262,000 visitors expected this season
In autumn: Carmen in london and at the circus
Bregenz, 18 Aug. 2017. Carmen’s fortune will be decided on Sunday for the last time this summer at the 28th performance of the opera on the lake. It is clear already – without any need for a fortune teller – that 100% box-office capacity has been reached for Georges Bizet’s opera. Providing all three remaining outdoor performances go ahead as scheduled, Carmen will have been seen by 199,000 people by the end of the festival season (including the dress rehearsal and crossculture night).
Ticket sales for all of the events at the 2017 Bregenz Festival are expected to total 261,992. Only in 2014 did more people attend the summer festival on Lake Constance, which was founded in 1946.
The festival began earlier than ever this year, with a public masterclass in February offered by Brigitte Fassbaender in the Festspielhaus, Bregenz. The multiple award winning Kammersängerin coached the young singers of the Opera Studio – now in its third year – in preparation for their roles in The Marriage of Figaro. Just a few days before, Bregenz Festival had shown its cards in a scenery-building workshop near the Festspielhaus, where a colossal pair of female hands were being built for the lakeside stage set. A few weeks later they were in place on the stage, frozen in the act of shuffling 59 outsized playing cards.
This is the third time Carmen has been seen on the lake stage, following productions in 1974 and 1991/92. The opera returns for its second run next season. In this production by Kasper Holten with a stage set by Es Devlin, the Bizet opera was also broadcast live on television, where it was seen by just under 1.9 million viewers. So far one performance has been cancelled due to rain.
Moses in Egypt at Oper Köln
This year’s Festspielhaus production, Moses in Egypt, staged by director Lotte de Beer with the theatre company Hotel Modern, played to capacity audiences of over 4,600. Gioachino Rossini’s biblical opera will now transfer to Oper Köln, opening on 8 April 2018. There was exotic opera on a totally different scale in The Ring in 90 Minutes, which was created by the same Dutch theatre company and performed by puppet insects. The Workshop Theatre performances were seen by 714 people in all. After a four-year absence, spoken theatre returned to the festival, with a guest appearance by Berlin's Maxim Gorki Theater. The Situation, voted Play of the Year in 2016, was performed on two evenings at the Kornmarkttheater, with 87 per cent of tickets sold and a total audience of 930. The play inaugurates a series of spoken theatre productions to be staged annually over the coming years.
Two recent additions to the festival and one matinee
The two latest additions to the festival programme, introduced in 2015 by the artistic director Elisabeth Sobotka, have enjoyed great success with the public. More than three years in the making, the opera To the Lighthouse, commissioned by Bregenz Festival, received its world premiere in the Opera Workshop. The second and final performance is this evening at the Workshop Theatre and is sold out. The Opera Studio meanwhile has completed its cycle of Mozart–Da Ponte operas launched in 2015 with The Marriage of Figaro. The last performance, also sold out, takes place tomorrow in the Kornmarkttheater.
On Sunday morning the Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra (SOV) will give its traditional matinee concert at the Bregenz Festspielhaus, conducted by Gérard Korsten. Tickets are still available. For the orchestral concerts by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the SOV’s upcoming matinee, a total audience of nearly 6,000 is expected. In all, 847 people attended the four evening events in the Music & Poetry series.
Insights into how opera is made
The path to the world premiere of the newly commissioned opera To the Lighthouse was illuminated in a novel way. Six Insight sessions, open to the public, were held from May 2015 to March 2017 at Kunsthaus Bregenz, followed by one more in August 2017 in the Lake Studio of the Festspielhaus while the opera – by Zesses Seglias – was in the process of being composed. More than 700 visitors attended the seven Insight sessions, which comprised round-table discussions between artists, a lecture, and musical samples in advance of the Opera Workshop premiere.
Carmen in the Circus World
Events of the young people’s programme, crossculture, were attended by more than 2,600 enthusiastic kids and young adults. In October this year Bregenz Festival invites schoolchildren and their teachers and families from the entire Lake Constance region to an inaugural event for the show Carmen in the Circus World. The initiative is intended to encourage children to explore the world of Carmen – the current lake stage production – and to get involved in the show themselves. The partner in the initiative is Opera Domani from Italy, an outreach project by Teatro Sociale di Como, which wants kids not only to watch the opera, but also to become active creatively. Teachers will be supplied in advance with teaching material and invited to workshops so that the schoolchildren can be familiarised with the story and the music in a way appropriate for their age. The kids will then become part of the show themselves by singing along from the audience and deploying props they have made themselves.
Carmen set design in London
The set for the Bregenz Carmen will form part of an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum from 16 to 24 September. The exhibition High Tide for Carmen, part of the London Design Festival, will display a 1:100 scale model of the set for Carmen as well as set models for the Bregenz lake stage productions André Chénier (2011/12), A Masked Ball (1999/2000) and Fidelio (1995/96). In addition there will be actual-size replicas of various elements of the Carmen set, including a 30 square metre playing card and a colossal thumb. A highlight will definitely be a replica of the set, at a scale of 1:8 and up to three metres high, on the grey surface of which videos will be projected. A documentary film will tell exhibition-goers about the history of Bregenz Festival and the process of building the Carmen set. The creative director of the London exhibition is the festival’s head of decor Susanna Boehm in association with the stage designer Es Devlin. Afterwards the exhibits will remain on show as part of the exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics running until the end of October.
Booking opens on Sunday evening
The Festspielhaus production in summer 2018 will be Beatrice Cenci by the Hamburg-born composer Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996). The Austrian premiere of this opera will open the 73rd season of Bregenz Festival on 18th July 2018. There will be two further performances. The day after the opening the curtain goes up on the lake stage for the first night of Carmen in its second run. Currently 26 performances of Bizet’s opera are scheduled. From Sunday evening it will be possible to book tickets for the 2018 season on the festival website.
The 2018 Bregenz Festival runs from 18th July to 19th August.