Billy Budd’ and  “Albert Herring” at Santa Fe Opera; “Death in Venice” at Hamburg Staatsoper; and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Turn of the Screw” at Houston Grand Opera have been highlighted in this website’s features In Quest of Britten – A 2008-09 Itinerary and In Quest of Britten – A 2010 Itinerary. (Reviews and production photos may be accessed on those two previous webpages.)

We will continue this series, counting down to the  100th anniversary of Britten’s birth, here highlighting productions originating in Australia, Texas and Great Britain, that will be part of the 2010-11 seasons of three major American opera companies.

Peter Grimes (Britten) Houston Grand Opera, October 29, 31(m), November 6, 10 and 12, 2010

Neil Armfield’s brilliant productions and Conductor Patrick Summers’ musical leadership have assured that Houston Grand Opera’s ambitious Britten cycle would be an artistic triumph. Armfield’s production of “Peter Grimes”, Houston’s co-production with with Opera Australia, West Australia Opera and the Perth International Arts Festival, arrives in Houston with Anthony Dean Griffey’s celebrated portrayal of the title role.

[Below: Captain Balstrode (Peter Coleman-Wright) converses with Peter Grimes (Stuart Skelton); edited image, based on a Branco Gaica photograph for the Australia Opera.]

Griffey’s Grimes, reviewed recently in a different production performance (see Anthony Dean Griffey Wows San Diego In a Riveting “Peter Grimes” – April 24, 2009) is joined by the Ellen Orford of Katie Van Kooten and Captain Balstrode of Christopher Purves. Patrick Carfizzi is Swallow and Meredith Arwady is Auntie. Other key roles are played by Liam Bonner, Beau Gibson, Joseph Evans and Catherine Wyn-Rogers. Ralph Myers created the sets, Tess Schofield the costumes.

[For the performance review, see: Anthony Dean Griffey’s Imposing Peter Grimes – Houston Grand Opera, November 12, 2010.]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Britten), Lyric Opera (Chicago), November 5, 8, 10, 13(m), 17(m), 20 and 23, 2010.

Houston Grand Opera premiered this Neil Armfield production in January 2009 (see Incandescent Houston “Midsummer Night’s Dream” – January 25, 2009). It is imported into Chicago with an entirely different musical cast, led by debuting young Scottish conductor, Rory Macdonald.

[Below: Tytania (Laura Claycomb) with the Changeling Boy in Neil Armfeld’s Houston Grand Opera production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; edited image, based on a Felix Sanchez photograph, courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera.]

The eminent counter-tenor David Daniels is Oberon and Anna Christy is Tytania. Peter Rose is Bottom, Erin Wall is Helena, Elizabeth DeShong is Hermia, Lucas Meachem is Demetrius and Shawn Mathey is Lysander. Bottom’s fellow “mechanicals” are Keith Jameson, James Kryshak, Sam Handley and Wilbur Pauley. Craig Irvin and Kelley O’Connor are the human nobility. Esteban Andres Cruz plays Puck.

[For the performance review, see: Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Chicago: Enchanting, Luminous, Hilarious – Lyric Opera, November 17, 2010.]

The Turn of the Screw (Britten), Los Angeles Opera, March 12, 17, 20(m), 25, 27 and 30, 2011.

Yet another Britten opera recently seen in Houston in an Armfield production  (see Houston’s Haunting, Inscrutable “Turn of the Screw” – January 29, 2010), but Los Angeles Opera is importing instead the Jonathan Kent – Paul Brown production that premiered at the 2007 Glyndebourne Festival in England.

[Below: the interior of Bly mansion; edited image of a production photograph for the Glyndebourne Festival.]

James Conlon conducts. Patricia Racette stars as the Governess. William Burden makes his Los Angeles Opera debut as Peter Quint and Ann Murray hers as Mrs Grose. Tamara Wilson is Miss Jessel.

“Screw” being one of the greatest of ghost stories, Jonathan Kent will give us clues as to what he thinks is going on, but we know, like every other person’s explanation, that he is probably wrong.

[For the perfromance review, see: Countdown to Britten Centennial: Conlon, Racette and Burden Impress in Enigmatic “Turn of the Screw” – March 12, 2011.]