Feb. 28, March 2, 5, 9, 13, 16: "From the House of the Dead." Teatro La Scala, Milan, Italy. www.teatroallascala.org/

Olympic Arts Festival

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Arts Festival features 189 events with more than 600 performances and runs from Jan. 22 through March 21.

Far and away, the most notable item on the calendar is Vancouver Opera's staging of a new production -- and Canadian premiere -- of John Adams’ "Nixon in China." Considered a seminal work of contemporary opera, it was the first major opera from Adams, currently the creative chair with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Conducting will be John DeMain, the piece's original conductor when it debuted in Houston in 1987. DeMain was the highly respected artistic director of Opera Pacific before the Orange County organization folded in late 2008, a victim of the financial meltdown.

This production precedes the local debut -- finally -- of the work at Long Beach Opera in March.

March 13, 16, 18, 20, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver, Canada. www.vancouveropera.caorganization folded

Sondheim birthday

The New York Philharmonic celebrates Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday with a showcase concert featuring material from throughout the seminal songwriter's six decades. Among those taking part are Patty LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin and Nathan Gunn. The performances are being conducted by Paul Gemignani, who has conducted Sondheim material over the years for stage, concerts and on film.

March 15, 16: Avery Fisher Hall, New York. nyphil.orgorganization folded

Ritualized "Passion"

Each Easter, the Berlin Philharmonic heads south to Salzburg, Austria, for a 10-day stint that showcases opera and orchestral programs at the Salzburg Easter Festival. This year sees a heavyweight highlight with conductor Simon Rattle leading the orchestra in two performances of Bach's epic "St. Matthew Passion" in a world-premiere production being presented in a “ritualized” staging by director Peter Sellars. The following week, the production moves to Berlin for three more performances at the orchestra's home hall.

March 28, April 3: Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg, Austria. www.osterfestspiele-salzburg.at“ritualized” staging

April 9-11: Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, Berlin. www.berliner-philharmoniker.de“ritualized” staging

Texan Ahab

Dallas Opera is rolling out a commissioned operatic world premiere based on Herman's Melville's "Moby Dick." The work has intriguing bloodlines, with music by composer Jake Heggie, who has three operas under his belt, notably "Dead Man Walking," It's his third pairing with librettist Gene Scheer, whose other highlights include the lyrics for "Thérèse Raquin" and "An American Tragedy." Dallas has lined up serious vocal firepower for the debut with a strong cast of male singers headed by heldentenor Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab. Patrick Summers is conducting, and staging is by Leonard Foglia, who has teamed with Heggie in the past.

The work is also a showpiece for the city’s new opera house that opened in October. Pritzker-prize winning architect Norman Foster's 2,200-seat hall is a reinterpretation of the traditional "horseshoe" opera house with retractable screens, a spacious fly-tower and variable acoustics.

April 30, May 2, 5, 8, 13, 16: Winspear Opera House, Dallas. www.dallasopera.orgcity’s new opera house

A Welsh Wagner

Operatic appearances by Bryn Terfel have been in short supply in recent years, so the announcement that the great baritone / bass will undertake Richard Wagner's sole and rarely staged comedy, "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg," for the first time is causing a stir in classical circles. The opera is being staged by the Wales National Opera, the company with which Terfel launched his career; WNO music director Lothar Koenig will conduct.

June 19, 26, 29, July 3: Donald Golden Theatre, in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales. www.wmc.org.ukcity’s new opera house

calendar@latimes.com