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Royal Opera sets accent on youth for cut-rate opening night

Mihoko Kinoshita (L), playing the lead role and Philip O'Brien as U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton perform during a dress rehearsal of t
Mihoko Kinoshita (L), playing the lead role and Philip O'Brien as U.S. Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton perform during a dress rehearsal of t

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The Royal Opera will slash ticket prices to appeal to students and young people and will revive the racy modern opera "Anna Nicole" for its season opener in September in what management said was a bid to knock the stuffing out of galas.

All tickets in the house, whose 2,200 seats can go for as much as 200 pounds ($330), will be priced from 1 pound to 25 pounds for the opening night on September 11 and will be sold through the opera's student standby scheme and in conjunction with a music venue that works with young people, the ROH said.

"I think it's fantastic to have a season opening gala which is something that sounds stuffy and elitist to actually be a night where we celebrate new work ... and is celebrated by selling the whole house to students and young people," the ROH's

Director of Opera Kasper Holten told Reuters on Monday.

Music Director Antonio Pappano, whose contract the ROH announced was being extended until at least the end of 2017, will conduct English composer Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera based on the life of the Playboy centerfold who married an oil billionaire.

Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek will reprise the title role which she sang wearing a costume that featured prosthetic breasts for the London premiere in 2011.

Holten said that with the extension of his contract the English-born Pappano, who has been the music director of Britain's premiere opera house for 12 seasons, "is soon becoming one of the longest standing music directors of the Royal Opera and certainly one of the most important and influential ones".

Among singers featured in the next season are German tenor Jonas Kaufmann appearing as the poet hero of Giordano's "Andrea Chenier", Swedish soprano Nina Stemme as Isolde in Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" and Russian soprano Anna Netrebko as Mimi in Puccini's "La Boheme".

The Spanish singer Placido Domingo, a regular at Covent Garden, will add another Verdi baritone role to his repertoire as Doge Francesco Foscari in "I due Foscari".

One of the season highlights is the ROH's first production of the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski's 20th-century masterpiece "Krol Roger" (King Roger), a press statement said.

Another main house premiere is the ROH's first production of Kurt Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny", first performed in Germany in 1930 but banned by the Nazis from 1933.

The smaller Linbury Studio Theatre will mount a world premiere of American composer Philip Glass's "The Trial" based on the novel by Franz Kafka and will stage a new work, "Glare" by the German-Danish composer Soren Nils Eichberg.

SEVEN NEW PRODUCTIONS

All told, the main stage will offer seven new productions, with four directors new to Covent Garden - Italy's Damiano Michieletto, Katharina Thoma of Germany, Martin Kusej of Austria and American Thaddeus Strassberger, plus new productions from Holten and Britain's John Fulljames and David McVicar.

Other returning singers include Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, who reprises his role as the Dutchman in Wagner's "Der fliegende Hollander" while Domingo adds a second Verdi baritone role as Giorgio Germont in "La Traviata".

British baritone Simon Keenlyside sings Verdi's "Rigoletto" for the first time at Covent Garden, Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo takes on the role of Nemorino in Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" and British baritone Christopher Maltman will sing the title role of Mozart's "Don Giovanni".

Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon will sing Don Ottavio in "Don Giovanni", British tenor Toby Spence will sing Tamino from Mozart's "Die Zauberflöte" and German soprano Dorothea Roschmann sings her first Royal Opera Don Elvira ("Don Giovanni").

Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak sings Gilda in "Rigoletto" for the first time with the ROH and Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka sings Senta from "Der fliegende Hollander" for the first time at Covent Garden.

The Royal Opera, which recently mounted a small production of the 17th-century Cavalli opera "L'Ormindo" at London's 320-seat Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, said it would produce Monteverdi's 1607 opera "Orfeo" at London's "The Roundhouse" music venue as part of its effort to reach new audiences. ($1 = 0.5998 British Pounds)

(This story has been refiled to fix misspelling of "the" in first paragraph)

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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