Power games on the lake stage, bygone masculinity at the Festspielhaus
Rehearsals for "Rigoletto" and "Don Quichotte"
Bregenz, 4.7.19. The show on and around the giant clown's head on the lake stage is about to begin. Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto opens for its first ever Bregenz Festival production on 17 July. The opera with the famous aria "La donna è mobile" is being transposed to a circus world by stage director and designer Philipp Stölzl. In all there will be 27 performances of the opera on the lake stage until the festival ends on 18 August 27. About 90 per cent of the 192,000 tickets available have been sold.
"I wanted to venture something new: a metamorphosing stage set that changes a great deal throughout the whole evening. More of a big, dynamic machine than a sculpture, almost something like a marionette," says director Philipp Stölzl, who developed the set in collaboration with Heike Vollmer. Even so Rigoletto, he says, can "actually be staged in any world. There has always been power and the abuse of power. It's almost immaterial whether you have the Duke wear a suit or a circus director's costume."
Philipp Stölzl: music videos, cinema and the opera stage
Stölzl made a name for himself as a director of music videos for acts including the singer Madonna, before moving into film making. His movies North Face, Goethe! and The Physician attracted a lot of attention. Stölzl, who studied stage design, also directs opera and has worked at the Salzburg Festival, Theater an der Wien, and at Deutsche Oper and the Staatsoper in Berlin. The opera will be conducted by Enrique Mazzola and Daniele Squeo at the head of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Mazzola conducted the opera at the Festspielhaus in summer 2017, Moses in Egypt.
It's not just the production that's new on the lake stage this year. The sound system is also being upgraded after 15 successful years. By summer 2020 every piece of sound equipment will be state-of-the-art, further improving the sound quality of BOA 2.0, as it's called. Bregenz Open Acoustics (BOA) is considered to be one of the world's best sound systems operating in an open-air auditorium.
Don Quichotte at the Festspielhaus: Who are the heroes of our time?
This year's Festspielhaus production is Don Quichotte, an opera that is seldom performed. The great Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin, who sang the title role in the world premiere at Monte Carlo in 1910, is said to have wept in emotion as the composer Jules Massenet played some excerpts from the opera to him. Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes created the chivarlous Don Quixote, one of the best known figures in world literature, at the beginning of the 17th century. He will bestride the stage at the Bregenz Festspielhaus on 18 July, followed by two further performances.
"Knight errantry doesn't exist any more, but the idea of bringing back the bygone fame of masculinity seems to reoccur constantly throughout history," says stage director Mariame Clément. Instead of a linear narrative structure she says she wanted to use little episodes to show who Don Quixote is. It's the first time the director from Paris has worked at the Bregenz Festival. Previously she has directed at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Glyndebourne Festival, Opéra national du Rhin and Theater an der Wien. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Daniel Cohen, with Julia Hansen designing the set and costumes.
"How do we define heroes in our time?" could be one of the central questions that the production raises. What makes Don Quichotte a unique work, however, is that it tells the story of a male "hero" with "women's music", Clément explains. Massenet's music is incredibly honest and free of fear of feelings, she says. About 80 per cent of the 4,600 tickets available have been sold. There are no tickets left for the premiere.
Don Quixote at the Kornmarkt, in an orchestral concert and in Musik & Poesie
The self-proclaimed "knight of the sad countenance" can be seen at other venues, too, at this summer's Bregenz Festival. An adaptation of Don Quixote will premiere at the Kornmarkttheater in co-production with Deutsches Theater Berlin; the play will be directed by Jan Bosse and star two well known and highly regarded actors, Ulrich Mathes and Wolfram Koch. The Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ariane Matiakh, will devote its traditional matinee concert to the figure of Don Quixote, while writer Michael Köhlmeier will present a gallery of fools and jesters in the series Musik & Poesie.
The 2019 Bregenz Festival runs from 17 July to 18 August. For tickets and information, visit our website www.bregenzerfestspiele.com or call 0043 5574 4076.