Are you ready to take David Sonin's 2008 musical challenge?

With all the plans for London s 2008 music season fully in place, the major venues – the Barbican, Coliseum, Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre and the Wigmore Hall – promise a real embarrassment of riches. What to choose from literally scores of opera p

With all the plans for London's 2008 music season fully in place, the major venues - the Barbican, Coliseum, Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre and the Wigmore Hall - promise a real embarrassment of riches.

What to choose from literally scores of opera performances, concerts and recitals - either as one-off events or part of seasons and festivals - so often provides something of a dilemma.

So perhaps I can offer a few suggestions that will provide a challenging exploration of what's on offer.

Turning to opera, a hearty

five-star three cheers for the return of Jonathan Miller's ENO production of The Mikado

at the Coliseum.

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There are nine performances between February 2 and March 4 and tickets range from £10 to £87.

The ENO has had mixed fortunes with its productions of Madam Butterfly - but Anthony Minghella's version remains among the best.

It is revived by ENO associate director Carolyn Choa with nine performances from January 31 to March 7. Tickets are £12 to £87.

Bookings for both on 0871 911 0200 or at or

Down the Strand to Covent Garden, the Royal Opera House has some stunning productions between January and April.

Post-Christmas, it opens with Richard Eyre's original production of Verdi's La Traviata with 13 performances from January 14 to February 14.

The role of Violetta is shared by Anna Netrebko and Norah Amsellem. Alfredo is sung by Jonas Kaufmann and Charles Castronovo, and Giorgio Germont by Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

Tickets range from £7 to £175.

My other choice from the period is drawn from Mozart's The Magic Flute, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (seven performances between January 28), David McVicar's new production of Richard Strauss's Salome (seven performances from February 21 to March 12), Stephen McNeff's Gentle Giant (four performances between February 29 and March 2) and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.

The 12 performances of David McVicar's original production run from January 28 to March 1 and feature a host of British talent. Simon Keenlyside and Christopher Maltman sing the role of Papageno, Sir Thomas Allen and Robert Lloyd are Speaker of the Temple, soprano Kate Royal is Pamina. Tickets are £7 to £165.

Bookings on 020-7304 4000 or

Turning to the concert platform, both the refurbished Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican have major strands from the new year until July.

The jewel in the Barbican's crown is its Great Performers season, featuring instrumentalists, singers, ensembles and orchestras.

And no gem will shine more than tenor Ian Bostridge's personal retrospective Homeward Bound. The series will be wide-ranging and my choices are Bach's St John Passion (March 14), when Ian unusually sings both the tenor and evangelist arias, Mozart's Idomeneo (May 14) when he takes the title role, and third and final choice is Britten's demanding and emotive setting of The Holy Sonnets of John Donne at LSO St Luke's on October 16 and 18.

Among the other performers also appearing are French operatic soprano Natalie Dessay, who appears with the Concerto Köln on January 26, tenor Roberto Alagna on May 2, pianists Murray Perihia on February 12, Piotr Anderszewski on March 15 and Grigori Sokolov on May 10 and the outstanding Russian maestro Valery Gergiev who conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on February 22 and 23.

Barbican resident, the London Symphony Orchestra, opens 2008 with performances of Mahler's Symphonies conducted by Valery Gergiev from January 12 to

June 5.

Some of the fantastic music of 20th century titans Shostakovich and Prokofiev will be performed in a series entitled Chronicle. It opens on February 13 with a performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No 15.

Among the other concerts well worth attending are violinist Sarah Chang performing Shostakovich's Violin Concerto (February 21) and Prokofiev's classic cinematic cantata Alexander Nevsky (March 2) with live projection in the Barbican Hall.

Visit the LSO's website at for full details.

Bookings on 0845 120 7500 or

On the Southbank, a festival to mark the centenary of the birth of French composer Olivier Messiaen opens in February.

Entitled From The Canyons To The Stars, the 11-month long homage was created by Messiaen's close associate, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

The festival, which should be sampled in depth, explores themes closely associated with the composer's music and life - religion, nature, birdsong, colour and sounds from around the world. These themes will be examined through concerts, discussions, study days, workshops and masterclasses.

The festival is being presented in partnership with the Southbank residents: the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta in association with the Royal Academy of Music.

Also on the Southbank rota is the Shell Classic International Concert series from January to June. Pick of the bunch is the opening concert on January 30 when Paul McCreesh and star soloist Angelika Kirschlager appear with the Basel Chamber Orchestra.

The second visit to the RFH by Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is a must-hear choice of a whole evening of Wagner on March 8.

Another welcome return is the Zurich Opera conducted by Franz Welser-Möst with its acclaimed performance of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier with Nina Stemme, Michelle Breedt, Malin Hartelius and Alfred Ruff in the principal roles.

Booking for all Southbank events on 0871 6634 2500 or

The Wigmore Hall's 2008 programme offers an appealing mix of chamber, ensemble, song, instrumental, jazz and educational concerts and recitals that brings to the stage both established and upcoming performers.

The new year's musical offerings start with the very appealing Strauss Song Series.

From Allerseelen and Zueignung to lesser-known gems such as Wiegenliedchen and Krämerspiegel, Strauss's Lieder introduces us to a unique and bewitching sound world.

This three-concert series (January 4, 5 and 6) features six remarkable singers, including Elizabeth Watts, Song Prize winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2007, and Rebecca Bottone, fresh from her ENO and Aix-en-Provence debuts.

With more than 160 events to choose from during 2008, choice does indeed offer the dilemma or two. It always comes down to the bald selection between artists and repertoire and the Wigmore programme offers plenty of scope in either category.

So, I will look at some of the artists who will be appearing during the first quarter of the year.

In February, audiences will be able to hear pianists Amandine Savary (February 9), Peter Katin (February 13), and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Olivier Messiaen's close collaborator (February 16).

In March, chamber music takes my fancy with appearances by the Quatuor Mosaiques (March 1 and 2), the Leopold String Trio (March 6 and 7), the Emperor Piano Trio (March 8), the Zehetmair Quartet (March 13), the Michelangelo Quartet (March 23 and 24), and, finally, the outstanding vocal and piano duo of Alice Coote and Julius Drake (March 28 and 30).

To book, call the Wigmore Hall on 020-7935 2141.