By David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Royal Opera House will open its doors to children as young as two when its new season starts on Thursday, as the 282-year-old institution seeks a new generation of music-lovers.
Alongside staples such as Puccini's "La Boheme", the Royal Opera's 2014/15 season will also see more toddler-friendly new work such as "Dot, Squiggle and Rest" - a performance aimed at those aged between two and five.
The work is the first for this age group to be produced by the Royal Opera, in collaboration with London's Polka Theatre for children, and will feature dance, puppetry and animation alongside the opera.
Staff said there had been strong demand for past productions aimed at young children performed by other companies at the Royal Opera's home, also known as Covent Garden, in the heart of London's West End theater district.
Youth is a key theme for the Royal Opera this season. Thursday's gala opening is a revival of "Anna Nicole" - a 2011 opera about the topless model Anna Nicole Smith and her marriage to an 80-year-old billionaire - and tickets are only available to students and those aged 16-25.
"Dot, Squiggle and Rest" will not be staged until June 2015, but more traditional opera-goers, whose average age is 45, will find plenty to entertain themselves in the mean time.
Spanish tenor Placido Domingo will appear in Verdi's "The Two Foscari" in October, and German tenor Jonas Kaufmann will perform in January in "Andrea Chenier", a French revolutionary opera composed by Umberto Giordano, a rival of Puccini's.
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko will sing in "La Boheme" in May, June and July, when the Royal Opera revives its 1974 production of the classic for a final time.
The season will also be a marathon for the Royal Opera's long-serving music director Antonio Pappano, who will conduct four new productions, two revivals and a symphonic concert.
Pappano joined as music director in 2002, and recently extended his contract until 2017, which will bring him close to beating conductor Colin Davis's tenure from 1971 to 1987.
Pappano will also take the Royal Opera on tour to Japan in September 2015, where the company will perform Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and Verdi's "Macbeth".
(Editing by Diane Craft)