Magazine article Opera Canada

Salzburg Festival

Magazine article Opera Canada

Salzburg Festival

Article excerpt

If the 95th edition of the Salzburg Festival was a belt-tightening response to Alexander Pereira's three-summer romp as Artistic Director, you'd have hardly noticed it. True, the previous year's budget had been slashed by 8%, falling to 60 million Euros (CDN$90 million). And overall, there were fewer performances on the various stages, 188 in 2015 versus 270 in 2014. In spite of that, 226,900 patrons from 74 countries attended the festival, and revenue from ticket sales grossed 29.6 million Euros (CDNS39.8 million).

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There wasn't much to quibble about in the festival's operatic offerings. These included: remounts of Norma and Iphigenie en Tauride with Cecilia Bartoli (Artistic Director of Salzburg's Whitsun Festival), Il trovatore with Anna Netrebko, Der Rosenkavalier with Krassimira Stoyanova, and concert versions of Werther, Dido and Aeneas and Ernani. Of more interest were the new productions: current festival artistic planner Sven-Eric Bechtolfs updated and superb Le nozze di Figaro; Peter Konwitschny's flaky staging of Wolfgang Rihm's Die Eroberung von Mexico (The Conquest of Mexico); Elena Tzavara's delightful, 70-minute version of Der Barbier von Sevilla fur Kinder (The Barber of Seville for Children), featuring a cast from the festival's Young Singers Project that included tenor Andrew Haji (Almaviva) and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner (Basilio), both from the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio; and, last but not least, Beethoven's Fidelio.

There is no happy ending for this Fidelio in director Claus Guth's updated, crime-drama-like vision of the piece. Florestan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being imprisoned by the black-suited Don Pizarro, aided and abetted by a troop of thugs decked out in matching dark suits and sunglasses. During Beethoven's glorious crowning chorus with quintet, "Wer ein holdes Weib errungen," Florestan ambles about erratically, covers his ears against the music and writhes in despair on the ground as the chorus extols its praise of the reunited couple offstage. Florestan's joy is limited to a fleeting touch of Leonore's hands.

Much more controversial was Guth's excision of all the spoken dialogue in favour of Torsten Ottersberg's sound installation--pre-recorded sounds of low rumblings, clock-like ticking, laboured breathing and such like. The goal of Ottersberg's installation was presumably to heighten the dramatic tension, but the sounds proved a poor fit interspersed as they were among Beethoven's musical numbers. They totally failed, for example, to connect Rocco's Act I "Gold Aria" to the plot. …

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