Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bregenz Festival 2010: RESPECT

Festival in Bregenz is maybe less famous than those in Salzburg, Bayreuth, Aix, or Glyndebourne, but what David Pountney does there for years already is simply awesome.

Bregenz is a small --and very posh-- Austrian town on Bodense (Lake Constance), situated almost within walking distance from both Switzerland and Germany. Many learned about the Bregenz festival through the 007 movie Quantum of Solace, where a good part of the action occurs during a performance of Tosca on their big floating stage spectacularly set on  Bodensee.

Every two years they change the sets (and obviously the show as well), the grandeur of which never ceases to attract tourists. If that can invite more people to discover opera, I say go for it! Last year they premiered the Graham Vick's production of Aida  -- now available on DVD -- and so the same installation is still there this year.

They invite very good singers and the shows are apparently good. Here is another shot at the floating stage:

and the public is placed in what looks like a chunk of the swimming stadium, which leans against the back of their beautiful Festspielhaus. Here is how it looks

Of course I didn't go to Bregenz to see this opera. I probably would have if I stayed longer but since I was in town for one day only I couldn't. To that add my personal problem with Aida: I disliked every production of Aida I've seen in my life, and I always felt the "military" character of that music brings up the bad side of human soul...  So I'm fine with skipping Aida [although I would have liked to see Indra Thomas performing - even if she's miked].

OK, that's a big front image of the Bregenz Festival. But there is another, much more interesting, side of the festival. Every summer they also present one production in their beautiful theater. That's where David Pountney's genius shows up. Instead of opting for La Boheme, La Traviata, or even Zauberfloete,  Lohengrin, our Awesome Dave prefer to come up with something unique. Look at his Bregenz record:
Everything is done very carefully with great attention to details, and the idea is not just to rehabilitate an opera that's been unjustly neglected. Each year the opera production only comes as a culmination of the whole program gravitating around a theme related to a given composer -- which entails many concerts, liederabends, symposiums...and everything is made at the top quality level.
To avoid making the whole thing just an episode, they invest in releasing DVD's of their productions, making the impact of rehabilitation of any of these opera global. The world of opera should be grateful to David Pountney and his collaborators.RESPECT

This year he did something that made me admire him even more. He resuscitated the work of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, and arranged for the first ever stage performance of his magnificent opera The Passenger. I blogged about it a bit earlier this year and this was the main reason for my quick visit to Bregenz. It is very close in style to Shostakovich, with occasional Prokofiev moments. A person next to me found a resemblance to Berg too. The show was MAGNIFICENT: our fave Teodor Currentzis passionately conducted Wiener Symphonikers a very strong cast, and the stage direction by David Pountney and  his collaborator, Johan Engels, was terrific. I'll make a separate post about the show (hopefully later today), but here are just a few pics of how it all looks before entering the Festspielhaus.

There is an open air exhibition about the life and work of Moisey Weinberg. It's set on a perfect spot so that many people can see it and that they can stop and read about this man's fascinating life without clogging the flow of people in/out the Festival area.

Here are three pics:

Here is the Festspielhaus

In front of the Theater there is a slightly concaved space holding some water and this big sculpture in the center of that small pool. Plenty of chairs around so you can sit where you want, as you want -- behind is the lake and the walk along is very relaxing.

In front of the Theater is a nice summerish restaurant. The weather there is perfect. It's not too humid, not too hot...

All these pics are taken in front of the Theater (Festspielhaus). The shop is nice too: they sell T-shirts, shopping bags,  and all kinds of souvenirs with "Aida" prints -- I couldn't resist and asked if they were selling  lingerie with the same print... -- and lots of interesting CD's and DVD's [not just the usual stuff that you can find everywhere].  

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