The 2018 Salzburg Festival – Opera

“Ever since Greek tragedies were first performed, art has dealt not only with beauty and the sublime. Viewed through the aesthetic lens of the arts, even the unfathomable and obsessive become fascinating. The arts are strangers to morals. They are able to transform tragedy into vociferous poetry and resounding furore. Especially in tragedy, human greatness comes alive – and human fallibility as well. “Wonders abound in this world and yet no wonder is greater than man.” (Sophocles, Antigone).

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Markus Hinterhäuser (Artistic Director), Helga Rabl-Stadler (President), Lukas Crepaz (Executive Director) poto SF/Anne Zeuner

Works of passion, fervour and ecstasy dominate the 2018 Salzburg Festival programme. Once again, we shall endeavur to focus our ears and minds during the Ouverture spirituelle. The Festival opens with the epochal St. Luke Passion by Krzysztof Penderecki, one of the most touching renditions of the suffering of Jesus.

In Monteverdi’s last opera, L’incoronazione di Poppea, the title figure’s hunger for power is interwoven with the obsession of Nero, as violence and eroticism artfully intertwine. From Euripides’ Bacchae, Hans Werner Henze drew the inspiration for his opera The Bassarids, a triumph of inebriation over reason. And the passion of Salome in the Richard Strauss’ opera of the same title is inflamed by Jochanaan, who in turn embodies ecstatic piety. Herman, the young officer in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, loses his mind over the secret of three cards and himself in the madness of love and gambling…

At first glance, Die Zauberflöte may seem odd in this context – but only at first glance. In fact, Mozart’s opera works like a microscope in conjunction with all these pieces. Or is it, perhaps, a universal, enlightened, playful discourse on all these subjects, as only Mozart’s music could offer during the age of Enlightenment?

We hope to arouse your curiosity with this programme, so that 2018 may – once again – be a very special Festival summer!”

The Directorate of the Salzburg Festival: Helga Rabl-Stadler, President, Markus Hinterhäuser, Artistic Director, Lukas Crepaz, Executive Director

Opera: 38 Performances, 5 New Productionam, 2 Concert Performances, 1 Revival of an Opera from the Salzburg Whitsun Festival


Bettina Hering (Drama Director), Markus Hinterhäuser (Artistic Director), Helga Rabl-Stadler (President), Lukas Crepaz (Executive Director), photo SF/Anne Zeuner

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

At first glance, Die Zauberflöte may seem odd in the context of the other works – but only at first glance. In fact, Mozart’s opera works like a microscope in conjunction with all these pieces. Or is it, perhaps, a universal, enlightened, playful discourse on all these subjects, as only Mozart’s music could offer during the age of Enlightenment?
Ultimately, love triumphs in Die Zauberflöte – as does mystery. Its narrative power lies
precisely in excess and imagination. The blending of an apparent fairy-tale with elements supposedly enlightened by reason leaves us in limbo – like the three Boys guiding the protagonists to their fates with childlike ignorance and fairy-tale sagacity in Lydia Steier’s production. They offer the wisdom of the heart against the dichotomy of good and evil, thus providing another key to the mystery that is Die Zauberflöte.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte opens the 2018 Salzburg Festival. The American director Lydia Steier directs the production at the Großes Festspielhaus, which is conducted by Constantinos Carydis and features the Vienna Philharmonic and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus. Matthias Goerne sings the role of Sarastro, Albina Shagimuratova the Queen of the Night, Mauro Peter embodies Tamino, and Christiane Karg is his Pamina. Papageno and Papagena are sung by Adam Plachetka and Maria Nazarova. Bruno Ganz appears as a narrator.

Richard Strauss: Salome

As a femme fatale and epitome of perverse lust, the figure of Salome was the object of
heightened literary fascination in late 19th-century France. Steeped in the spirit of the fin de siècle, Oscar Wilde’s tragedy Salomé represents the culmination of this trend. Having completed various symphonic poems, Richard Strauss found his way into the opera genre with his Salome, forging a musical idiom of unprecedented richness of sound and colour. The Italian director Romeo Castellucci has the extraordinary gift of creating images pulsating with knowledge of the subconscious. His approach to Salome is by way of the physical appearance of the Felsenreitschule. Romeo Castellucci explains: “First and foremost, the production will try to liberate itself from some of these stereotypes regarding the figure of Salome. For example, I would like to do a Salome without one drop of blood. As paradoxical as that may sound, it will be a ‘minimal’ Salome. I don’t want to say minimalistic, as that would not be right, but minimal, meaning with few elements, despite the exotic overabundance often expected of this work. It is a Salome that achieves its effect by leaving elements out – that might be a good summary.”
Romeo Castellucci is responsible for directing and designing stage sets, costumes and
lighting in Richard Strauss’ Salome. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Vienna Philharmonic. Asmik Grigorian, celebrated last season as Marie in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, takes on the role of Salome. Gábor Bretz sings Jochanaan, Herodes is played by John Daszak, Anna Maria Chiuri sings Herodias and Julian Prégardien is Narraboth.


Presentation of the Programme Paris 2018

Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky: The Queen of Spad

All Russian literature is nourished by Pushkin – one might say it breathes Pushkin. During his short life – he only reached the age of 38 – he wrote at record speed. His contemporaries felt provoked by him; he rejected affectation and theatrics, seeking exactitude and veracity. Pushkin wrote the novella The Queen of Spades in 1833 in the course of a few days and “in a cold fury” – brief, sharply accentuated and focused on psychology. More than 50 years later, Tchaikovsky turned to this tale for an opera.

Saint Petersburg at the end of the 18th century: during a card game, the story of a countess comes up who was revered at the French court during her youth as a “Vénus moscovite” and was in the habit of winning one game of cards after another, thanks to three magical cards. Suddenly, the protagonist Herman is caught up in the undertow of the secret of these three playing cards. The son of a German immigrant, he is a stranger in Saint Petersburg, an outsider. Already in love with Lisa – the countess’ granddaughter – he now loses control entirely. It is as if the dark side of the world has come to envelop him, setting in motion uncanny mechanisms. Playing with these three cards spells mortal danger, and the ultimate wager is one’s own soul.


Hans Neuenfels, photo SF/Monika Rittershaus

Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, Hans Neuenfels directs Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades at the Großes Festspielhaus. Hanna Schwarz appears as the Countess. Evgenia Muraveva sings Lisa, Brandon Jovanovich is Herman, Vladislav Sulimsky appears as Count Tomsky / Plutus, and Igor Golovatenko is Prince Yelezky.

Claudio Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea

In Monteverdi’s last opera, L’incoronazione di Poppea, first performed in 1643, the title
figure’s hunger for power is interwoven with the obsession of Nero, as violence and eroticism artfully intertwine. With the immoral story of tyranny and intrigue, Monteverdi held up a mirror to his contemporaries, albeit a mirror clothed in the pleasing guise of sumptuous baroque music. In Jan Lauwers’ reading, the image in the mirror has become reality. In an epoch marked by excess and identity crises, when everything is available anytime, reason has no role to play.
Jan Lauwers, who founded the arts collective Needcompany together with Grace Ellen
Barkey more than 30 years ago, transposes his unique approach – in which text, movement, visual arts and music each have a distinctive role to play – to the opera stage. In Lauwers’ interpretation, the gods are punished for their crimes, and the protagonists literally walk over the dead bodies of their sins, actions, and murders. Power hunger, intrigue, cruelty, brutality and manipulation triumph in front of a backdrop of baroque beauty.
The joint project by Jan Lauwers & Needcompany and William Christie & Les Arts Florissants focuses on the human body and the physical presence of the singers. “By showing the victory of cynicism and evil,” says William Christie, “L’incoronazione di Poppea demonstrates the contradictions and weaknesses of the human soul in a disturbing and equally fascinating way. To me, this feeling emerges directly from Monteverdi’s score, and in order to allow today’s audiences to share that, we must respect his music exactly the way he wrote it.”
L’incoronazione di Poppea, Monteverdi’s opera musicale, will be staged at the Haus für
Mozart by Jan Lauwers together with his arts collective Needcompany and SEAD (the
Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance). William Christie conducts Les Arts Florissants. Sonya Yoncheva sings Poppea, Kate Lindsey is Nerone, Stéphanie d’Oustrac appears as Ottavia, Carlo Vistoli is Ottone and Renato Dolcini performs the role of Seneca.

Hans Werner Henze: The Bassarids

First performed at the 1966 Salzburg Festival, Hans Werner Henze’s The Bassarids is
considered one of the most important operas of the second half of the 20th century, thanks to its musical richness, evocative power and dramaturgical originality.
For the new production in Salzburg, director Krzysztof Warlikowski has chosen the version of the world premiere, including the intermezzo The Judgment of Calliope.
The Bacchae is one of the last works by the Greek playwright Euripides. He is said to have completed it only shortly before his death – in the year 406 BC. For centuries, a persistent legend claimed that Euripides had been mauled to death and then devoured by the dogs of King Archelaus I in his Macedonian exile. This horrible death is obviously reminiscent of that of Pentheus – and of Actaeon, eaten by his own dogs. Pentheus saw what he was not allowed to see – as did Actaeon, who surprised Diana in the nude with her virgin attendants in the woods. In his drama The Bacchae, Euripides revealed some of the dark side of human passion. Hans Werner Henze drew inspiration from this for his opera The Bassarids, in which he unleashed the triumph of inebriation over reason.
In 1966 Christoph von Dohnányi conducted Hans Werner Henze’s opera The Bassarids,
directed by Gustav Rudolf Sellner. In 2018 Krzysztof Warlikowski stages the opera at the Felsenreitschule. Under the baton of Kent Nagano, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus perform. Sean Panikkar is Dionysus, Russell Braun sings Pentheus. Willard White is Cadmus, Nikolai Schukoff plays Tiresias / Calliope, Károly Szemerédy sings the Captain / Adonis, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner embodies Agave / Venus, Claudia Boyle is Autonoe / Proserpine, and Anna Maria Dur sings Beroe.

Gioachino Rossini: L’italiana in Algeri

Gioachino Rossini‘s L’Italiana in Algeri with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role, the new
production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival (18 – 21 May 2018), will be revived during the summer season. Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts his Ensemble Matheus. The cast also includes Ildar Abdrazakov, Edgardo Rocha, Alessandro Corbelli, José Coca Loza, Rebeca Olvera, and Rosa Bove.

Operas in Concert

Der Prozess

In homage to Gottfried von Einem on the occasion of his 100th birthday, his opera Der
Prozess, based on Kafka’s novel and first performed during the 1953 Salzburg Festival, will be performed. Von Einem was a member of the Festival’s Directorate and in that role championed contemporary opera on the Festival programme. His goal was to turn the Salzburg Festival into a platform for the art of its time. HK Gruber conducts the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna at the Felsenreitschule.

Les Pêcheurs de perles

Plácido Domingo, Javier Camarena, Stanislav Trofimov and Aida Garifullina (the latter in her Festival debut) appear in a concert performance of Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de perles at the Großes Festspielhaus. Patrick Fournillier conducts the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg and the Philharmonia Chorus Vienna. (After press materials)

Marijan Zlobec

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