The 2017 Salzburg Festival has become an important event for the entire music world. Russian musicians and the Perm choir, under the direction of conductor Teodor Currentzis, have breathed a bold and vibrant sound into it. For the first time in the history of the world of classical music, an event on such a scale was opened by a Russian musical ensemble.
MusicAeterna, the orchestra and the chamber choir of the Tchaikovsky Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Perm, and its artistic director Teodor Currentzis, presented Mozart's opera The Mercy of Titus to the international audience. The opera was directed by Peter Sellars, the theater and opera director, head of festivals, an innovator and influential figure in the world theater arts. The opportunity to represent our country at the festival was possible due to the initiative and financial support of the Russian Society of Friends of the Salzburg Festival. Thanks to the participation of the Russian Friends and the Aksenov Family Foundation, it was possible to present to the international community nearly the entire musicAeterna ensemble, unique both by its members and by the indivisible whole with its prominent conductor.
Between November 2016 and August 2017, more than 350 publications about musicAeterna's participation in the festival appeared in leading Russian and international press. Critics have highly appreciated the input that our musicians have made into the history of classical music.
A special program for Russian friends of the Festival was held on August 14–17.
The first day of the program was dedicated to the work of William Kentridge, South African artist and filmmaker. Museum der Moderne Salzburg presented the retrospective Thick Time. Installations and Stagings; the exhibition occupied both buildings of the museum. Visitors were able to immerse themselves in the extraordinary world of installations by Kentridge as an artist and then trace the evolution of his work as a stage director. Dmitry Gutov, artist and art theorist, conducted a tour of the exhibition for Russian friends. In the evening, the festival audience was presented with Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck staged by Kentridge, an expressionist opera with a complex musical composition, including atonal sound and intonational twists. The performance was conducted by Vladimir Yurovsky, artistic director of the The Evgeny Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (since 2011), and principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. At this year's Festival, he debuted as a conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the opera Wozzeck.
The second day of the program impressed the audience with a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. With the background of folk motifs, the piercing sound of the orchestra, and the strength of the characters' emotions brought to the point of grotesque, Shostakovich creates a picture of the Russian provincial town at the height of political reaction and is very sympathetic to his female lead. By reading Leskov's story in the context of the early Soviet era, with its search for gender experiments, social criticism of tsarism and the construction of a "new man," the composer placed the opera in the expressionist quest of the world theater.
One of the original features of the 2017 production was its scenographic solution. The setting appears as an "eternal unfinished building," transformed into a prison camp. The main part was performed by the Mariinsky Theatre star Evgenia Muravyova.
The third day of the program was memorable for the Russian Friends with two productions of the operas Aida and Ariodante.
The performance of Verdi's Aida impressed the audience with the minimalist stage design by Iranian photographic artist Shirin Neshat. She used video projections and artistic light, which certainly highlighted the emotional arias performed by the magnificent Anna Netrebko and Ekaterina Semenchuk. "Aida is Verdi's best work," — Dieter Schnebel, contemporary composer, wrote, praising her music as an expression of "a fervent humanism that translates human suffering ... into an artistic utopia of tragic beauty and beautiful tragedy."
Handel's opera Ariodante, with the incomparable Cecilia Bartoli in the leading role, is an incredibly light yet dramatic baroque opera that has been given a new reading. In this production, director Christof Loy applies his reflections on gender roles to the love story of Ariodante and Ginevra. Living the male role of Ariodante on stage, Cecilia Bartoli transforms from a knight in armor to a woman in just three scenes.
It is always fascinating to see how Cecilia Bartoli brings her vision, vivid imagination and superb musicality to the production, bringing them down on the audience.
On the last day of the program, the Russian friends had the opportunity to watch the main premiere of the Festival — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera The Mercy of Titus.
Gala dinner at Leopoldskron Palace became the special program finale. It is the very place where Max Reinhardt, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss founded the Salzburg Festival. The famous film The Sound of Music was shot on the property of the palace in 1965.
The dinner to celebrate the premiere of The Mercy of Titus was attended by the opera star and artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Cecilia Bartoli, conductor and artistic director of Perm Opera and Ballet Teodor Currentzis, and the Opera's stellar performing cast. The atmosphere of Leopoldskron Palace made the evening unforgettable.
We are grateful to everyone who joined us and supported the Salzburg Festival in 2017, and we hope to see you again at the future festivals!