Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Salzburg Festival 2012

An embarrassment of riches – the phrase is over-used, but what else to call a Festival which features performances from Anna Netrebko, Magdalena Kozena, Andreas Scholl, Jonas Kaufmann, Plácido Domingo, Juan Diego Flórez, Matthias Goerne and Thomas Quasthoff? Its almost too much – there’s even one day when you can hear Scholl as Caesar at 15.00 and then Kaufmann as Don José at 19.30.

Opera is the big draw, with no fewer than seven new productions, beginning with Die Zauberflöte conducted by Harnoncourt on July 27th – this is followed by Ariadne auf Naxos on the 29th, with Riccardo Chailly conducting the VPO. That will probably be the hottest ticket in town, since the Tenor and Bacchus will be sung by the Tenor God himself, Jonas Kaufmann. Kaufmann also appears in Carmen, first night August 14th, when he will be frenziedly diving at Magdalena Kožená under the watchful eye of the mezzo’s husband, Simon Rattle.

Other operatic highlights include La Bohème, a debutant for the festival and the result of a deliberate policy by the new Intendant, Alexander Pereira, to challenge anti-Puccini prejudice: the casting of Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala ought to be a big help with that. Another stellar cast graces Giulio Cesare from August 23rd, with Andreas Scholl and Cecilia Bartoli slugging it out in those florid trills.

There’s a wonderful series of ‘spiritual’ concerts of oratorios and masses, beginning with the Festival’s opening performance on July 20th, Haydn’s Creation conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and with Lucy Crow and James Gilchrist amongst the soloists, and culminating in a Verdi Requiem (September 1st) conducted by Barenboim, with Kaufmann and René Pape taking on the Ingemisco and Confutatis respectively.

Orchestral concerts include performances from the Vienna Philharmonic under Haitink, Gergiev, Muti, Holliger and Jansons, as well as the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under Gatti, the Cleveland under Welser-Möst and the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Chailly.

Song devotees will be in their element, with recitals from, amongst many others, Christian Gerhaher (August 10th) Matthias Goerne (15th) Thomas Quasthoff (18th) and Juan Diego Flórez (28th).

All that is even without exploring the wonderful theatre, master classes, chamber concerts and children’s events; you can get full details at Salzburg Festival.

Contrary to what you might well expect from the starry singers and conductors and the glitzy Festival ambience, tickets are not all expensive. For example, you can hear Ariadne auf Naxos or Giulio Cesare for €80 in a seat with a similar view to a side balcony one at Covent Garden.

Sounds like the best way imaginable to avoid the dreaded Olympics.

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More on Anna Netrebko
La forza del destino @ Royal Opera House, London
La bohème @ Royal Opera House, London
Preview: Salzburg Festival 2012
Manon @ Royal Opera House, London
Netrebko/Hvorostovsky @ Royal Festival Hall, London