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July 1999

Opera+ Munich Opera Festival--packed with more performances than ever

Munich's Opera Festival offers a huge selection from various artists

The annual munich Opera Festival is the zenith of the city’s cultural calendar. For an entire month, the Nationaltheater, Prinzregententheater and Cuvilliés-Theater in the Residenz will stage outstanding opera productions with world-class performers, as well as ballet performances, concerts and vocal recitals. Following last year’s thundering success, the complementary program “Festspiel +” will also present an exciting, innovative selection of musical theater, concerts, films, exhibitions and discussions, exploring the individual’s relationship to family and homeland. “Heimat – (n)irgendwo” (homeland – (no) somewhere) is this year’s motto, promising a provocative approach to how we define home. in an effort to open the festival to the broadest possible audience, the popular, free open-air event “Oper für alle” has been extended to two days. Once again, thousands are expected at Max-Joseph-Platz for a live broadcast, via giant screen and loudspeakers, of Giuseppe Verdi’s war horse “Aida” on July 15 at 19:30. A special treat will follow on July 16 at 21:30, when the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Choir of the Bavarian State Opera, conducted by Zubin Mehta, will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 — also live on Max-Joseph-Platz. The festival traditionally opens with an opera premiere. This year it is Verdi’s “Otello”, based on the play by Shakespeare. The first-class casting of these roles with Ruggero Raimondi (Iago), Amanda Roocroft (Desdemona) and Vladimir Bogachov (Otello), a regular at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, promises to lend masterful artistry to this new production (performances on July 1, 5, 9 and 13 at 19:00). This year, the Festspiele boast a second opera premiere: In a co-production with the Wiener Festwochen, Monteverdi’s tragic opera “L’Orfeo” will be performed at the Prinzregententheater by the Balthasar-Neumann ensemble and choir and the Monteverdi-Continuo-Ensemble, with John Mark Ainsly in the title role and Deborah York as Euridice (performances on July 15, 17, 20, 22, 24 at 20:00). in another new bavarian State Opera production, Janácek’s “Katja Kabanova,”,which premiered in March, will be staged by a celebrated British duo. Paul Daniel, musical director of the English National Opera, conducts this romantic drama. David Pountney, who has already directed three other “Katja” productions in Scotland, England and Australia, has taken on the job of interpreting the music and bringing Katja’s inner struggles to the forefront. He spares none of the powerful symbolism, whether it be a thunderstorm, ship wreck or torrential river, into which Katja jumps in the climactic final scene. Though the unfamiliar sound of Czech lyrics requires some getting used to, American soprano Catherine Malfitano is outstanding as the heroine, her strong voice vividly expressing the character’s inner turmoil. Malfitano, who has sung a remarkable 60 roles from Chicago to Salzburg, is certain to find many admirers in Munich (performances July 17, 20 at 18:30). wagner aficionados will be delighted with see the latest “Lohengrin” production. The wonderful Peter Seiffert portrays the swan-knight, but not as the traditional demigod. His character is a mix of eros, vulnerability and tenderness, his voice resonant and warm. He is matched by the sensitive performance of Adrianne Pieczonka (Elsa). If the stage causes some puzzlement — Is it a bloody bull? A plaster bed with stylized feathers? — the music and voices remain impervious to such distractions (performances July 2, 7 at 17:00). Most closely connected to the Heimat theme of this year’s festival is Max Weber’s romantic opera “Der Freischütz.” Pious naiveté, tradition, simplicity and the dark forces of nature — these are the key elements of “Freischütz”. Thomas Langhoff and Jürgen Rose play with them, leaving the audience uncertain whether the directors’ “simulated Bavaria” unfolding on stage (complete with deer antlers, a snug cottage, the black silhouette of a coniferous forest and performers in folk costumes) should be taken as a parody of folkloric kitsch or a sincere effort to interpret land and people. While the stage set may be met with mixed emotion, there is no question about the quality of the singing. Dorothea Röschmann as Ännchen and Petra-Maria Schnitzer as Agathe fill their characters with life in an this stilted world (performances July 3, 6 at 19:00). The festival will also feature two performances of the Bavarian State Opera’s latest production, “La clemenza di Tito”. It is a lesser known and rarely performed Mozart opera, and for good reasons. Long recitatives are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, and the opera’s tiresome, one-dimensional title character Tito, is an emperor who does nothing but forgive and forego. Sympathy goes to Philip Langridge (Tito), who must smile throughout the performance. It is the two lengthy breech parts (women playing men’s roles) which make up for the uninteresting protagonist. Especially outstanding is mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova (Sesto), celebrated at the recent premiere. Martin Duncan’s unconventional production, however, is a source of confusion and controversy. Towering over the otherwise empty, black stage is a giant screen. Four camera teams film the performance from the stage or the orchestra pit and broadcast it live on the screen. At times diverting from the action on stage or drawing laughter from the audience when a singer is frozen into an odd still, it is fascinating to see close-ups of singers or the orchestra through a magnifying glass. Without an ordinary stage set or props, this production of “La clemenza” rivets all attention on the singers ( July 18, 21 at 19:30). the festival’s program also includes performances of “Ariadne auf Naxos,” “Anna Bolena,” “Aida,” “Elektra,” “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Die Meistersinger,” “Simon Boccanegra,” and “Der Rosenkavalier” (the latter two with star soprano Renée Fleming.) See What’s Up or pick up a free program at the Festspielkasse (festival box office), Maximilianstr. 11. Call (089) 21 85 19 19 for information on ticket availability and (089) 21 85 19 20 to reserve, or visit their website at Be prepared for disappointment — many performances sell out early.

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