From the Nocturnal Side to Myths
The grand Mozart finale with which Peter Ruzicka concluded his successful years as Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival was over. The new artistic leading team of the festival, Artistic Director Jürgen Flimm, Markus Hinterhäuser, responsible for the concert programme, and Thomas Oberender, Head of Drama, took up office in October 2006. The posts of Festival President, Helga Rabl-Stadler, and Business Director, Gerbert Schwaighofer, remained unchanged. “Everyone expects a festivity” is a quote from Goethe’s Prelude to the Theatre. A festivity in this city, about which Hugo von Hofmannsthal, one of the founders of the Salzburg Festival said, “Salzburg is the heart of the heart of Europe… Salzburg is an edifice situated between urbanity and the countryside, between the ancient and the modern…” The years under Artistic Director Jürgen Flimm tried to approach this festive character in the spiritual sense, dramaturgically based on metaphysical issues.
Jürgen Flimm gave his first festival season the theme “The Nocturnal Side of Reason” which was preoccupied with the dark side of our apparently enlightened life. Audiences proved themselves to be particularly curious this season: Armida and Benvenuto Cellini, two rarely performed operas, were discovered and received with great enthusiasm.
“For love is strong as death” – in keeping with this motto, the 2008 Salzburg Festival explored the relationship between love and death, in opera, drama and concert. “The Game of the Mighty” was the theme of the Salzburg Festival programme in 2009. Many operas, plays and concerts dealt with this theme. Handel, Rossini, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn dominated the opera season – as well as Luigi Nono, whose outstanding work Al gran sole carico d’amore was presented at the Felsenreitschule and was a standard-setting success with audience and press, just like the opening production of Handel’s Theodora.
The 2010 season quoted “Where God and Man Collide, Tragedy Ensues”: “This time we are rather like archaeologists opening up a door and going down to explore and remind ourselves about the interrelated origins and contradictions of our history and of our civilisation. We want to try and find traces of what we still are nowadays and follow up memories. We also want to show how the ancient themes of tragedy are timeless and still relevant,” Artistic Director Jürgen Flimm summed up. The focus of the 2010 opera programme was on myths and their potential to symbolise elementary human experiences and situations. Among the highlights were Wolfgang Rihm’s latest musical theatre work Dionysos, a new production of Strauss’s Elektra, Alban Berg’s Lulu and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
Thomas Oberender, responsible for the drama department, has focused more on the exploration of a new aesthetic which tries to unite music and theatre. Following Luk Perceval’s great success with Schlachten! in 1999, he programmed Perceval’s Molière Project in 2007. The final part of the trilogy Sad Face / Happy Face by Jan Lauwers saw its world premiere in 2008, and in 2010, the world premiere of a dramatization of Stefan Zweig’s novella Angst was realised; a late homage to the poet and former resident of Salzburg. Interestingly enough, once again the adaptation of a subject from literary history was acclaimed most highly – namely Andrea Breth’s adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (2008).
Since Markus Hinterhäuser took over the concert planning for the Salzburg Festival in the autumn of 2006, he has managed to extend the vibe and sensibility of the avantgarde festival Zeitfluss (1993–2001), mainly through the Continents series, which has focused on one major composer of the 20th or 21st century each year since 2007. So far, the musical continents of Giacinto Scelsi, Salvatore Sciarrino, Edgard Varèse, and Wolfgang Rihm have been explored. “I don’t want to have retrospectives or entire œuvres of any one composer here – that would be impossible; but I do want to have a central figure, around whom we will let other planets revolve – hopefully the right and obvious ones.” (Markus Hinterhäuser in an interview with Robert Jungwirth) Hinterhäuser’s conviction that the unknown, novel and unfamiliar can be programmed in Salzburg alongside the expected and familiar proved to be true – and has turned the “concert program into the secret main attraction of the Salzburg Festival” (Peter Hagmann, NZZ, August 8, 2009).
The 2010 season celebrated the 90-year anniversary of the Salzburg Festival – the Festival itself has long become a myth during these nine decades, characterised by many artistic highlights and much excitement. 2009 and 2010 brought not only artistic debates, but also discussions about personnel and a corruption scandal.
2010 was also the last season of the directorate of Jürgen Flimm, Helga Rabl-Stadler and Gerbert Schwaighofer. In 2011, Markus Hinterhäuser is Artistic Director and Helga Rabl-Stadler President with new economic responsibilities. From 2012 onwards, the directorate will consist of Alexander Pereira as Artistic Director and Helga Rabl-Stadler.
Details of the several years: