At the Salzburg Festival, Riches, Retreads and Notes of Caution

Salzburg, Austria — The premiere of Janáček’s new opera Kata Kabanova just wrapped up here last week at the Salzburg Festival. Christina Hammer, the festival’s new president, was wiping a tear from her cheek when the lights came on.

It was hard to blame her for crying. “Kat’a” is a breathtaking tragedy about a small town woman trapped in a loveless marriage who is driven to suicide after a brief affair. Janacek’s music crushes her fantasy fantasies with the brutal fists of reality.

Barry Kosky’s staging was the highlight of a week in Salzburg, the annual preeminent event for classical music running until 31st August.

The only set is a row of amazingly realistic models of people standing, dressed in plain clothes, standing away from us, away from Kata and her pain. I was under the impression that there were dozens of quiet extras in .

Jerky and ballet-like, ecstatic and anxious, Winters gives off a childlike, whimsical presence, and a lively voice conveys Kata’s wonder and vulnerability. She is central to her work, but the entire cast is strong. Her Winters interaction with Jarmila Balazova’s stubborn Varvara makes it easy to believe in the years-long friendship between the characters. Conductor Jakub Fursa is confident that the sound of the festival’s longtime house band, the Vienna Philharmonic, sounds a bit flimsy and uncertain as a single shot without a bittersweet break. I am adjusting the pace of my work.

Suor Angelica is the anguished young nun at the center of one of the three one-act plays of Puccini’s Il Trittico, directed by Christoph Roy and performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra with sensual levity. is directed by Franz Welser Möst. Like Winters, the soprano Asmik Grigorian, who appears in all three acts, is a powerful actress with a quivering, candid voice. (This is Salzburg’s current vocal preference. The days when Anna Netrebko’s extravagant tone reigned here seem to be over.)

Understated yet detailed, united by an airy, pale-colored space with changing walls, Roy’s staging rearranges the triptych rather than ending with the comic Gianni Schicki. Solid Michele.

‘Suol Angelica’ is the reason you see this ‘Trittico’. It is one of three roles in which Grigorian’s lack of tonal warmth plays to her greatest advantage. Her confrontation with veteran soprano Karita Mattila, not alto, which is exactly what the role of Angelica’s aunt really needs, is appropriately intimidating. And Grigorian’s final scene, one that milks the unexpected poignancy of her changing from habit to a sophisticated black cocktail dress in front of us and letting her hair down, is equally poignant. is.

In Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, women are also on the brink of collapse, but much more interesting. Now that mezzo-soprano star Cecilia Bartoli runs her spring Whitsun festival here, a production vehicle is set up for her every summer. However, she was met with sneer when it was announced that Bartoli, at her 56, would play Rosina, who is usually sung at the start of her career. (Bartoli made his professional stage debut in the role 35 years ago.)

But her voice and blazing coloratura are surprisingly well preserved, and her enthusiasm is irresistible. Directed by Rolando Villazón, the show is a love letter to movies like The Purple Rose of Cairo, where characters move in and out of the screen. Here, Bartoli brings her life as a diva to life, from Joan of Arc to pirates, her experiences winked in a recap of her photographs that are projected during the overture. But the concept isn’t held so rigidly that it undermines her adorable crazy fun.

For Gianluca Capuano, who leads an equally artful and laid-back cast, including Alessandro Corbelli, Nicola Alaimo and Ildebrando d’Arcanangelo as Nosferatu-esque Basilio, the ensemble’s Les Musicians du Prince Monaco performs with a silky spirit. And the mezzo-his version of his rarely-performed climactic aria “Cessa dipiù resistanceere” allows Bartoli to exchange verses with the agile young tenor his Edgardo his Rocha.

Another relatively intimate opera at Mozarthaus this summer also takes its cues from the film. Mozart’s The Magic Flute, like The Princess Bride, is composed by director Lydia Steier, with a grandfather telling a story to a young child. — Here, three boys. As with when this staging was new in 2018, it’s a clever way to super-compress the work’s broader dialogue.

Four years ago, the performance took place in the festival’s largest theater. Now it’s squashed to a minimum. Steyr wisely abandoned his entire punk circus image for Steam and focused on the plot as an allegory of the beginning of World War I, with a touch of “Little Nemo.” It is a delicate task for the boys to gradually become participants in the action rather than mere spectators. The Philharmonic Orchestra, playing under Joana Malvitz, achieved the ideal combination of crispness and roundness.

Not all Salzburg Festivals include revivals of past shows. Two this year. In 2017, Iranian-born photographer and video artist Shirin Neshat’s staging of Verdi’s ‘Aida’ was the most awaited work of the summer, a rare full-length performed by Verdian giant Riccardo Muti. production, with Netrebko debuting in the title role.

Rather, the background was Neshat, her first opera performance, a pristine and bland effort. Now with fewer stellar collaborators, her work has come to the fore. To her poetic effect, some of her blurry, languid early videos of slow-moving crowds on Middle Eastern streets and beaches were added. Photographs of her also now play a role, with some dancers covered in Arabic calligraphy, a trademark of her art.

There are some good ideas, like the ballet in Amneris’ Room or the ominous and violent rendering of the triumphant scene. Also some bad points: Aida’s father, Amonasro, looks like an already dead ghost at the start of Act 3, making the plot incomprehensible. It’s progressing at a good pace, but otherwise it’s mediocre compared to the exquisite colors and textures that Muti brings out. (Niall’s nocturnal beginnings in his scene are one of many places he’s not as exciting this year as he was in 2017.)

Elena Stykina’s soft Aida and Eve Maud Jubault’s dignified Amneris were impressive, but only Piotr Vetzala was a truly glamorous singer. And glamor, like it or not, is part of the ideal Salzburg experience, an extravagant imagination and achievement that surpasses anything you get at the Metropolitan or the Vienna State Opera.

Salzburg watchers complained about two revivals and the not-so-new ‘Barber’, which premiered in June. Three truly new stagings, with a budget of nearly $70 million for him?

This was clearly a wake-up call as the pandemic progressed. “I am convinced that it is the right thing to do both artistically and financially,” said the festival’s artistic director, Markus Hinterhauser, when the season was announced last year.

But the economic part seems more true than the artistic part. “Flute” and “Aida” have been improved. Mozart became tighter, Verdi more nuanced. The question is whether opera’s most famous and prolific summer festival had to repeat two of his repertoire standards, works seen around the world during the regular season. Enter any major house.

This is a clear weakness as Salzburg faces new competition, especially the growing Aix-en-Provence music festival in France. Decades, world premiere (“M. Butterfly”). Salzburg recently abandoned a major commission for all its resources in favor of reviving underappreciated contemporary works.

Aix and Salzburg went head to head this summer, with both offering Romeo Castellucci pieces in high demand. It was a showdown that Salzburg lost spectacularly. Aix acquired a huge and haunting staging of Mahler’s Second Symphony as a mass grave excavation. But here in Austria, as Joshua Barone wrote in The Times, Castellucci’s double billing of Bartók’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” and Orff’s “De Temporum Fine Commedia” was the result of Theodore It was a brooding, dark slogan languid by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, conducted by Currentzis.

But even the expanding Aix lacks the scope of Salzburg’s concert schedule. The concert schedule begins with the lengthy Ouverture Spirituelle mini-festival, often offering an enviable overlap of excellent orchestral programs and recitals.

Not all concerts were satisfactory this year. Pianist Grigory Sokolov’s mellow touch puts Schumann’s “Kreisleriana” to sleep, though Beethoven’s “Eroica” variations and Brahms’ Op.117. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann’s voice was rarely used in recitals.

But with superstar pianist Lang Lang joining the West Eastern Divan Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim conductor for Manuel de Falla’s A Night in the Spanish Garden, Daniel It was touching to see the tribute to Barenboim. While the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Andris Nelsons, confused Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Yefim Bronfmann, the orchestra sounded luxuriously ripe with Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

More memorable is one of the 11am Mozart matinees on the festival weekend, featuring the Mozarteum Orchestra. These mornings are often the most fun and lively performances at the festival and this week’s program was no exception, filled with the enthusiasm of Adam Fischer.

Mozart’s matinees were well attended and welcomed. But they still feel like Salzburg’s secrets.

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