Letters from the Directors of the Salzburg Festival

Salzburg Festival 2014

Dear Honored Festival Guests,

It is with great pleasure that I present our events of the 2014 Festival summer to you, hoping that these will meet with an equally fantastic resonance as last year’s program, which brought us the highest number of visitors since the Festival’s founding. Once more, I have the privilege of realizing my idea of a program which does justice to the Salzburg Festival in all its uniqueness: As every year, we will try to give the most important artists of our time a home in Salzburg for six weeks – in a density that would be impossible to achieve anywhere in the world but in Salzburg. In my view, this is what the fascination of the artistic attraction of this Festival is all about. This summer, we present to you five opera premieres with handpicked casts. Don Giovanni is the first of these, continuing  our  new Mozart / Da Ponte cycle, followed by the world premiere of the opera Charlotte Salomon, a contribution to the world war theme which part of our program reflects this year. Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Harry Kupfer, is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss; with his production of Verdi’s Il trovatore, Alvis Hermanis dedicates himself to a work of the classic opera repertoire for the first time. A heartfelt and long-held wish of mine has been the staging of a Schubert opera. The new production of his Fierrabras will be directed by Peter Stein, who gave us such a wonderful Don Carlo last summer. The summer’s opera schedule is rounded off by the revival of La Cenerentola from the 2014 Salzburg Whitsun Festival, with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role of course, as well as two concert performances of Donizetti’s La Favorite, for which Nello Santi returns for the first time in more than 50 years to Mozart’s city, conducting the Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra. The main roles will be sung by Elīna Garanča and Juan Diego Flórez. In addition, we present Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to you in a concert project with Waltraud Meier and Peter Seiffert in the title roles and Daniel Barenboim conducting his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. As you will see, together with our concert cycles this pro- gramme is so rich that even if a performance should be sold out, you will easily find an attractive alternative. A project especially dear to my heart is the continuation of our Ouverture spirituelle, in which world religions enter in a fruitful dialogue with one another in Salzburg. After exploring and experiencing Jewish and Buddhist works during the past two years, in the summer of 2014 we turn our gaze to various musical manifestations of Islam: by inviting Muslim musicians, presenting traditional spiritual chants from various regions and by presenting classical and contemporary music inspired by Islam. The latter has its protagonists in the Palestinian-Israeli composer Samir Odeh- Tamimi or the Cairo-born composer Hossam Mahmoud, both of whom have also contributed new works to our series Salzburg contemporary. Apart from exemplary performances of classical works, I believe that it is part of the mission the Salzburg Festival to deliver important signals in the field of contemporary music, and thus I am happy to be able to present the world premiere of Marc-André Dalbavie’s Charlotte Salomon, an opera commissioned by the Salzburg Festival. This work explores the life of the Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon, murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. The French composer himself conducts the Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra. Further works by Dalbavie, famed for his sense of sonority, can be found on the programmes of the Salzburg contemporary series, its second focus this year being the oeuvre of Wolfgang Rihm. We have been fortunate to enlist Luc Bondy, winner of the 2013 Nestroy Award for his life’s work, to direct the world premiere of Dalbavie’s opera. The Swiss director thus returns to the Salzburg Festival, where he was previously acclaimed for his productions of the world premiere of Botho Strauß’ play Das Gleichgewicht and the operas Salome and Le nozze di Figaro.

For the other four opera premieres, we look forward once again to welcoming the Vienna Philharmonic – thankfully, the pillar of strength of the Salzburg Festival. With Don Giovanni they open the opera programme, continuing  our new Mozart / Da Ponte cycle   under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach and the direction of Sven- Eric Bechtolf, launched last season with Così fan tutte. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo in the title role as well as Genia Kühmeier, Anett Fritsch, Andrew Staples and Luca Pisaroni, last season’s celebrated Guglielmo, will make a wonderful Mozart ensemble.

When I first took up my position here, one of my greatest wishes was to finally stage an opera by Franz Schubert in Salzburg. This season, we offer you a veritable jewel, Fierrabras, one of his eighteen stage works, some of which remained fragments, and all of which are far too rarely performed. Ingo Metzmacher is known as a champion of unjustly neglected works, and therefore also of Schubert’s operatic output. He conducts this new production, which Peter Stein directs.

The next premiere is Verdi’s Il trovatore, with Daniele Gatti conducting and Alvis Hermanis directing. With Anna Netrebko, Plácido Domingo, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Francesco Meli in the main roles, a vocal feast awaits you! With its beautifully melancholic and pensive feeling of an end approaching, Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss was written from the perspective of the years immediately before World War I, reflecting an epoch that was irrevocably doomed shortly thereafter. In August 2014 it will be 100 years that the murder of the successor to the throne of Austria-Hungary triggered a war that would cost 17 million lives worldwide. This we wish to commemorate: the world premiere of Dalbavie’s opera Charlotte Salomon, which reflects the most devastating consequences of this war, the new productions of three plays, Karl Kraus’ Die letzten Tage der Menschheit, Ödön von Horváth’s Don Juan kommt aus dem Krieg and Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone, as well as selected concert projects – they all remind us of this sombre anniversary. In addition to our production of Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Zubin Mehta and directed by Harry Kupfer, Festival founder Richard Strauss also occupies a prominent position in our concert program.

I cordially invite you to study our program brochures at leisure – there is much to discover, from the wonderful musicians of our concert cycles to the fascinating projects of our director of drama, Sven-Eric Bechtolf, and new offers for our youngest visitors. I look forward to an exciting and stimulating Festival summer, crowned once again by a glittering Festival Ball on August 30.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your affectionate recognition of my work, and ask you to help us make the summer of 2014 a great Festival summer.

Warmest wishes,

Alexander Pereira

 

Dear Salzburg Festival Family,

‘Every art needs two: one who makes it and one who needs it.’ Thus, Ernst Barlach – sculptor, draughtsman and author – described the existential relationship, which also characterizes the Salzburg Festival’s essence. Max Reinhardt described this relationship differently, but no less vividly when he argued for the Festival’s founding in 1917. He spoke of art ‘not as a luxury for the rich and sated, but as food for the needy’. And Reinhardt continued, in defiance of his times, which were as inimical to art as they were deathly: ‘Art, especially theatrical art, has not only held its own during the ravages of this war, but it has proven that its existence and maintenance are among the most indispensable necessities.’ The great number of people who attend exhibits, follow opera with bated breath and impatiently wait for the latest books to be published is a clear indication of the degree to which the arts are needed. We interpret our constantly rising numbers of Festival visitors as another gratifying proof that art is as important as food. In 2013 more than 280,000 people travelled to the Salzburg Festival from 73 countries, 39 of them outside Europe. None of us would have dared to prophesize that concerts given by Japanese Shōmyō monks would sell out. Based on the experience of the last Festival season, however, we are fairly certain that the 2014 Ouverture spirituelle will be sought out again by many, in search of an experience for which regular daily life leaves too little space. In this regard, the Festival holds a privileged position compared to municipal theatres and local concert producers: our guests consciously take their time; they are willing to experiment with novelty that might require preparation and a willingness to explore and grapple with a subject. Charlotte Salomon, our first opera world premiere since Wolfgang Rihm’s Dionysos in 2010, promises an interesting libretto and music. And our production of Fierrabras might help combat ancient prejudice against Franz Schubert, who we are convinced is underrated as an opera composer. Illuminating war as an important topic of our drama, opera and concert program in 2014 is an obvious choice given the history of the Festival’s founding. On May 17, 1918 an association was registered striving to ‘establish a world center of art on Austrian ground through the construction of a Festival theatre’. ‘After the war… this Festspielhaus is to initiate and nurture the understanding between peoples through the reconciliatory and compelling power of the arts.’ What a wonderfully optimistic view forward this text conveys – a ‘world center of art on Austrian ground’. It sounds far more encouraging than the scathing taunt of Karl Kraus, who described Austria as an ‘experimental laboratory for the end of the world’. In the end, Max Reinhardt – derided by Karl Kraus as the ‘epitome of the problem of theatrical people’ – was right. The Festival really does turn Salzburg into something like the world capital of the arts every summer. The fact that in 2014 we will stage Kraus’ play Die letzten Tage der Menschheit, described by himself as difficult to perform, would surely have inspired him to publish another brilliant polemic in his magazine Die Fackel.

Helga Rabl-Stadler

 

Translated by Alexa Nieschlag