"Not figures on the stage, but people"

"The Hunting Gun" and "The Barber of Seville" / Press Day II

Bregenz, 3.8.18. At the recently concluded Press Day II, members of the national and international press were introduced to two exceptional music theatre events scheduled for the final week of Bregenz Festival. After attending a rehearsal for the opera The Hunting Gun there was a press conference with the festival's artistic director Elisabeth Sobotka and a number of artists involved in either that production or the second music theatre premiere, The Barber of Seville. The press conference was also an occasion to take stock of this festival season – the 73rd – at the halfway point.

The Hunting Gun
The Hunting Gun (Das Jagdgewehr) is in fact several premieres in one. The opera was commissioned by the festival and is receiving its first ever performance. For the composer, Thomas Larcher, it's the first opera. And it's also the first time Karl Markovics – actor, screenplay writer and film maker – has sat in the director's seat. Referring to this contemporary work, Elisabeth Sobotka stressed the "need to preserve the vitality of opera".

As the rehearsal showed, Markovics is a masterly director for the opera stage, too. When they were changing back from the final scene to the opening one, he found time to come and greet the journalists with a smile: "Nice to see you so excited by our rehearsal!" At the press conference he then spoke about the "incredible gift of being able to be there while an opera is taking shape. I've never done this kind of thing before – it's exactly what I hoped it would be." He said he didn't want to put figures on the stage, but people.

As was announced today, the composer Thomas Larcher has been awarded the Ernst Krenek Prize of the City of Vienna. The Tyrol-born composer appeared at the press conference slightly under the weather with a cough, and said his current role in the rehearsal phase felt "more like convalescent leave than work". He added that he was very relieved to be able to rely for support on such "strong pillars" as the artistic director, the director and the conductor Michael Boder. Boder said it was important that the complex work, based on Japanese author Yasushi Inoue's novella from 1949, should be accessible: "We have to be so clear in what we present that the audience grasps it on one hearing."

Markovics is aware that the production presents the singers with considerable challenges. That's especially true for Robin Tritschler, who had to jump in at short notice to replace an indisposed Mark Padmore in the role of the writer. "The time really was very short indeed. I learned the role basically on the plane flying from and to New York," Tritschler said. "Next time take a ship instead," Markovics interjected with a laugh.

The Barber of Seville
The "high-energy rehearsal time" that the artistic director spoke about also applied to The Barber of Seville, which is being directed by Brigitte Fassbaender. She has been working as the Opera Studio's voice coach since it was founded in 2015, offering a masterclass at which young singers are trained for their specific role as well as more generally for a career as a soloist. The celebrated singer is well acquainted with the Rossini opera, but directing it is a first for her. Working on it with her "young and gifted squad", she has been giving free rein to her imagination but at the same time knows the possible pitfalls. "Comedy is hardest of all. If you then try to be funny to boot, then it's all over. Nothing should be taken more seriously than comedy," she says.

Svetlina Stoyanova, who sings Rosina, said: "I'm extremely grateful for this dream role and for the opportunity to work with this fantastic team". What she particularly likes is the way the director talks individually to every member. Fassbaender herself is looking forward to further preparations and to the performances, noting: "The premiere is not a finished result. That's when things really start!"

Carmen 2018 / Provisional figures
After this Friday evening's performance of Carmen – the 14th so far – around 91,000 will have seen the Kasper Holten production (not including the dress rehearsal and crossculture night). All performances to date have been sold out. For the remaining 15 out of a total of 29 performances, a small number of tickets are still available from 15 August onwards. So far one performance has been cancelled due to rain. "Carmen has become a tick more thrilling; the team has grown together more," says a delighted Sobotka.

Audiences have also responded enthusiastically to "the two gems" (Sobotka), María de Buenos Aires and Böhm. María de Buenos Aires sold out on both evenings, drawing a total of 780 people to the Workshop Theatre. The play Böhm was seen by 938 people, i.e. 97 per cent of capacity; and 89 per cent of tickets were sold for the opera Beatrice Cenci, staged at the Festspielhaus on three evenings with a total audience of 4,137.

The Hunting Gun by Thomas Larcher (director: Karl Markovics) receives its world premiere on 15 August, with further performances on 17 and 18 August at the Workshop Theatre.

The first night of Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville, presented by the Opera Studio under the direction of Brigitte Fassbaender, is on 13 August. Further performances are on 14, 16 and 18 August at the Kornmarkt Theater.

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