“I am convinced that a festival should be unique every year,” Alexander Pereira said at the press conference for his first programme, encompassing the 2012 season. Even before he started in Salzburg, the new Artistic Director was able to claim success: the artistic reorientation of the Whitsun Festival under its Director Cecilia Bartoli, whom Pereira had appointed, was applauded widely by audience and press. Furthermore, the company Rolex became a new sponsor of the Whitsun and the Summer Festivals.
The 2012 Salzburg Festival began as early as July 20 – seven days before the official opening by Federal President Heinz Fischer – with Joseph Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, interpreted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and The English Baroque Soloists. This was the first event in the series Ouverture spirituelle, initiated by Alexander Pereira and focusing on sacred music at the beginning of the Summer Festival. Apart from the Christian tradition, thus the Artistic Director’s idea, each year a different world religion would present its musical tradition in Salzburg. In 2012 the Jewish religion was the subject of artistic exploration – and, in various panel discussions, also of intellectual curiosity. Under Zubin Mehta’s baton, for example, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performed Arnold Schoenberg’s Kol Nidre and Noam Sheriff’s symphony Mechaye Hametim. Next to the Ouverture spirituelle, the concert programme featured the series Over the Border, focusing on the composer Antonín Dvořák, and the series Salzburg contemporary, dedicated to Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Witold Lutosławski and Heinz Holliger – both offering new focal points.
The first opera of the summer was W. A. Mozart’s Zauberflöte, directed by Jens-Daniel Herzog. For the first time, Nikolaus Harnoncourt presented his musical reinterpretation of Mozart’s late work together with Concentus Musicus Vienna at the Felsenreitschule, using historical instruments. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Emanuel Schikaneder’s death, 2012 also saw the Salzburg premiere of his “Second Part” of Die Zauberflöte, the opera Das Labyrinth composed by Peter von Winter. With this production, the team supporting director Alexandra Liedtke and conductor Ivor Bolton revived the Residenz Courtyard as an opera performance venue. The presentation of operas in this unique setting was made possible through a new roof construction, which can be closed almost noiselessly in cases of inclement weather. By presenting Ariadne auf Naxos in its original version, director Sven-Eric Bechtolf hearkened back to an idea of the opera’s creators, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss: to combine the different genres of theatre, music, singing and dance in one work. For the Salzburg Festival production, Bechtolf created a new version of Ariadne. Breaking with today’s usual performance practice, this version incorporated Molière’s play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme as well as ballet music. Under Riccardo Chailly’s baton, the Vienna Philharmonic performed, while Jonas Kaufmann made his role debut as Bacchus. The new production was flanked by the Ariadne Matinees, readings from Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s letters and from Walter Kappacher’s Hofmannsthal novel Der Fliegenpalast. Alexander Pereira also emphasised contemporary opera in his programme. In 2012 Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten was featured on the Salzburg playbill. This new production, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher and directed by the Latvian Alvis Hermanis, thereby realising his first opera production, became the success of the season, celebrated by critics and audience alike. Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, directed by Damiano Michieletto, also met with great enthusiasm. Daniele Gatti conducted the Vienna Philharmonic; the roles of Mimì and Rudolfo were sung by Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala. When the latter fell ill before the performance on August 4, the audience was treated to the most luxurious substitute imaginable: Jonas Kaufmann took over at short notice, singing from the score while Piotr Beczala acted the role on stage. Alexander Pereira revived the Salzburg Easter Festival’s production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen for the summer programme, while Cecilia Bartoli was able to repeat the overwhelming success of George Frederic Handel’s Giulio Cesare at Whitsun during the summer. The concert performance of Handel’s Tamerlano brought a first for Plácido Domingo, who made his first appearance with a period instrument ensemble, the Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble, in the role of Bajazet. The second concert performance of an opera was dedicated to a lesser-known Mozart opera, Il re pastore. William Christie interpreted the work with the orchestra La Scintilla of the Zurich Opera; Rolando Villazón sang the role of Alexander the Great.
The first programme devised by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Director of Drama, was guided by a fundamental consideration: “Festivals are the Sundays of the theatre if their programme is exemplary. However, this can only be achieved if the polyphony of very different artists, works, interests and forms of expression is conducive, and also if these factors are encouraged and consciously represented.” His first season was inspired by this polyphony. Apart from the revival of Jedermann in Christian Stückl’s production, Bechtolf initiated a co-production with the Burgtheater Vienna, a new production of Heinrich von Kleist’s Prinz Friedrich von Homburg directed by Andrea Breth and featuring Peter Simonischek and August Diehl at Salzburg’s Landestheater. Pursuing a more international orientation of the drama department, Sven-Eric Bechtolf commissioned the English director Irina Brook to take on Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Perner-Insel in Hallein. At the same venue Irina Brook’s successful production of Shakespeare’s La Tempête (The Tempest) was seen in the director’s own French version. The French director Nicolas Liautard collaborated with Musicbanda Franui on a work commissioned by the Salzburg Festival from Händl Klaus, the “music play” Meine Bienen. Eine Schneise. André Jung and Brigitte Hobmeier convinced the audience, playing the main roles in this mysterious story about a supposedly fatherless family. The children’s piece Mojo by the London-based ensemble Theatre-Rites, the new production of Der Bauer als Millionär by Thalias Kompagnons and the performances of Kafka’s The Castle by the same company offered the Festival audience no less than three puppet theatre productions. The Young Directors Project competition invited four contenders: Tick Tock Productions and the South African director Princess Zinzi Mhlongo presented Trapped, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, at the republic. The same stage soon saw another commissioned work, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, developed by the company Theater Montagnes Russes and directed by Cornelia Rainer. The French director Gisèle Vienne, winner of the YDP Award in 2012, showed her piece This is how you will disappear as well as the production Éternelle idole at the ice rink in Salzburg’s Volksgarten. Outside the competition, the South Korean performance group Tuida presented Hamlet cantabile, an impressive reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet tale.
The 2012 Festival summer was crowned by the glittering Salzburg Festival Ball on September 1, reviving the tradition of festive dances during the Festival season. After a gala dinner at the Residenz, the ball guests moved on to the Felsenreitschule, where Daniela Fally and Markus Werba gave a concert and 48 debutante couples opened the ball. Thus, art and festiveness converged once again to complete the 2012 Festival. Or, as Peter von Matt put it in his 2012 keynote address: “Art and festivity are not identical, but their natures are related.”
Translation: Alexa Nieschlag