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Salzburg Festival turns transgressive


An extravagant 'Don Giovanni' by Romeo Castellucci and a conscience-shaking concert by Patricia Kopatchinskaja upset the conservative image of the great Central European musical event

Last year, by fits and starts, the Salzburg Festival celebrated its centenary as best it could. It has been decided that the commemoration will continue this summer, with the William Kentridge logo in the programs and the great exhibition of the Salzburg Museum that can still be visited, but the capacity restrictions have already disappeared, although a rigorous personalized access control has been imposed (of identity –the tickets are nominal– and protection against Covid-19) and the obligation to wear FFP2 masks inside all the enclosures. Salzburg is thus beginning to reap its head in its eagerness to consolidate itself as the summer festival of reference, although not with the personality that it still carried in part since the iron years of Herbert von Karajan, but with the one that it is imposing on it , reform after reform,surprise after surprise, Markus Hinterhäuser, who has retaken the spirit that Gerard Mortier wanted to instill in him, although without any hint of the Belgian manager's desire for prominence and notoriety. If his always seemed a personal and temporary stage, the new course that the Austrian pianist is imposing seems to resemble rather a path of no return.

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  • The great theater of the world turns 100

Following his great success with


in 2018, Hinterhäuser commissioned its director, Romeo Castellucci, to produce

Don Giovanni

, an opera that had

just premiered

at the festival in 1922, in German, precisely with Richard Strauss as director. musical.

However, it is possible that neither he nor his set designer at the time (Alfred Roller), another of the initial promoters of the great Austrian theatrical and musical event just over a century ago, recognized in what has been seen and heard here the


giocoso dramma


With Castellucci as stage manager and with Teodor Currentzis in the pit,

Don Giovanni

it becomes a strange, warped artifact, a forest of symbols so impenetrable that even another of the first architects of the original festival, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who lavished them so much on his own work, would have had trouble unraveling it.

Absolute chaos and confusion, including a shower of white streamers, at the end of the first act of 'Don Giovanni' Monika Rittershaus

There is no surprise at all, since both Castellucci and Currentzis, two swimmers against the current, have been congruent with their two marked artistic personalities. The first strips the work of its humorous component and turns it into something halfway between a philosophical reflection, loaded with references to the Greek world (the golden apple that Zerlina picks up, the tragic masks, the zither, the aulos, the tunics, the erinias, the grim reapers dressed in black), and a luxurious and gigantic artistic installation, almost a great



in the immense space, almost unattainable with the eye, of the Grosses Festspielhaus. The second almost completely denatures the theatrical essence of the score, which in his hands sounds languid, tired, insipid. For the sake of one and the other, the

giocoso dramma

that we knew turns into a

delinquent dramma

that made the show exceed four hours in length. It is possible that

Markus Hinterhäuser


not refer to this when, before the premiere, he said that this

Don Giovanni

was "the most unusual the world has ever known". No one can deny that everything about him is strange, unusual, shocking, but a very different thing is if it will arouse unanimity in those who witness it, even though there were no signs of dissent in Thursday's representation: the tragaderas of the upper bourgeoisie no longer they are what they were. It is curious that the same public that enthusiastically applauded the

Così fan tutte

Christof Loy's ascetic one year ago (with the severe cuts that the healthcare situation forced then) did the same this year with the

cryptic, excessive and conceptually variegated

Don Giovanni

of Romeo Castellucci. Or that the fresh and agile musical direction of Joanna Mallwitz was rewarded with applause similar to that received now by this bloodless, withered and, ultimately, lifeless Mozart who has been taken from the Teodor Currentzis sleeve.

Before the overture sounds, Castellucci dedicates four minutes to various workers, babbling what appears to be Italian, to desecrate a huge ecclesiastical space, removing paintings, statues, a tabernacle, the benches of the faithful and, in the center, the table. of a medieval crucifixion, whose space will soon be occupied by a basketball net. From the top, the most varied objects will then fall - softly or loudly -: a car, a piano, basketballs, a photocopier, a wheelchair, an old carriage, a large black and white reproduction of the

Portrait of a Young Woman

by Petrus Christus (which we will see reversed later). Almost the most entertaining thing about the first act is trying to guess what will be the next to hit the ground. A goat, various naked women, an old man in a bikini, a rat, a couple of white poodles, a reproduction of Dürer's hare and, from the second act, a hundred and a half women from Salzburg, from all age, complexion and intellectual capacity. To them and their movements, with trajectories wisely choreographed by Cindy Van Acker, Castellucci relies much of the visual power of the second act, as if a representative selection of the women mentioned by Leporello in his catalog aria had presented themselves to dress Donna. Anna, Donna Elvira and Zerlina (remedying them and often transmuting into them) and,at the same time, to remind Don Giovanni that they too passed through his life at some point, each with their own individuality and not only as part of an undifferentiated collective, routine and anonymous entries from a long list.

Soprano Nadezhda Pavlova (Donna Anna) sings over a reproduction of 'Portrait of a Young Woman' by Petrus Christus.Monika Rittershaus

Don Giovanni and Leporello, who wear pristine white suits, are virtually indistinguishable, almost a carbon copy of each other. Donna Elvira appears at the beginning and at the end with a small boy, presumably the son she has had with the seducer and that he, of course, shuns. Don Ottavio, a kind of big boy, appears characterized by the most diverse and less flattering guises (military man in uniform and band, Norwegian explorer, hero of Ancient Greece, king with his crown, or in snowy white touched by a plume and a ermine cape), almost as if he did not belong to this world or to this time, at least not to those of Don Giovanni. Donna Anna, Zerlina and Masetto come out of the burning better, the former as a tragic, severe, unattainable heroine, a suffering woman in the best Greek tradition.The peasant couple embody that serfdom subjected to the whims of their masters, with Zerlina as a lustful –and accessible– object of desire. Before Castellucci's proposal there are basically two options: letting yourself be entertained by its occasional visual power (which clearly goes from more to less) or trying to find some meaning or explanation to its inexhaustible succession of occurrences. The latter seems, however, an alternative doomed to alternative doomed to alternative doomed to failure.

Don Giovanni

needs to be told and explained, but the Italian renounces both, enclosing the creation of Mozart and Da Ponte in a mental construct that only he, his collaborators and, perhaps, some visionaries will understand.

Teodor Currentzis joins the party with a musical direction full of his usual mannerisms, tedious to the extreme, with recitatives of exasperating slowness, with


on the edge, or below, of audibility, and, above all, very free in a multitude of small details.

The most evident is the omnipresence of the fortepiano in the continuum, also in arias, duets and concertantes, although it is in recitatives where he makes and undoes at will, omnimous, inventing left and right in a multitude of styles, not always consonants, and incorporating nods - some brilliant - to past action, almost always in the form of fleeting quotes.

Bravo to Maria Shabashova for conforming so well to the eccentricities and eagerness of musical co-authorship of the Greek director, who also allows his soloists to be ornamented and varied profusely, invents silences where there are none, abruptly slows down the

tempo for

no reason, introduces foreign interpolations, like the dissonant introduction of

Quartet K. 465

of Mozart (with fortepiano, of course) before the cemetery scene, or a non-existent chorus is invented, probably forced by Castellucci's thanatic dramaturgy, as happens in the last section of the final sextet (the one added in the Vienna version) . The worst thing about Currentzis' short-term approach, and this extends to almost everything he conducts, is that, determined to be original and creative in almost every note, in every accent, in every cadence, it is nothing short of impossible to perceive a complete phrase. in all its extension, not to mention its difficulties in maintaining harmonic tension. His musical pointillism often results in faded images and blurred outlines. And when the music finally gains some verve, as in the end of the first act, very perceptible mismatches appear between pit and scene.He reserved his moment of glory for himself and his musicAeterna orchestra in “Fin ch'han dal vino”, in which the orchestra rose to the level of the stage with a constant flash of lights that Currentzis took advantage of to further exaggerate its excessive gestures. As in his recent visit to Madrid, it was clearly evident that the quality of the woods is light years away from the excellent strings that his orchestra treasures.

Davide Luciano (Don Giovanni), left, and Federica Lombardi (Donna Elvira), with a long line of women, omnipresent in the second act.Monika Rittershaus

Among the singers, two clearly stand out above the rest.

The most, Nadezhda Pavlova, an extraordinary Donna Anna, even more so in the first act, with a shocking “

Or sai che l'onore

” that started the first applause of the afternoon, than in the second.

Both she and Michael Spyres, who endures with integrity the successive costumes of Don Ottavio, are the only ones who manage to emerge unscathed from the



imposed by Currentzis from the moat.

They both have plenty of


and technical resources, which, together with two voices of enormous quality in all registers, translates into the most musically memorable moments of the performance. They were also, in fairness, the most applauded at the end, especially the Russian soprano, a singer with a formidable future ahead of her. Davide Luciano and Vito Priante disappoint from start to finish like the seducer and his servant: if their physiques are very similar, their voices are also indistinguishable. Nothing one or the other does leaves the slightest trace or makes the slightest impression, and they have plenty of opportunities to do so. Anna Lucia Richter has the physical attractiveness and vocal charm that Zerlina needs, but she does not quite empathize with her character, although it is fair to admit that neither Castellucci nor Currentzis make it easy for her.Federica Lombardi has a perfect voice for Donna Elvira and gave sparkles of great class, but also made it clear that her technique suffers from important fissures. Intrascendent David Steffens as Masetto and reliable, without fanfare, Mika Kares as the ghostly Commander.

Castellucci sees in Don Giovanni a destructive force: everything that comes into contact with him ends up perishing. That is why, after its own ending, in which he presents him completely naked, self-smeared with white paint and later turned into a skeleton, the opera ends with the six surviving protagonists turned into those petrified bodies and immobilized in a fraction of a second by the eruption. of Vesuvius in Pompeii. Here, like almost all of the scenery, costumes and lighting (the Italian director assigns himself all the responsibilities), the corpses are extremely white, the color that Castellucci likes so much, as if they had been roughly covered with plaster. By then - after eleven thirty at night in Salzburg -Who else who less was already a helpless victim of this conceptual overdose and trying to elucidate what we had just seen and heard seemed like a black, very black attempt.

A moment of the performance of George Crumb's 'God-music' from 'Black Angels', with cellist Thomas Kaufmann on top and Patricia Kopatchinskaja on the right, strumming the tuned glasses with double bass bows alongside Meesung Hong Coleman and Marko Milenković. Marco Borrelli

Wednesday night's concert in the Salzburg Kollegienkirche also had its own share of transgression. It was something sought after, of course, since it had been entrusted to Patricia Kopatchinskaja, a violinist who has made heterodoxy her banner. The Moldovan violinist not only played her instrument, but was also responsible for the conception of the program and the artistic direction of the concert, generically titled

Dies irae

, the beginning of the medieval sequence of the mass for the dead. Dressed soberly in black, she renounced the quirky models of other occasions to reinforce the mourning of the occasion.

The objective was to sing almost a requiem for the planet as a result of the unstoppable global warming and the increasing climatic catastrophes. There is little time left, if any, seems to be the message of Kopatchinskaja, to reverse this fall into the abyss and prevent the arrival of that wrath of God that will be unleashed on the day of an ever nearer Final Judgment, even symbolically. To do this, he proposed to first listen to the "heartbeat of the Earth", which is what Giacinto Scelsi musically captured in


, which began to sound, as a prologue or preparation, before the very beginning of the concert and the usual public address announcements, while the furthest behind were still taking their seats and the audience kept whispering until they became aware that those strange sounds had come from one side of the presbytery was also part of the script. Conceived as a methodical and almost obsessive repetition of low and resonant chords by the harp in its low register –first– and double bass and tamtam –after–, Scelsi's work takes its name from a North American indigenous people. Its relentless advance, its blackness, its apparent inevitability are the closest thing to a collective march to the scaffold.

From there, however, and until the concert took on musical and conceptual flight again right at the end, the experiments with soda began. From the outset, with the alternation of various movements


from the

Battalia à 10

by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (active in Salzburg) and –disordered– by

Black Angels

, George Crumb's work for electric string quartet that he himself subtitled

Thirteen images of the Dark Earth

. A strange couple that was defended by Kopatchinkaja and his young and enthusiastic instrumentalists in a manifestly improvable way. In Biber, some notes of the



were transformed into loud zapatazos; in

Der Mars

The whispering violin of the Moldavian woman was barely heard, covered by some invented and thunderous tambourines;



sounded very slow, with folkloric overtones and, paradoxically, unambiguously romanticized;

Die Schlacht

was a veritable ceremony of confusion, although that must not have been Biber's intention to describe a battle musically, and PatKop - his nom de guerre - ended up blasting a rattle while what seemed to be an attack sounded through the loudspeakers. aerial;




was, again, almost inaudible by the intrusion of another recording.

It was a postmodern Biber and technically very, very sloppy.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja improvises while the string players, lying on the ground, play a fixed note.Marco Borrelli

The Black Angels

looked very little like what George Crumb envisioned, not only because eight of his movements were amputated, but because the other five were performed messily (even though symmetries are vital in American music) and with liberties probably indefensible, such as the involvement of the whole string in



Threnody I

, which completely denatures the original intentions

by Crumb. Only the


, with the tuned goblets rubbed with bows and the cello playing its solo at the top of the altar, vaguely resembled the original work. Luckily, in this same church, a few days ago, one of the best current defenders of

Black Angels

, the Meta4 Quartet, did play the



and respecting the indications of its author.

As if fearing the

horror vacui



), Kopatchinskaja introduces interludes to facilitate transitions on stage, as when she had the string playing


in harmonics while she and her companions returned to their positions. The Biber-Crumb alternation was followed by her own work,

Die Wut

, an appropriately furious work with a strong improvisational component that she performed as a soloist herself. Then a very reduced version of the musicAeterna Choir sang the


a ten voices by Antonio Lotti emerging from the audience in the central nave. His version will not go down in history. Then seven trombonists burst in playing a monotone from various points in the church and PatKop improvised on the same note (a D) played by the stringed players lying on the floor. It was the prelude to a romanticized version again and touched with two violins, two violas and cellos in an ultra


one of the


of Dowland (although he had not previously sounded the

Lachrymae Pavana


Black Angels

). After some shouts from the choir, the music made with meaning in

Composition no. 2, "Dies irae"

, by Galina Ustvólskaya, for eight double basses, piano and wooden box, the latter in the shape of a coffin and percussed by Kopatchinskaja in the center of the stage.

Here the music again prevailed over the show and, as in Scelsi, respect for the composer's wishes was recovered.

In fact, Ustvolskaya's work, with the constant chords of the piano - the great officiant of the funeral rite - and the incisive rhythms of the percussion, also has a lot of march towards the gallows.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (center) energetically touches the wooden box in 'Composition no.

2, "Dies irae" 'by Galina Ustvólskaya, the penultimate work of the concert she designed for the Salzburg Festival. Marco Borrelli

The concert should have ended there, in full despair, but then we heard a cappella, alternating between a male and female vocal quintet, several stanzas of the

Dies irae

medieval, with the members of the Choir MusicAeterna at the top of the stage. The other instrumentalists held a light and a metronome each, which sounded asynchronously, one and the other faded progressively until, of course, PatKop made the last two gestures to make the darkness and, finally, the silence that became so common. he had shied away until then: fairly predictable and less effective than finishing Ustvolskaya's work. The audience that filled the church was delighted and widely applauded this display of mild heterodoxy on the part of Kopatchinskaja, for whom the scores often seem more a means (to concoct his antics) than an end. His proposal, falsely profound, was bought by the vast majority of an audience that, like the shows offered by the festival,It seems to be in a rapid process of transformation. Time will tell if it is really lasting or just temporary and temporary.

Source: elparis

All life articles on 2021-07-30

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