- Gioachino qua, Gioachino là,
- Gioachino su, Gioachino giù
Okay I’m paraphrasing here, it should be: Ehi Figaro! But in a little under a week’s time it will be Gioachino Rossini who will be all over the place and in great demand. Or at least all over the place and in great demand in and around Salzburg.
As we were leaving the final concert at last year’s Pfingstfestspeil we were given the prospectus for 2014. And it was with some surprise that we saw it was proclaiming:
Now anyone who knows me knows that in my world Rossini is up there with Mozart and Verdi in the Holy Trinity of Opera. One of the – oh so many – pleasures of our time in Italy was the yearly excursions to Pesaro to celebrate her favourite son. Pesaro and Rossini – well of course; Salzburg and Rossini – not so much. Though as I write this I cast my mind back to an incredible Barbiere in 1969 with Claudio Abbado at the start of his career as a Rossini specialist. But still I never thought of going to Salzburg to hear Rossini. I had forgotten one little detail: though I wouldn’t necessarily pair Salzburg-Rossini when playing word association on my psychiatrist’s couch I certainly would if the kindly doctor peered over his pince-nez, puffed on his pipe and mono-toned “Cecilia Bartoli!”
And of course La Ceci is the artistic director for the Pfingstfestspeil so it would only stand to reason that in her programming she would, at some point, include the Swan of Pesaro. As a sidebar Bellini was often referred to as the Swan of Catania…. it would seem those early 19th century composers were a veritable wedge of swans! And programme him she did for 2014: there’s Rossini in the morning, Rossini in the evening and (for those that could afford it) Rossini at suppertime!
As I mentioned almost a year ago we had no intention of going back to Salzburg for the 2014 festival tomorrow we’ll be heading to Frankfurt en-route to that lovely city on the Salzach to wallow in five days of Rossini, Rossini and more Rossini – with the odd bit of Hahn, Vivaldi and Faure thrown in just to keep me on an even keel. And I must admit that the tickets were booked five days after they went on sale in May 2013 – talk about the eternal optimist!!!!
Unlike other years we are giving a few things a miss this year – that Whit Monday last year when we ran from Mozarteum to St Peter’s Church to Grosses Festspeilhaus with only a chance to grab a quick energy restoring cup of tea and a piece of Sacher Torte was just too much. And there will be a few other changes this year: an old – as in longtime not age – friend will be coming with us and we’ll be meeting a friend of her’s for a few days in Salzburg. And hopefully we’ll be having a late evening cocktail with one of the inveterate contributors to Parterre Box.
But the big change is that for the first time in a long time we will not be occupying the Tuscan Suite at the Hotel Bristol. Though La Ceci’s tenure as artistic director has been an exciting one – witness last year’s programme – there has been a downside to it. During the Muti tenure there was one “big” name – Muti; that’s not to say that we didn’t hear quality – we heard and saw quality in spades. But with the advent of Bartoli there are some “big” names on the bill and the Festival now has a higher profile. And with a higher profile comes higher prices at hotels, restaurants and other venues in town. Prices have almost reached Summer Festival levels and frankly I gave up on the Summer Festival years ago as being beyond my financial resources. And sadly the beloved Bristol has reached that point where my pocketbook couldn’t justify paying the tariff being asked. Sad because going there was always like going home – however I’m sure we’ll still be able to find a table at the Sketch Bar after a performance and see some of our old friends who are regulars there.
And there have been two changes to the Festival format this year: we get not one but two operas, both staring Cecilia Bartoli. And to accommodate that sort of scheduling the Festival begins one day earlier this year running from Thursday until Whit Monday. And there is very little in the way of purely instrumental works this year – its almost all vocals!
But what vocals! We get La Cenerentola with Cecilia, the amazing Mexican tenor Javier Camarena, who sent New Yorkers for a spin last month, and Nicola Alaimo; the Stabat Mater with Antonio Pappano and his Santa Cecilia forces, Krassimira Stoyanova, Elīna Garanča, Piotr Beczala and Erwin Schrott; the Petit Messe Solonnelle in the piano/harmonium scoring again with Maestro Pappano, his Santa Cecilia Chorus, Eva Mei, Vesselina Kasarova, Lawrence Brownlee and Michele Pertusi; Joyce DiDonato in a recital of songs inspired by Venice; and finally Otello with La Ceci and John Osborn. Not a bad gathering of the Rossini clans?????
And what are we missing? Well Franco Fragioli, the countertenor, is singing Rossini and Myerbeer – but as beautifully as he sings Mr Fragioli’s stage mannerisms drive me up the wall so we’re giving it a pass for a dinner at Triangle. And French pianist David Fray is bobbing and weaving, as is his wont, through a programme of Bach, Rossini and Liszt while we explore the Lake District. But the big miss is the Rossini Gala followed by the Gala Dinner. The list of singers is an incredible one – including some great names from the past – and the dinner is a Rossinian feast. However impressive the list of performers for the gala might be the thought of my Teresa Berganaza, Montserrat Caballé and Jose Carreras singing anything at this stage does not fill me with pleasure – I prefer to stay with my memories and my old wind up Victrola at this point. And the gala dinner afterwards sounded like a gourmand’s delight but I think we’ll just have a nice Bazaar Töst at Cafe Bazaar with a comforting glass of something white, wet and local.
|In younger and slimmer days
– more hair, less weight.
There are a few interesting events arranged around the Festival that may be more than worthwhile catching in the two days we have free. Das Kino, the local art cinema in Salzburg, is showing several Rossini-themed films including the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle opera productions and Mario Monicelli’s Rossini! Rossini! with Philippe Noiret and Jacqueline Bisset. Apparently this was a film that Robert Altman gave up on and Monicelli took over. I’ve always wanted to see it so this might well be my opportunity. And this year even the Salzburg Marionettentheater has joined the Festival line-up with a revival of their puppet production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia but whereas in the old days they used the old Decca recording with Teresa Berganaza I understand the revival is voiced by… our Cecilia.
So its time to try on the trachen and see if it still fits – I have a sneaking suspicion there will be a problem there and no time to lose weight to solve it – bundle up the laptop, double check the tickets and hotels and start packing.
May 31 – 1669: Citing poor eyesight, Samuel Pepys records the last event in his diary.