Barely a week into the new season at Covent Garden, and already we're being asked to whip out our Amexes again, this time for November to March productions. Booking opens this week for those who've paid for the privilege, and next month for the common herd.
Rolando Villazón fights through miles of curtain fabric to reprise his Covent Garden debut role in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Antonio Pappano conducts the elaborate John Schlesinger production, inching ever closer to its sell-by date. Ekaterina Lekhina (Olympia) is a new name to me, but Gidon Saks, Kristine Jepson and Christine Rice promise sturdy support (photo: Clive Barda).
Rolando also submits to a live interview on 10 November. Space is limited, so early booking advised.
The other star vehicle of the season is a new Tim Albery production of Der fliegende Holländer with (cancelitis permitting) Bryn Terfel in the title role. Anja Kampe makes an overdue ROH debut as Senta. Tickets will be restricted to two per customer for this one.
Britten's The Beggar's Opera pops up in the Linbury Studio. The new production by Justin Way (not by conductor Richard Hickox as the website currently claims - there are limits to his talents) is likely to be popular, so again, early booking advised. The excellent and underused Tom Randle is Macheath.
Also to the Linbury comes the long-overdue London debut of George Benjamin's highly-praised ("the most important new opera of the past 25 years") mini-opera Into the Little Hill , coupled with Harrison Birtwistle's Down by the Greenwood Side. The cast includes Susan Bickley and Claire Booth.
The brilliant Willy Decker production of Korngold's Die tote Stadt that I caught in Vienna finally makes its way to London. Unfortunately Klaus Florian Vogt and Angela Denoke aren't coming with it, but Stephen Gould and Nadja Michael should be a more than passable substitute. And there's the bonus of Gerald Finley in the smaller role of Frank.
Elektra isn't illuminated by Charles Edwards's jumbled production, but with Mark Elder in the pit and a cast that includes Susan Bullock, Anne Schwanewilms, Jane Henschel and Johan Reuter it should at least push some musical buttons.
Even I can't get excited about yet another Turandot revival, but include it for the sake of completeness.
On the ballet side, I have to recommend the triple bill The Seven Deadly Sins / Carmen / DGV: Danse à grande vitesse, especially for the first of these and its wonderful music. Chanteuse Martha Wainwright returns to sing Weill's evocative music, and Zenaida Yanowsky is her dancing doppelganger (photo: John Ross).