It is the quintessential musical festival, the most important and glamorous in the world. Although the Salzburg Festival has now fierce competition, both in Europe and in America, it continues to gather a collection of celebrities—both on and off stage. Created in 1920 by director Max Reinhardt and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal— whose version of the piece Jedermann (Everyone) is represented annually in Mozart’s birthplace—, the Salzburg Festival remains a staunch rival of the one celebrated in Bayreuth. But while Bayreuth’s purpose is only to present operas by Wagner, Salzburg features a very broad spectrum.
Photo: © Salzburger Festspiele / media.dot.
As in its beginnings, this influential celebration of theater and music will include works by Goethe and Shakespeare. But music is the mainstay of the Salzburg Festival, which this year takes place from July 18 to August 30, with 188 performances in 12 exclusive stages.
The 2015 edition will focus on masters and servants, the powerful and the oppressed, oppression and protest. The utopian reconciliation—embodied in the art—will bring comfort and reflection to attendees who will pay astronomical prices to see the best of the music world gathered in the historic Austrian city.
The antagonistic encounter between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma played out in The Conquest of Mexico by Wolfgang Rihm will be the referential opera in 2015. Released in 1992, with texts by Artaud and Octavio Paz, this time it will be conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, with the enfant terrible Peter Konwischny in charge of the mise en scene. Another hymn to freedom is the all-star Fidelio by Beethoven, with Jonas Kaufmann, accompanied by Adrianne Pieczonka as Leonora. The Marriage of Figaro will star Luca Pisaroni, and Cecilia Bartoli will play Norma. Bartoli will also star in Iphigenia in Tauris, with Christopher Maltman and Rolando Villazon.
Il Trovatore, 2014. / Photo: © Salzburger Festspiele / Forster.
Besides Fidelio and The Conquest of Mexico, the stunning scenery of the Felsenreitschule and the magnificent Grosses Festspielhaus (Great Festival Theatre), will host the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Franz Welser Most, performing Der Rosenkavalier. Harry Kupfer, Krassimira Stoyanova and Sophie Koch will be in charge of this production. Gianandrea Noseda will direct Verdi's Il Trovatore, with Anna Netrebko and Francesco Meli, in the new staging by Alvis Hermanis, which is set in a museum. In concert version, we’ll enjoy Verdi’s Ernani, with Francesco Meli and Vittoria Yeo, under the direction of Riccardo Muti. Also Werther, with Piotr Beczała and Elina Garanca, directed by the Argentine Alejo Pérez; and Dido & Aeneas, in a remarkable recreation by Thomas Hengelbrock. Not to be missed is the premiere of Mack the Knife, the curious adaptation for the Festival of The Three Penny Opera by Brecht-Weill, where the capitalists become the beggars.
A look at the stars in recital will leave you literally breathless, with performances by Yo-Yo-Ma, Grigory Sokolov, Maurizio Pollini, Andras Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida and Arcadi Volodos, as well as Matthias Goerne, Juan Diego Florez, Christian Gerhaher and Elina Garanca. We expect to see several chamber concerts and the presentation of the most distinguished orchestras in the world from the Berlin Philharmonic with Simon Rattle; the Vienna Philharmonic with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Riccardo Muti, Bernard Haitink, Semyon Bychkov and Daniel Barenboim (also in charge of "his" Western / Eastern Divan Orchestra) to the Boston Symphony, with Andris Nelson, and the Budapest Festival Orchestra with Ivan Fischer.
Jedermann, 2014. / Photo: © Salzburger Festspiele / Forster.
Salzburg Contemporary will celebrate nine decades of Pierre Boulez; the Ouverture Spirituelle cycle will focus on Hinduism and sacred works by Mozart, Bach, Martinu, Bruckner and Mahler, as well as Schubert (Lazarus), Haydn (The Creation) and Beethoven (Missa Solemnis).
The paths of the musical summer will always lead to Salzburg. This year, with the slogan "Empathy and Humanity”, the festival will recognize Sir Georg Solti's controversial answer when asked if he believed in God. On that occasion, the indomitable Hungarian director replied: "No, but I believe in Mozart". ■
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