Nights At The Opera: June 2008

June is always a very busy time of the year for opera goers and particularly for those who like to plan and order next season’s tickets in advance.  The Staatsoper and Volksoper are coming to an end for the summer recess.  Then there are the summer festivals like those in Salzburg, Bregenz, Gars, St Margareten and here in Vienna and environs. [Festival details to come in the next issue]

The major houses published their programmes for the season 2008-2009 in April and some booking is possible beginning on the first of June.

The premiere of Richard Strauss’ final opera Capriccio, which opens at the Staatsoper on June 7, is going to attract a lot of interest, and if you miss it now it will be back with the same cast in October. Renee Fleming returns to  Vienna to sing the Countess – a role responsible for solving the stage rivalries of the musician and the writer. Since her first appearance at the Staatsoper at Christmas time in 1993 her presence has been all too rare.

There is one final performance on the 4th of June of Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani with  Sondra Radvanovsky and  Leo Nucci heading up the cast. The staging is a distraction in this otherwise fine production. It’s on steps – lots of steps, in fact, so many that the temptation to count them is strong but difficult to complete, without having to start all over again, and again, and again.  I think there are more than 90. Then there is the suspense as the Duchess Elena makes her entrance at the top and wends her way down in a full length gown which could send her flying at any moment. Revived in 2006, it is about to disappear again, so a last chance….

The great gripping drama of Don Carlo, the unfortunate grandson of the Emperor, Charles V, comes in two versions, both being performed in Vienna in June. The more popular one is in Italian and has four Acts. This production, performed on 15, 18, 23 and 27 June is presented in a grand traditional production, wonderful to see and to hear.  The other (Don Carlos) scheduled for 19, 24, and 28 June is in the tradition of the French Grand Opera and is therefore long (five acts) and with ballet sequences. However this contemporary production is in sharp contrast to the Italian version.  Sometimes it shocks, as when prisoners are dragged in chains through the auditorium and being beaten by the guards. And sometimes it descends into pure farce, as when the ballet is replaced by a scene called Eboli’s dream.  But what is very good is the opportunity to see both performances back to back, which can be done three times as shown above.

The other Verdi on the schedule is the new production of La Forza del Destino which has five performances in June (6, 9, 13, 16 and 20). Carlos Alvarez fans, of which there are very many, may well be wanting to see it again, and maybe even more than once. Some, we know, have seen all performances of this controversial production so far.

At the Volksoper,  there is the opportunity to see two great favorites: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro both sung in German as is traditional at Vienna’s light opera house. It is interesting to have the possibility to see how the fortunes of Beaumarchais’ characters evolve between the two operas. In The Barber of Seville Figaro’s skills are devoted to the successful romance between the Count Almaviva and Rosina.  In the Mozart opera the same Count is the problem to be overcome by the wily Figaro . You might wonder whether Figaro would have assisted the young Almaviva so enthusiastically, if he suspected that he would become a total scoundrel by the time Figaro was set to take the plunge himself.

Two extra performances of My Fair Lady have been  scheduled for June, but are totally booked since early May.  The agencies have a few tickets left. The good news is that several more performances are already scheduled for next season.  Needless to say, these are already in great demand,

There are also two great gala opera concerts at the end of the month.  One is the much- publicised end of the football European Cup concert at Schönbrunn on 28 June. The other is an end of season gala concert in the Volksoper, with stars from the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg on 29 June (at 2.30 pm) with Valery Gergiev at the helm.

The football and the inevitable ticket touts remind one of the empty seats at the benefit performance of Manon with Anna Netrebko last April.  Sadly, touts  had quite a few tickets and were demanding double the official price for tickets for this performance. Worse still, a ticket office in the shop of an eminent recording label was also demanding double the official price, specifically Euro 260 for two Euro 65 tickets. In the end, the theatre was dotted with empty seats. What a shame.

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