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DAILY #30 - 29 AUGUST 2009

Salzburg Festival 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DAILY #29 - 28 AUGUST 2009

Theodora and the Music of Longing

On Friday, the final performance of Theodora, the production that opened this year’s Festival season, takes place at the Grosses Festspielhaus. The Egyptologist and religious and cultural scholar Jan Assmann comments on the darkest and most moving tragedy Handel composed.

It is hard to imagine a better choice than Handel’s rarely-performed oratorio Theodora, a flop with London audiences of 1750, to finally add this master of musical drama to the Salzburg Festival program, in the year we commemorate his death 250 years ago. After all, the oratorio is not only about the “Game of the Mighty” – in this case, the Roman governor Valens, who plays a game of cat and mouse with the Christians of Antioch – but also about love and death, the topic of last year’s Salzburg Festival. In Theodora, we even hear “that Love is stronger far than Death”, but here, what is meant is heavenly love.

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DAILY #28 - 27 AUGUST 2009

All Just Lent to You

With Peter Simonischek, the play of the rich man’s dying became a classic in a new way. On Thursday, he gives his last performance as Jedermann on Cathedral Square. After that, when the role passes to Nicholas Ofczarek, nobody will have played Jedermann as often as he did.

It must have been in the spring of 2001 when I received a very short letter from the Salzburg Festival. It contained only one phrase with a question mark and the signature of Jürgen Flimm, Director of Drama at the time.
The phrase read, “Do you feel like playing Jedermann on Cathedral Square, starting in 2002?” My answer was even shorter! Only three letters and an exclamation mark!

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DAILY #27 - 26 AUGUST 2009

The Festival’s Power Center

The children and youth programs as well as education programs for young musicians are not a sideshow at the Salzburg Festival. On the contrary, they are a central part of the Festival’s life and receive long-term support from its sponsors.

Youth programs are “a power center of the Festival summer,” says Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival. There are education programs at all levels at the Salzburg Festival: from the highly professional Children’s Chorus to music camps for teenagers to master classes for singers and a theater prize for young directors, which has already led to some international careers. The engagement is constantly expanding: from the 2010 Festival season onwards, the “Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award” will be given out.

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DAILY #26 - 25 AUGUST 2009

And then again, Mozart

The Salzburg Festival has played an important role in the career of Riccardo Muti. In 1971, he made his debut here, and since 2007 he has had a decisive influence on the program of the Whitsun Festival. On Tuesday, he conducts the final performance of Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon.

Once again, Salzburg played the role of fate. A few days ago, the mayor of Rome attended a performance of Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon conducted by Riccardo Muti at the Festspielhaus. After the performance, it was decided that the Italian maestro will become the next Music Director of the Roman Opera, starting in the fall of 2010. At first for three years, with an option for a two-year extension after that.

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DAILY #25 - 23 AUGUST 2009

Bel canto with Adrenaline

Juan Diego Flórez will perform an evening of arias at the Salzburg Festival, with works by Rossini, Gluck and Donizetti, and will also sing selected arias from Spanish zarzuelas. The audience may look forward to some high Cs and seemingly endless legato phrases.

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DAILY #24 - 22 AUGUST 2009

All Around Us Are Strangers

The last premiere of the Young Directors Project (powered by Montblanc) is directed by Dries Verhoeven, a Dutch director and stage designer born in 1976. You Are Here is a spectacular theater installation, each viewer will have a hotel room assigned, in which he remains alone and unrecognized. Dries Verhoeven has given us permission to reprint the following text.

You have me in your hands. Your thumb is on this page. Your face is about 40 cm away. You are looking at these words. Apart from that, I know nothing about you. Maybe you’ve just been to a performance and saw this lying on the counter. Maybe you feel you need words after what you’ve seen. Maybe you’re looking for confirmation or an explanation.

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DAILY #23 - 21 AUGUST 2009

Beyond Logic

Ilija Trojanow’s debut novel Die Welt ist groß und Rettung lauert überall (The World is Wide and Salvation Lurks Everywhere), a “play on and with theater”, has its premiere as part of the Young Directors Project (powered by Montblanc), in a production directed by Jette Steckel.

Ilija Trojanow, born in 1965 in Sofia and raised in Kenya and Germany, is an author, journalist, publisher and traveler, a Nomad on Four Continents – thus the title of one of his books. Like few other German-language authors, Trojanow has positioned himself as a cosmopolitan in the debate about cultural identity, not only with his international bestseller Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds). After many other awards, he most recently won the Würth Prize for European Literature in July 2009 as a “poetic chronicler of the great exile and migration phenomena of modern times”.

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DAILY #22 - 20 AUGUST 2009

A Longing for the Other

In 2007, director Christof Loy turned Armida, Joseph Haydn’s Dramma eroico, into a musical theater event with a decidedly contemporary vibe. In the Haydn Year of 2009, the Salzburg Festival revives this production.

Yesterday, my Armida was performed for the 2nd time to universal applause. They say it is my best work to date,” Joseph Haydn rejoiced in 1784. One reprise was not to be all. Among Haydn’s operas written for the Esterházy court, Armida was performed most often – more than 50 times. At Eszterháza, Haydn had unique working conditions for these performances: two fully staffed opera houses had been built, one on each side of the palace, one for Italian opera and the other for puppet theater. An early precursor of all modern-day festivals, they strove for the highest degree of artistic excellence.

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DAILY #21 - 19 AUGUST 2009

Child Prodigy, Grown Up

First, he was considered a child prodigy, then he became a celebrated star – and that is what he seems to remain: Lang Lang has the aura of an exceptional pianist who is perennially young, yet plays with extreme maturity. Apparently the only thing he can still become is: even more successful.

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DAILY #20 - 18 AUGUST 2009

Moral Transgressions

Andrea Breth’s stage version of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment returns to the Salzburg Festival.

After its premiere during the Festival summer of 2008, Andrea Breth’s production of Crime and Punishment was described by a critic as an “extraordinary work of art” which made a “process of self-finding” palpable. The director had made it very clear before the premiere that she was not interested in putting an easy-to-consume Reader’s Digest version of Dostoyevsky’s complex novel on stage: “If you only outline the plot, that’s terribly boring, no more than a bad whodunit,” she said in an interview. “What I find so exciting are the different philosophies it portrays. One must keep those in the piece, at least partially.”

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DAILY #19 - 15 AUGUST 2009

Gems of Russian Vocal Music

Anna Netrebko will give an eagerly awaited song recital – with Daniel Barenboim at the piano – at the Grosses Festspielhaus. The program features selected songs from her homeland by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

Does Anna Netrebko practice her German by reading newspaper reviews? If she does, on the occasion of her appearances in Baden-Baden in the title role of Tchaikovsky’s Iolante, she might have read an explanation in Die Welt of how the “product” Netrebko is now emancipating itself “into an individual”. All the media events, all the flirts with popular culture, all the town hall concerts and glamour appearances which the feuilleton finds so problematic seemed to be forgiven – although being an opera star has never been otherwise, since the times of Maria Malibran and Nellie Melba.

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DAILY #18 - 14 AUGUST 2009

Anniversary of a Friendship

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has its ten-year anniversary this year. For the second time, the orchestra incorporating musicians from Israel, Palestine and the Arab region is in residency at the Salzburg Festival.

Daniel Barenboim describes his first (chance) encounter with the Palestinian sociologist and literary scholar Edward Said as a “friendship at first sight”. From the beginning, it was not an ordinary friendship: the Israeli Barenboim and the uncompromising champion of the Palestinian cause – they could only come together because they were always unconventional thinkers, cosmopolitans who looked beyond borders, immune against narrow-minded nationalism and blind hatred.

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DAILY #17 - 13 AUGUST 2009

Unforced Lightness

Soprano Patricia Petibon made her scenic opera debut at the Salzburg Festival this year as Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Now, she performs one of her unconventional recitals at the Haus für Mozart.

When she hastens through the Festival district in Salzburg, she is recognizable from afar by her red hair and her purposeful gait. If it’s raining, she takes her rubber boots out for a walk through the historic town. On stage, Patricia Petibon looks just as good in jeans with an iPod as in a historical costume. And with her lively presence, she is able to give opera performances her very own note. Thus it was with her Salzburg Festival scenic opera debut – which she gave in a role actually new to her, Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

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DAILY #16 - 12 AUGUST 2009

Forms of Passion

With Così fan tutte this Festival summer, Claus Guth completed his Mozart-Da Ponte cycle, which started off to great acclaim in 2006 with Le nozze di Figaro. Both operas are performed during the 2009 Festival.

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DAILY #15 - 11 AUGUST 2009

Useless, Like Birdsong

In The Sound of Silence, director Alvis Hermanis tells of lost innocence and a very special time: the late Sixties. The production’s point of departure was Simon & Garfunkel’s music, he tells Thomas Irmer in an interview.

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DAILY #14 - 10 AUGUST 2009

Handke’s Bright Amazement

Jossi Wieler directs a juxtaposition of two texts by great authors for the Salzburg Festival: Samuel Beckett’s The Last Tape and Peter Handke’s Bis dass der Tag euch scheidet oder Eine Frage des Lichts.

Peter Handke calls his new play a kind of “echo-monologue” of Beckett’s The Last Tape, and indeed, these texts are very similar in topic: in both, the figure of a writer is central – and at the same time, the relationship histories of two couples, even if they are told from very different perspectives. Samuel Beckett’s protagonist is a writer named Krapp who executes a strange ritual every year on his birthday – he makes notes of the essential moments of the past year on a scrap of paper in a bar, and when he gets home, he records his résumé of the year on tape.

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DAILY #13 - 08 AUGUST 2009

Biblical Dimensions

Riccardo Muti conducts Gioachino Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon at the Salzburg Festival. Artistic Director Jürgen Flimm directs the production at the Großes Festspielhaus. Peter Arp spoke to Jürgen Flimm about the necessity of reacting scenically to the key sentence of this Grand opéra.

The story has truly biblical dimensions: Moses leads the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage to the promised land. The narration rests on mighty pillars: the ten plagues with which the angry god of the Jews illustrates his demands for the liberation of the suppressed people, their desert wanderings, the handing down of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, and – as a dramatic finale – the escape through the Red Sea, whose waters drown the army of the pursuers.

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DAILY #12 - 07 AUGUST 2009

The Liberation of Sound

This year’s Continents cycle, made possible by project sponsor Roche, is dedicated to a unique composer: Edgard Varèse. His works are among the most colorful and vivid of the New Music canon.

Every time she feels bad, she thinks of Edgard Varèse, writes the Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth about the French renewer of sound, adding that she is continuously impressed by the radical artistic programs which Varèse and Léger developed after the dark days of World War I. Varèse, the “liberator of sound”, Varèse the visionary – these are slogans one hears often when discussing the composer, who was born in 1883.

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DAILY #11 - 06 AUGUST 2009

Who Finances the Festival?

Half of the budget of the Salzburg Festival is made by ticket sales. This is unique among European cultural institutions.

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DAILY #10 - 05 AUGUST 2009

Ways to Wonderland

The director, stage designer, actor and filmmaker Viktor Bodó is a shooting star on the Hungarian theater scene. With Alice, shown as part of the Young Directors Project (powered by Montblanc) at the Salzburg Festival, Bodó has created a fast-paced, esthetically pleasing revue that traverses a land of dreams and nightmares.

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DAILY #9 - 04 AUGUST 2009

A World Star from the Provinces

Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre • Grenoble present a three-part Haydn cycle at the Salzburg Festival, crowned by an English-language performance of The Creation. Impressive works by Handel and Purcell, who also have anniversaries this year, pay homage to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

The bagpipes resound, the catchy melody goes straight to the listener’s legs, perhaps also to the legs of a dancing bear – are we at a fair, strolling past festive booths? No, we are in the midst of a symphony by Joseph Haydn: hardly a composer was able to combine the sophisticated with the folkloristic, the hearty with the sublime so elegantly and wisely, but also with such an enlightened and educational impetus as he.

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DAILY #8 - 02 AUGUST 2009

There is Always Some Utopia Left

Luigi Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore is one of the great works of modern music theater. The azione scenica describes key events in the history of communism, using an impressively large orchestra. A major piece of musical theater, born of a longing for justice.

 

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DAILY #7 - 01 AUGUST 2009

Farewell to Everyman

Through Peter Simonischek, the Play of the Rich Man’s Death has become a new kind of classic. When the actor-star hands over the role to Nicholas Ofczarek at the end of this Festival summer, nobody will have played the role of Jedermann as often as he.

He was not wistful yet, Peter Simonischek said after this year’s Jedermann premiere; but he suspected that it would happen yet. Certainly, for after eight Festival summers, the Graz-born actor, who achieved stardom at the Schaubühne in Berlin before returning to his homeland, has become the local hero of the Festival town.

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DAILY #6 - 31 JULY 2009

The Familiar Stranger

Franz Liszt’s importance as a composer is regularly emphasized, but his œuvre is rarely played. The Liszt Scenes at the Salzburg Festival offer the rare opportunity to hear a broad range of his work, illuminated by cross-references to masterworks of other epochs.

Franz Liszt is one of the familiar strangers of music history. His appearance as one of the first stars of classical music is legendary, just like his overwhelming power as a virtuoso. Franz Liszt, destroyer of instruments, composer of the Liebestraum who made ladies in the audience faint with his playing – that is an ever-present image. The trailblazing aspects of his creative output are discussed chiefly in musicological seminars.

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DAILY #5 - 30 JULY 2009

From Figaro to Così

At this year’s Salzburg Festival, Così fan tutte marks the end of Claus Guth’s Mozart-Da Ponte cycle. The focus is less on the intrigues, curses and bets featured in the three works, but rather the diremption of the dis-illusioned characters.

In Le nozze di Figaro, we encounter figures who hardly know what is happening to them, as if a foreign principle were at work upon them. As if touched by the breeze of a wing, they begin to guess at the emotional abyss they have approached. At the end of this day of madness, they seem to have regained control of themselves again, but their experiences will have left traces in their lives and will make them more mature, but also more fragile figures. The unknown, threatening elements have only grazed their consciousness superficially.

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DAILY #4 - 29 JULY 2009

The Theater Whisperers

Welcome to Nowhere is the first production of the Young Directors Project 2009, presented by the company Temporary Distortion from New York. Just like the three other productions of the Young Directors Project, it is designed to elicit astonishment and admiration.

The actors speak quietly; they hardly move. Around them is a scaffolding, like a homemade time machine. Perhaps it does not work quite right, but in it, they take us with them on a journey through the past and future of their figures: the homeless, driven, wistful ones. Above their heads is a panorama screen which shows the same figures, as memories or previews, daydreams or visions. The aura of these video images may even be compared to Wim Wenders’ cinematography.

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DAILY #3 - 28 JULY 2009

The Scandal of the Severed Head

A woman gets dressed up, goes into the enemy’s camp, takes the commander’s sword and beheads him. Thus the story of the Bible’s apocryphal Book of Judit. Vivaldi gave the drama baroque archaism in his oratorio Juditha triumphans. Friedrich Hebbel’s Judith focuses on a female figure who feels the jubilation at her triumph as derision. Sebastian Nübling’s production for the Salzburg Festival puts this series of Judith figures on stage.

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DAILY #2 - 26 JULY 2009

The Story of an Encounter

The death of director Jürgen Gosch put a sudden end to the rehearsals for his last project, a performance of The Bacchae by Euripides. The Salzburg Festival fulfills Jürgen Gosch’s wish and will replace The Bacchae with his production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. This production from the Deutsches Theater has not been shown outside of Berlin.

 

 

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DAILY #1 - 25 JULY 2009

„For ever blessed with harmony and love“

The Salzburg Festival’s program starts with George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Theodora at the Grosses Festspielhaus. Christine Schäfer sings the title role, Bejun Mehta is the officer Didymus who desires her. Christof Loy, honored multiple times as “Director of the Year”, directs the work that explores the polarity between otherworldly asceticism and worldly, bodily lust.

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