The Salzburg Whitsun Festival opens on 17 May with a new Leiser and Caurier production of Norma starring the Festival's artistic director, Cecilia Bartoli. Leiser and Caurier revisit their beloved 1950s in the sombre palette of Italian neorealism.
La Ceci has insisted the musical side reflects Bellini's own era instead of reverting to post-Verdian cliche. Her digging around has resulted in a revised score that reverses habitual cuts. The casting of Norma and Adalgisa has been rethought, and Zurich Opera's period orchestra, La Scintilla, has been drafted in.
While researching Mission, her recent Agostino Steffani recording, Cecilia Bartoli discovered many of the composer's documents were taken to the Vatican on his death. Frustratingly, she couldn't get her hands on any of them. Speaking to journalist Ljubisa Tosic recently, she said "I definitely wasn't prepared to wait until the doors of the Vatican opened to me. The CD would probably still not have appeared." So she completed her Steffani investigations without a visit to the Holy See.
However her Vatican dreams are not yet over: "I believe there are still scores by Monteverdi undiscovered in the Vatican but it is not easy to get access to the documents. You need the right connections and as yet I don't have them".
La Scala's infamous loggionisti revealed they're still the least civilised audience in operadom at Cecilia Bartoli's first appearance there in 19 years last night.
Her concert with Daniel Barenboim and the La Scala orchestra went down well until the very end, when a small group in the upper galleries began booing and whistling and shouting“You don’t sing Rossini like this”, “Shame on you”, etc.
Graham Spicer, who was there, believes the attack was premeditated. Read his report (with photos) here.
The new Leiser and Caurier production - photos here - features Andreas Scholl as Giulio Cesare, Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra, Anne Sofie von Otter as Cornelia, Philippe Jaroussky as Sesto and Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo.
The live performance begins at 17:00 CET, and the streaming at 20:42 (7.42pm UK time). The video will remain available on demand for 2 months.
Most singers with a job on the side say they wear two hats. Cecilia Bartoli sees her joint role as star and artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in more intimate terms.
Responding to Anna Netrebko's late withdrawal she said “For the first time in my career, I feel two hearts beat in my breast: the familiar singer’s heart, and the new heart of the artistic director. Who, if not I as a singer, can understand better how Anna feels? Due to an illness, one is forced to disappoint the audience and cancel an important concert. At such moments, one feels miserable and lonely…"
Mojca Erdmann will now take Netrebko's place in the world premiere of Rodion Shchedrin’s Cleopatra and the Snake – a piece she must learn in two days. La Ceci herself will add bonus star power to the evening with two Mozart works - on top of a solo recital and two five-hour Giulio Cesare performances - all in four days. Now that's dedication.
Anyone around Austria way can watch a recording of Giulio Cesare on 28 May on the ORF2 channel.
See Philippe Jaroussky grappling his asp and more in the production photos below.
While Egypt gets its first taste of democracy, guests at Salzburg's Whitsun Festival will be treated to a taste of Egypt. After they've watched Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto on 27 May, the privileged section of the audience who stumped up the €€€ will decamp to the splendid Karl-Böhm-Saal for an Egyptian feast. Traditional Egyptian music will accompany the goat cheese-stuffed dates, pita bread and tahini, and belly dancer Nabila has been recruited for the purpose of "spreading oriental flair".
Forget the traditional spaghetti - this opens up a whole raft of opera-themed dinner possibilities. How about a nice platter of Schwartenmagenafter your Salome for starters?