Friday, 2 December 2016

All change at the Salzburg Festival: Markus Hinterhäuser announces 2017 programme

Markus Hinterhaeuser - photo SF Neumayr
Markus Hinterhaeuser - photo SF Neumayr
The Salzburg Festival has a new artistic director, Markus Hinterhäuser who took over in October 2016 (following the departure of Alexander Pereira in 2015). Hinterhäuser and festival president Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler held a press conference at the Austrian Residence in London on 30 November 2016 to introduce the new artistic director's programme for the 2017 festival (21 July to 30 August) which includes new productions of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, Aribert Reimann's Lear, Verdi's Aida, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Berg's Wozzeck.

The Salzburg Festival is old, this year will be the 97th festival. It was founded by Hugo von Hofmansthal and Max Reinhardt with the intention of creating a symbol, using the arts to bring people together following the First World War. Markus Hinterhäuser, who trained as a pianist at the Salzburg Mozarteum and was previously the artistic director of the Wiener Festwochen, picked up on this aspect of the festival when he described his thinking behind the programme for this year. For Hinterhäuser music and the arts help us to read what the world is, to analyse the human condition, and so many of the opera are linked by considerations of the politics of power.

The festival opens with a new production of Mozart's final opera La Clemenza di Tito (directed by Peter Sellars, conducted by Teodor Currentzis), the first time the opera has opened the festival and rather than using the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra or Vienna State Opera forces, the production will be accompanied by Teodor Currentzis and MusicAeterna. Hinterhäuser see the opera as a reflection on the mechanisms of power, on truth and forgiveness and for him the opera's presence forms a major artistic and European political statement. The 2017 festival's final production will be Aribert Reimann's Lear (directed by Simon Stone, conducted by Franz Welser-Most with Gerald Finley), one of the most powerful scores of the 20th century, a reflection on the loneliness and madness of power, which Hinterhäuser comments is the same the world over.

A new production of Verdi's Aida (directed by Shirin Neshat, conducted by Riccardo Muti with Anna Netrebo as Aida) is perhaps not immediately obviously political but Hinterhäuser sees the opera as being still relevant to day-to-day politics and to emphasise this the production will be far away from Oriental kitsch. The director is the USA-based Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, directing her first opera. Neshat started out as a photographer, moving into video and came to prominence with her film Women without Men. Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (directed by Andreas Kriegenburg, conducted by Marcus Janssons with Nina Stemme) is more about personal power rather than political. Its interest comes from the fact that Nina Stemme will be making her role debut, and that Marcus Janssons only rarely conducts opera.

Berg's Wozzeck will be directed and designed by William Kentridge, with Matthias Goerne in the title role, condcuted by Vladimir Jurowski. Not one of the festival own productions but still of great significance, John Eliot Gardiner will be bringing his productions of Monteverdi's three surviving operas, L'Orfeo, L'Incoronazion di Poppea, Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria. There is also a revival of Christof Loy's production of Handel's Ariodante with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role, conducuted by Diego Fasolis.

And in concert there is Verdi's I Due Foscari conducted by Michele Mariotti with Placido Domingo and Joseph Calleja, and Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia conducted by Marco Armiliato with Krassimira Stoyanova and Juan Diego Florez.

There is also a production aimed at children, Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor performed by members of the Salzburg Festival Young Singers Project. Also for children are a series of week-long opera camps, for children aged 9 to 17. The children, under expert guidance and without their parents, immerse themselves in a specific play or opera and then present their own interpretation at the end of the week. This year there are camps devoted to Hofmannsthal's Jedermann, Aida and Wozzeck.

Participants in the Young Singers Project, aimed at nurturing up and coming young singers,  as well as taking part in Der Schauspieldirektor will be performing in festival productions, taking part in masterclasses with Christa Ludwig, Malcolm Martineau, Matthias Goerne and Sandrine Piau, and giving a final concert with the Mozarteum Orchestra, conductor Adiran Kelly.

There is a generous concert programme, as well as the expected concerts from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Bernard Haitink, Andris Nelsons, Riccardo Muti, Herber Blomstedt, and Daniel Barenboim), Teodor Currentzis and MusicAeterna will be performing a series including not only Mozart's Requiem but Berg's Violin Concerto (with Patricia Kopatchinskaja) and Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Shostakovich's opera will be complemented by a concerts of his music, and the Zeit mit Gerard Grisey concerts will throw a spotlight on Grisey's music. Artists performing at the festival will include a number of debuts, notably that of pianist Igor Levitt, and there will be recitals from Andras Schiff, Grigory Sokolov, Evgeny Kissin, Christian Gerhaher, Mattias Goerne, and Sony Yoncheva will be performing Rameau and Handel with the Academia Montis Regalis.

Of course the Salzburg Festival is about drama too, there are new productions of Hofmannsthal's Jedermann, Pinter's The Birthday Party, Wedekind's Lulu and Horvath's Kasimir und Karoline.

Before the festival proper there is the Overture Spirituelle, a sequence of concerts including Kent Nagano conducting Messiaen's La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ performed by Bayerischen Rundfunk forces, Schnittke's Choir Concerto performed by the choir of MusicAeterna and the Salzburg Bach Choir conducted by Teodor Currentzis, Igor Levitt performing Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen, which form a prelude to the main festival.

The festival's previous artistic director Alexander Pereira was against revivals of production, but Markus Hinterhäuser said that he was very much in favour of revivals. Partly this is for economic reasons, but also because he sees it as rather snobbish mount a production and then throw it away. He also pointed out that revivals often work better than the original production, allowing time for reflection and revision.

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