Salzburg Festival Blog 18 (12 Aug)

A tough week starts now. For me this is the busiest time of the Festival, with a big Mozart Matinee programme and Haydn’s ‘Armida’ to prepare and ‘Theodora’ still running.

10.00 am – We start with our soloists and Mozarteum Orchestra rehearsing Haydn’s ‘Stabat Mater’. A profound, extensive piece and potentially elusive. Our soloists make up a fine quartet and they are certainly an international bunch. Our soprano Sandrine Piau is from Paris, mezzo-soprano Michaela Salinger from Wien, young Joel Prieto (his ‘Cosi fan tutte debut in this Festival imminent) is Costa Rican and feisty Vito Priante brings a touch of Neapolitan charisma and menace! We work hard throughout the morning noting that our German pronunciation of the Latin text is still work in progress!

In the afternoon I go over to the Felsenreitschule (Riding School in the Rock) for this afternoon’s Sitzprobe (musical rehearsal with Orchestra and singers) of ‘Armida’. For anglophones, this venue is famous from the final scenes of the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ as the place from where the von Trapp family make their escape. For Salzburg Festival regulars it has been the home to many memorable opera productions – the best of which exploit this phenomenal natural setting. Berios’s ‘Cronaca del Luogo’ and this summer’s Nono opera not least among them. At least on this occasion we have the relative luxury of Sitzprobe rehearsals in the actual performance venue. Almost impossible in busy repertoire companies, and very rare in the cash-strapped (at least for anything cultural) UK. Surprisingly italian opera companies are adamant that ‘Italiana’ (Sitzprobe!) rehearsals are held in the theatre. I say surprisingly as so much of operatic life in that big-hearted country in organised in such a way as to ensure chaos is only a small step away! The charm and good nature of the people coupled with their almost fatalistic acceptance of whatever bombshell is around the next corner, compensate richly for this state of affairs. I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 years at the Maggio Musicale Festival in Florence and also my frequent visits to the Bologna opera despite the phrase ‘un gran casino’ being one of the most overused therms in Itailan theatres! Rehearsal is fine and we get through more than half of the musical numbers.

In light of the full days to come I sadly miss the Bach Choir SommerFest (party!) but I hear that I missed a treat.. Ah well.