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Thus I will call upon all gods

10 JUN 2014

published in: Whitsun

Cecilia Bartoli (Photo: Uli Weber/Decca)
If, like me, you’ve scooted on your rattling Vespa around the feet of Romulus and Remus or Father Jupiter with his drinking chum Bacchus in the Eternal City since your youth, then a purely Roman theme for Whitsun would be more than an obligation. But as the Roman deities plagiarised more than a thing or two from the Greek pantheon, may the gods of my hometown excuse the short trip across the Ionian Sea – and join me in appealing to Zeus, and all his divine Hellenic colleagues, to bestow their protection on the 2015 Whitsun Festival!
In Gluck’s reform opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, may the singing staged by directing duo Leiser/Caurier together with Christopher Maltman, Topi Lehtipuu, Michael Kraus and Rebeca Olvera under Diego Fasolis, fulminant ruler of choir and orchestra, restrain the vengeful goddess of the hunt! And together, we shall beg the elegant Diana, mounted on her hind, for mercy.
The fact that Andrea Wenzl, Michael Rotschopf, Sven-Eric Bechtolf and Jürgen Tarrach will also energetically be helping us to navigate the vicissitudes faced by Iphigenia in Goethe’s play, Iphigenie auf Tauris, fills me with great admiration. While singers are permitted to glide on upliftingly protective, supportive musical waves, as it were, actors depend entirely on bare words to express their emotions. What a task, and at the same time, what freedom of interpretation!
While Iphigenia’s tragedy ends happily with her arrival, safe and sound, on the shores of Athens, Zeus’s young lover Semele experiences a jaunty, playful decline. Hastened by intrigue and blinded by vanity, not even the invocation of all the gods can prevent Semele’s tragic death. Charles Workman, Birgit Remmert, Andreas Scholl and Liliana Nikiteanu do an excellent job of embodying the other admonitory and at times spiteful characters …  
As the daughter of singers, joint performances with my parents have been some of the most beautiful moments of my stage career. When the transition between reality and stage roles, family ties and concert repertoire is as smooth as in the case of father-and-son duo Christoph and Julian Prégardien, that emotional quality certainly becomes especially palpable for any listener – tangible in duplicate, as it were.
With his truly angelic singing, Philippe Jaroussky has created his very own Olympus! Accompanied by the fabulous Nathalie Stutzmann and her Orfeo 55 ensemble, these dulcet tones would move not only Zeus to tears, although in view of such heartrending Orphic strains Eurydice would have suffered the same fate …
Even if A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Mount Parnassus might initially seem rather strange, Shakespeare set his satirical play in Athens due to his contemporaries’ enthusiasm for antiquity, and borrowed the play Pyramus and Thisbe performed in it from Ovid’s bestseller, Metamorphoses, in order to take a passing swipe at poor translations. And with the bridal couple Theseus (!) and Hippolyta, we have definitely arrived in the realm of mythology. As a great admirer of John Neumeier, I am delighted that we are able to show his now almost legendary ballet. We shall be casting further glances at A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Salzburg Puppet Theatre as well as in our Das KINO film series, which will feature Max Reinhardt’s classic adaptation.
The gentle and richly nuanced lute music of Rolf Lislevand has accompanied me through my hectic daily life for years, and it would give me special satisfaction if as many people would prick up their ears as possible at his quiet, quasi-Eurydicean matinee concert.
Even if we were to look on the final concert of the festival with the vanity of Semele, to describe it as a divine summit meeting would probably still be an understatement. But even on sober reflection, it will certainly be a sensation when Anna Netrebko as Purcell’s Dido, or Juan Diego Flórez as Gluck’s Orpheus, attempt to appease the gods. Perhaps not a meeting of deities, but certainly of divas and divi …   

Cecilia Bartoli