"Tancredi": mafia families instead of knights and squires

Bregenz, 14 June 2024. Although an early work by a 20 year old composer, the opera in the Festspielhaus, Tancredi by Gioachino Rossini, is a fireworks display of lively and catchy melodies. Rehearsals began on Monday. Immediately beforehand, director Jan Philipp Gloger presented his concept and explained how he is making the not uncontroversial piece relevant for the present day.

The first meeting of all the artists and many of the personnel working behind the scenes on the Festspielhaus production is the de facto start of every new festival season. As a small welcome gift there’s a handy, personalised drinking bottle. Mounting operas can be sweaty work, as people who have experienced it know. Such as Yi-Chen Lin, who the Bregenz Festival audience will remember as the conductor of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. She has taken on the job of music director of Tancredi, and like the others, is listening intently to Jan Philipp Gloger, who is staging a work at Bregenz for the first time. Head of drama at the Staatstheater in Nuremberg, Gloger becomes artistic director of the Vienna Volkstheater in autumn 2025. 

Gloger’s concept convinces the festival’s artistic director Elisabeth Sobotka, who pronounces it “modern, interesting and moving”. She admits to the team enthusiastically, “I love Tancredi!” This is not altogether easy in view of the original libretto, but her affection for what will be her last opera at the Festspielhaus is the result of Rossini’s musical inventiveness.

As is almost always the case, the opera centres on a love story. Yet the protagonists are not exactly as Rossini and his librettist, who adapted a tragedy by Voltaire, envisaged them. Tancredi in the original is a trouser role – that is, a woman dressed as a man plays a man. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s production, Tancredi is a woman who dresses as a man to gain access to the woman she loves, Amenaide. But what’s really unusual, as he sees it, is the background to the drama: by transferring a dubious tale of knights and squires set during the Crusades in the  11th century to present-day South America in the drug mafia milieu, Gloger gives the work the necessary “contemporary relevance”. He outs himself as a big fan of the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. This makes the audience in the Saal Bodensee meeting hall all the more curious, and they gradually realise why so many people in attendance had introduced themselves as stunt performers. Tancredi can be brutal and comedic at the same time,” the director explains. “We can’t and don’t want to imitate Tarantino here, but we can show how two drug barons have to work together even though they hate each other.” The common enemy is the police. Marrying the clan daughter Amenaide off to another drug baron is intended to end the power struggle and strengthen the two clans.

The production team emphasises once more how dramatic the piece is, before the first music rehearsals begin in the same hall. The title role will be sung by Anna Goryachova. At this welcome meeting, Jan Philipp Gloger describes to her how her character will die on stage. “Cool!”, the mezzo-soprano says, eliciting laughter from her colleagues. This and other details will not be revealed for the time being.

(ami)

14.06.2024

Konzeptpräsentation "Tancredi"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
14.06.2024

Konzeptpräsentation "Tancredi", Jan Philipp Gloger (Inszenierung)

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
14.06.2024

Konzeptpräsentation "Tancredi"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis
14.06.2024

Konzeptpräsentation "Tancredi"

© Bregenzer Festspiele / Dietmar Mathis