And Now, the Rush for Tickets

Nights at the Opera: Jun., 2011

Columns | Oliver Macdonald | June 2011

June is always a particularly interesting month in the Viennese opera calendar. The season is drawing to a close, the long summer break only a few weeks away. It is a retrospective time in which the three main opera houses take stock of the season drawing to a close. At the same time we are looking forward to the next, and we should be studying the attractive and very well-organised programme books for the season ahead.

Some ticket applications have already been placed for favourite operas and singers in the new season. NB: Ticket arrangements differ from house to house. For both the Staatsoper  and the Volksoper sales begin two months before the date of performance. At Theater an der Wien sales begin Jun. 16 for performances up to Dec.11, and on Sept. 1, for tickets for the rest of the season, through Jun. 30, 2012. The programme books, which are inexpensive and packed with useful information, are essential for anyone who may wish to go to the opera more than once or twice in the year. It takes hundreds of people: singers, musicians, dancers, conductors, directors, producers, house directors, and managers with very skilled technical and administrative staff to give us a Night at the Opera in Vienna. The programme books give a good idea of who they are.

There are still two more areas of opera to be looked at seriously in June. One is the range of festivals, both summer ones and others later in the year, wherever they may be. The most famous (and most expensive) is in Salzburg. The nearest is in Klosterneuburg, where Intendant Michael Garschall is presenting eleven performances of "The Marriage of Figaro" beginning on Jul. 10. There are many more festivals from Gars am Kamp to Bregenz and beyond. Wagnerites will flock across the border on the annual pilgrimage to Bayreuth and its Festspielhaus. Regardless of chosen venues, visits should be planned now, if not sooner.  For some, it may be too late for certain performances.

The last area is this month itself. As usual I have listed six operas in the Vienna Events (page 25). But of course there is much more. In the Staatsoper there are eight different operas to be enjoyed over 21 evenings. To this must be added the eight evenings of ballet including the special Nureyev Gala on 28 June. The highlight must be the new production by Andre Engel of Leos Janacek’s Katya Kabanova with Janice Watson in the title role. I think I just missed seeing her in Tannhauser in Oz, but I do remember her as a very compelling Blanche Du Bois in Previn’s  A Streetcar named Desire in Vienna in March 2007.

Since 2001 I have been a great fan of  Deborah Polaski, mostly in Wagnerian or Richard Strauss roles. For me, her Elektras (2004?) have never been bettered and her Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck is unforgettable. Recently much admired in Vienna for her Madame de Croissy in Dialogue des Carmelites, she returns to sing Kabanichka in Katya. Other leads are being sung by Wolfgang Bankl (Dikoy), Klaus Florian Vogt (Boris Gregoryevich) and Marian Talaba (Tichon).

I am reliably informed (Kobbe’s) that Janacek was inspired to write this great work when he, a 63 year old, fell in love with Kamila (25 and married), who revolutionised the rest of his life,including a marked improvement in his composition. This information prompts me to attend the matinee briefing on Sunday Jun. 12 at 11:00 and perhaps to ask some pertinent questions.

There are four performances of the best loved opera twins in the repertoire – "Cav" and "Pag". Cavalleria Rusticana, most famous for the tear-jerking (including mine on occasion) Intermezzo and the venom of the Easter curse together with I Pagliacci (Vesti la giuba) are being performed in outstanding productions and staging by Jean- Pierre Ponnelle.  My first premiere at the Staatsoper was Die Zauberflote on Jun. 1, 2000. Now we have this season’s final three performances of this most magic of works, and Vienna’s most frequently performed opera, with close on 110 performances to date.

June begins with the final performance of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra on June 2nd. The same opera will launch the new season with a Gala performance on September 3rd, when Placido Domingo sings the title role. Tickets may be difficult to find!

In the Volksoper  there six performances of Austrian composer Wilhelm Kienzl’s (1857-1941) Der Evangelimann. This verismo (true to life) opera had its first performance in May 1895. One of the most beautiful pieces of music is the tenor aria "Selig sind, die Verfolgung leiden" (Blessed are the persecuted). Peter Anders recorded it in 1938. A memorial to Anders is inscribed "Die singende Menschenstimme ist die Atem Gottes"  "The singing human voice is the breath of God"  And maybe that is what it is all about.

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    the vienna review June 2011