Presented in it's Covent Garden premiere in Autumn 2013, this staging of Verdi's Les Vepres Siciliennes directed by Stefan Herheim and conducted by the Royal Opera's Music Director, Verdi specialist Sir Antonio Pappano went on to win the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production. The Sunday Times hailed it the best the Verdi year in Britain has to offer, praising the standout event of the Verdi bicentenary celebrations. Herheim, whose reputation was cemented with his production of Parsifal at Bayreuth in 2008, is a director with a flair for spectacle and a sense of irony who rarely takes an operatic scenario at face value. Rather than telling a story of 13th-century conflict between the Sicilians and their French oppressors, his production, transposed to the mid-19th century, provides a commentary on the extravagant world of Parisian opera with it's politics, exploitation and betrayals. The Financial Times praised the maestro for the sense of scale and style that [he] brings to the score, while the Observer spoke of exciting singing and top orchestral playing under the baton of that matchless Verdi devotee, Antonio Pappano. Considered one of the most promising Verdians of her generation, the French-trained Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian rises to all these challenges as the Duchess Helene. American tenor Bryan Hymel, whose recital album Heroique is also released on Warner Classics in February 2015, takes on one of Verdi's highest tenor roles. Bryan Hymel was the admirable and ardent Henri, wrote Opera magazine, with his turbo-boosted bel canto tenor rising fearlessly to the top notes. His father (and enemy) Montfort is sung by the imposing and charismatic baritone Michael Volle, and the bass Erwin Schrott gives a starry performance as the fanatical Procida.