Monday, August 2, 2010

Salzburg 2009 (2)

Now I'll be more specific about the Festival.
You book your tics BEFORE going there. You fill out the web form in February and it all works very smoothly. If you forgot to book your seats for some of your favorite shows on the program, there is a good probability to buy the tickets on the site. You first have to check at the main box office, and ONLY if they tell you the show is sold out you go to one of the numerous agencies in Salzburg who are selling the tickets and charge you 10-15 extra euros per middle priced tic.

The street in which you find all three main Festival theaters looks stern during the day: sharp parallelepiped looking Mittel-European style street with theaters completely closed, with random tourists wandering the streets, and with known artists going to/from rehearsals. One more cool thing about Salzburg is that you get to meet many artists in a relatively small downtown area, and since it's summer and we're all on holidays, everyone seems to be relaxed and enjoying the moment...

The three theaters are aligned one next to another. From right to left you have the Big Festival House (Grosses Festspielhaus) which is really big: very wide and deep, and it somehow reminds me of the architecture of the post-modern evangelical churches in the US [in spite of good acoustics of this theater, the human contact with what goes on on the stage is somehow lost in space...]
Next is the Haus für Mozart, a recently refurbished modern looking theater of human size where the festival hosts one or more productions of the Mozart operas. Each seat in the first ~15 rows has a tag, i.e. a name of one of many generous contributors who financed a good chunk of renovation of this theater. And the third theater is called the Felsenreitschule. This is the one I liked the most. It was built in 18th century and it is literally carved into the rocky mountain which is behind all three theaters. The theater is very wide --the stage is immense-- but it's not too deep so you're always close to what happens on the stage.

If the place looks quite stern during the day, in the late afternoon it completely changes the face and becomes lively and very chic: the theaters open up, the limousines start arriving with all sorts of rich people, celebrities and what not -- all that folks who come in their best gowns/suits. The Salzburg Festival is an very important social event for the upper class in Austria, in Germany, and in Europe. Mingling during the intermissions is fun: you can see many elegant and beautiful people, everyone is very well dressed for the occasion, and even those of us who're there simply for the opera [We're not that rare! :)] seem to have made an effort not to be a punk among all that see of chic. 

Three tips: Do purchase the program-book because it indeed contains lots of interesting information about the opera, and about the production. It costs less than in Paris. Drinks and beverages that you can consume during intermissions are less expensive than in Paris, London, or even Munich (that was one more surprise!) Austrian wine is bad, and what they call prosecco has nothing to do with prosecco! There is a shop between the Grosses Festspielhaus and the Haus für Mozart where you can buy a nice souvenir (cf. pic at the beginning of this post) -- hey, even if you don't really need a souvenir, you can buy something as it supports the festival...

At the last year's Festival I saw 4 operas and 3 concerts. Of operas, first I saw the Christof Loy's production of  Theodora, with Christine Schafer as Theodora [you already understood that for some inexplicable reason I very much like Christine's art?!], Bejun Mehta as Didymus, and for the first time I listened to Joseph Kaiser -- he was superb as Septimus and in the end received the loudest cheers from the crowd. The problem with a show was the size of the Grosses Festspielhaus: it's just too big for this opera/oratorio, especially when produced with minimalistic sets by Christof Loy who based his direction on subtle interactions among characters, which ultimately gets lost in space if you're not too close to the stage.

Then I saw the Claus Guth's production of Cosi fan tutte that many reviewers disliked, but I absolutely loved it. First I saw its premiere via the Siemens-Webcast and then went to see it in Salzburg. The two experiences were complementary. I very much appreciated all the female singers: Miah Persson, Isabel Leonard, Patricia Petibon, and always reliable Topi Lehtipuu. I'll come back to blog about this cool production to discuss the full  Da Ponte cycle directed by Claus Guth...

My third opera was a major bummer: very crappy production of the Rossini's Moïse et Pharaon by Juergen Flimm and  conducted by Riccardo Muti. I think that was a final stone that made me take a real dislike to Muti... The only two positive elements that I can recollect from this opera were Marina Rebeka and Eric Coutler.

Finally the forth opera was the Katie Mitchell's production of Al gran sole carico d'amore by Luigi Nono, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher -- a huge show with an enormous orchestra scattered over an immense stage of the Felsenreitschule. It was structured as a film-shooting session of four episodes featuring four remarkable women engaged in fight for freedom, each in her own way and in her own historical moment -- one in Italy, one in Germany, one in Chile, and one in France. It was a fascinating experience that fills up your eyes and ears. There is a huge chorus, 4 sopranos singing ultra-high most of the time, you try to follow what's going on in the chambers where the "film" was produced and you try to watch the projection on the huge screen in the background. Very memorable experience...


  1. I am enjoying the festival vicariously through you. Looking forward to your next reports!


  2. Thx Cherry!

    There will be more posts and pics Salzburg and Bayreuth related :)