The major classical institutions of the Netherlands have introduced plans for their new season, so let’s have a look. Here is a collection of classical highlights in the Netherlands for your pleasure in the new season of 2019-2020.

Let’s begin with opera.

The Dutch National Opera has some extremely interesting projects on in 2019/20. The final chance to see Pierre Audi’s legendary Walküre production will definitely be one of the highlights. Starring a superb cast, from Iain Paterson’s Wotan, Eva-Maria Westbroek’s Sieglinde to Martina Serafin’s Brünnhilde, this is the last time we will see that incredible wide circle with the orchestra at the center and those outlandishly beautiful Valkyrie costumes.

But first things first. The season opens with the well-practiced double-bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and PagliacciMark Elder conducts a new production by Robert Carsen and the cast features such heavy-weights as Anita Rachvelishvili as Santuzza and Brandon Jovanovich as Canio. The next highlights are productions of Cosi fan Tutte, La Cenerentola and Nabucco up to Christmas, including all-Italian casts, young singers you should definitely be watching (such as Sebastian Kohlhepp as Ferrando) and renowned stage directors (Andreas Homoki and Laurent Pelly).

Highlights of the second half of the season include the return of Robert Carsen‘s staging of Carmen under Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the farewell of the great Marc Albrecht as chief conductor of the company in a final production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, with which he made his debut 10 years ago. This particular production features veterans and exciting young performers alike from Irène Theorin and Michaela Schuster singing Barak’s Weib and the Amme respectively to Josef Wagner as Barak and AJ Glueckert as the Emperor. Katie Mitchell directs this new production. Finally, the new production at the Holland festival is Rusalka, played by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchest under Jakob Hrusa and directed by Philipp Stölzl, with Dmitri Ivashchenko and Anna Larsson among the singers

But also the classical concert orchestras in Amsterdam and Rotterdam have some outstanding operas to offer for our enjoyment: Directly at the beginning of the season, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchest has a concert performance of the second act of Tristan und Isolde, starring the incredible Christine Goerke and Stuart Skelton in the title roles. I heard Skelton in his role debut as Tristan with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2014 and his voice has since then matured into a fascinating Heldentenor. Daniel Harding conducts.

And also the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra has a fascinating concert performance of an opera on offer: In February, honourary conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin returns with a stellar cast to perform Strauss’ brilliant, though rarely played Die Frau ohne Schatten. The main roles feature Stephen Gould as the Emperor, Michaela Schuster as the Amme and Michael Volle as Barak. Beat that!

When it comes to concerts, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra is continuing with Lahav Shani as chief conductor. Shani is diversifying his repertoire this season, expanding in both size and time-span of his pieces. To open the season, Shani kicks of a focal point of French music. This coincides with the opening of the annual Gergiev festival. Valery Gergiev conducts, Shani plays the piano in Strawinsky’s Piano Concerto, while the rest of the program features La Mer and Bolero. The Gergiev Festival is (as ever) filled to the brim with great music, including an appearance by the young Dutch rising stars Arthur and Lucas Jussen, playing french music for four-handed piano. Another exciting project of the festival is the late-night visit of the IRCAM Paris, commemorating Pierre Boulez, with works exclusively by the great French modernist on the program here. The finale of the festival is celebrated with a concert performance of Berlioz’ Damnacion de Faust.

Other highlights of the season include Shani conducting the Brahms first piano concerto with Emanuel Ax in December, as well as Shani’s take on Mahler’s Resurection Symphony in May. Shani also embarks into the works of Strawinsky as a conductor, conducting Sacre in September, paired with music by Haydn. Shani also conducts Beethoven (finally, after that exciting Piano concerto No. 3 with Barenboim last year!), playing a piano concerto himself and conducting the 7th Symphony in October. Shani closes out the season with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Janine Jansen as the soloist, followed by Brahms 2.

As far as guest appearances go, Yannick Nezet-Seguin returns for the aforementioned Frau ohne Schatten, as well as performances of Mahler’s Fifth in February. Nathalie Stutzmann also returns for an exciting program pairing Mozart’s Horn Concerto with Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration and Schumann’s Third Symphony in November. And Jukka-Pekka Saraste is finishing his Sibelius cycle with the orchestra, with Baiba Skride playing the violin concerto.

It looks to be an exciting season in Rotterdam, particularly with the diverse programmes the chief conductors are bringing. I can already guarantee that I will not miss Die Frau ohne Schatten for the world.

And in Amsterdam? What on earth is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchest doing? Since Daniele Gatti is no longer chief conductor, the season lies (once again) in the hands of guest conductors. But this time around, the planners at the RCO have had much more time to prepare and engage replacements for the disgraced Italian maestro. This shows, there are some supremely exciting concerts planned this year. 

Let’s start at the end of the season. A bombshell: Christian Thielemann is making his return to the orchestra after an absence of 17 years, conducting Bruckner five. With one of Bruckner’s harder symphonies, the fifth (also dubbed “catholic” occasionally), this will be an evening of concentrated and beautifully thought-through German music making. But it is also an interesting play in the conductor’s roulette, around who might become the new boss: There are rumours that Thielemann’s place at Dresden’s Semperoper is not as secure as he would like, with Franz Welser-Möst waiting in the wings to take over. With the other two big posts in Europe taken (Vienna State Opera with new Music Director Philippe Jordan and the Berlin Philharmonic with new Chief Conductor Kirill Petrenko), could the notoriously guest-appearance-shy Thielemann be looking at the Concertgebouw as a world-class orchestra to take over when he potentially leaves Dresden?

Well, let the rumours fly. Other stars of the season include Lang Lang, playing the beautiful 2nd Piano Concerto by Beethoven in November under Paavo Järvi, and Christian Gerhaher, singing Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust under John Eliot Gardiner in December with a stellar cast. Another highlight will be the return of Andris Nelsons in January, conducting works surrounding the Prometheus myth by Beethoven, Dean and Skrjabin.

As to the great old Maestros, Mariss Jansons is conducting the orchestra in September and March featuring two tone-poems by Strauss (Don Quixote and Also Sprach Zarathustra) and works by Beethoven (Eroica) and Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto). Herbert Blomstedt also returns to the orchestra in April, conducting Bruckner’s great Fourth Symphony. Ivan Fischer conducts a typical Ivan Fischer-programme, featuring two Rossini Ouvertures combined with a Haydn Symphony and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante played by Tabea Zimmermann (artist and residence) and Isabelle Faust. 

With other visits by Jaap van Zweden and Myung-whun Chun (both conducting Mahler), it should prove to be a season without a chief conductor that is as interesting as can be.   Yannik Eisenaecher    February 2019

Yannik Eisenaecher is the publisher of the blog FreshEarsClassics