Madrid opera's new director promises 'innovative' first season

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The Independent Culture

The new avant-garde head of Madrid's opera house, Gerard Mortier, Wednesday promised an "innovative" first season in charge, which will also include tenor Placido Domingo on his 70th birthday.

Mortier, who was formerly head of the Opera National de Paris, said the 2010-2011 season at the Teatro Real will include a mix of "20th century works, classical works and works from the 19th century."

It will be "transitional and innovative," the 66-year-old Belgian told a news conference.

"We are also counting on Placido Domingo for January 21, who has chosen to celebrate his 70th birthday in Madrid," he said.

Mortier, who was head of the Salzburg Festival from 1991 to 2001, is known for his risk-taking approach to scene work and powerful interest in 20th-century opera.

Following his appointment as the Teatro Real's artistic director last December, he promised to turn it into one of Europe's top opera houses.

The season will open on September 29 with German composer Kurt Weill's "The Rise and Fall of the City of Magagonny" and conclude on June 22 with "Saint Francis of Assisi" by France's Olivier Messiaen.

"One of my objectives is to open up opera to a new public and also to show what is modern is not shocking," he said.

Over the long term, he said he would like to highlight "one or two new works" and for that he planned to look into Spanish literature.

"I want to emphasize the importance of Spanish culture in Europe, its links with the Arab world do not exist anywhere else in Europe, as well as its relations with Latin America," he said.