Highlights in October 2008

Columns | Oliver Macdonald | October 2008

The new Season got off to a sparkling start and literally so at the Volksoper, where the opening performance, the premiere of Der Vetter aus Dingsda, was preceded by celebratory glasses of Sekt served in balmy sunshine for the whole audience. On the previous evening, Theater an der Wien had opened its doors with a concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker and Ricardo Muti. At the Staatsoper, Neil Shicoff thrilled the house with his Eleazar in La Juive.  An historic first followed when Albena  Danailova took her place as concert master of the Staatsoper orchestra.  Brava!!

Out of town, at the Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt, the young American soprano Andrea Brown rattled the chandeliers with her magnificent coloratura in Il ritorno di Tobia, bringing happy smiles to the faces of the conductor Adam Fisher and many musicians.

There are going to be many opportunities in 2009 for lovers of baroque, many of them in commemoration of Joseph Haydn’s death in 1809. This month, both Theater an der Wien and  the Wiener Kammeroper have interesting offerings.  Theater an der Wien has a baroque festival from Oct. 14 to 23. It begins with Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (see opera notes in the Vienna Events Calendar p.15). There are five concerts in all, which include  Pergolesi’s La Serva Padrona and Bach’s Hohe Messe.

Have you ever seen a ballet in French?  Have you ever seen a ballet in any language?  Recently I congratulated Ben, a very talented dancer, on the quality of his speaking role in the not-to-be-missed ballet Max und Moritz at the Volksoper. Why? Because speaking roles in ballet are rare,  virtually non-existent. But surprise, surprise!  This month in Vienna you can see and hear a ballet in French.  Actually, there are two sung ballets scheduled at the Kammeroper.

Vienna’s fourth opera house, The Wiener Kammeroper, was founded in 1953 by Hans Gabor and is to be found nestled in the heart of the city at Drachengasse 3, off the Fleischmarkt. (tel 512 24 61 or www.wienerkammeroper.at).  The house specialises in rarities, often bringing works to Austria for the first time.

The first offering this season is a double bill of "actes de ballet" (danced operas) by Jean-Philippe Rameau, a French composer and musical theorist who wrote mostly between 1730 and 1764. The two works are La Guirlande and Zephyre.  The music is provided by the Kammeroper Baroque Orchestra on period instruments. There are 11 performances in October between the 2nd and 25th.  All begin at 7.30 pm

Some of the October highlights of the major houses are shown in the events listings on page 15. For ballet fans, October is a particularly good month at the Staatsoper with Onegin, Die Bajadere and a new production of Mayerling on the programme.

Here is the promised list of the ten operas that are likely to be in demand at the Staatsoper this season. I couldn’t quite  convert it to one a month. My first choice is a bit of a cheat because it is actually a set of four operas – the new production of Wagner’s Ring of the Niebelung, with three cycles of the four parts next May and June.

Then in chronological order from October:  The new production of Gounod’s Faust with Angela Georgiu and Roberto Alagna, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. In December La Boheme with Roxana Briban, Laura Tatulescu, Rolando Villazon and Boaz Daniel conducted by the young Greek conductor, Constantinos Carydis. In January, Adam Fisher conducts Der Rosenkavalier  in which Elina Garanca sings Octavian and today, no one sings it better.

In February, look out for Il Barbiere Di Siviglia with Carlos Alvarez as Figaro the fixer and Marc Piollet on the rostrum.  There are two sets of Donizetti’s Lucia Di Lammermoor, a tragic Scottish story with a renowned mad scene: Anna Netrebko sings the first Lucia in March with Marco Armiliato in charge, Edita Gruberova, the legendary Lucia, sings the role in May and June when Paolo Arriabendi conducts.

In April, the choice was between L’Elisir d’Amore (Donizetti) with Tatiana Lisnic, JD Florez and Leo Nucci stewarded by Marco Armilliato, and L’Italiana in Algeri (Rossini) with Silvia Tro Santafe, Ildebrando D’archangelo and JD Florez in the leads under Yves Abel.  Of the two, L’Elisir will be the more popular, but I’ve taken both because this ten needs to be a big ten.

Armiliato and de Billy make further appearances in May. First there is Verdi’s La Traviata with Anna Netrebko, Joseph Calleja and Alberto Gazale.  I remember Armiliato conducting another Traviata on the 2nd of April 2003, when an almost unknown young Russian soprano made her debut appearance in Vienna as Violetta.  It was a glorious voice, and many tears were shed as the young and beautiful Violetta died on stage. If anything, Anna Netrebko sings even better now than she did then.

The other May opera is Werther by Jules Massenet with Villazon in the title role and the incomparable mezzo, Elina Garanca, as his (or rather not his) Charlotte and Marcus Eiche as the suffering (or insufferable) Albert.  There are, of course, alternative lists of great operas to be seen during the current season.  Perhaps my personal favorites have crept in. The ten has certainly been stretched to its maximum capacity.

To end, Ben’s speaking ballet role was Spitz, the dog who woofed appropriately throughout. Max and Moritz are up to their mischief again at the Volksoper on Oct. 1, 14, 20, 21 and 27.

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    the vienna review October 2008