Salzburg Festival Blog 3 bis (25 July)

We finish the last bars of Handel’s unutterably beautiful final chorus -reminiscent of the end of J.S. Bach’s Passions and I bring down my baton to show the end of Handel’s brief but profound orchestral playout, the choir and soloists  freeze momentarily on stage before the lighting blackout, the Festival House is silent for a few seconds and then… wonderful,enthusiastic applause from the public who have been so concentrated through the last four hours.

The performance has gone marvelously well. Christine (Schaeffer) and Bejun (Mehta) were sensational, particularly in Act 2 culminating in their glorious Duet. This Act, in many Handel scholars’ opinions, the finest act in all his oratorios, was brilliantly performed by all on stage and scintillatingly played by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra for whom, in my view, no praise would be too high.I leave the pit and join most of the cast in the wings (curtain  calls have already begun). Much elation and relief at this time. Axel (Christof Loy’s stakhanovite assistant director) is in charge here organising the curtain calls as efficiently as always and the public show their appreciation fulsomely for all the cast, Jamie McVinnie’s fine playing of the organ concerto, the superb Salzburg Bach Choir, and of course the Freiburgers.

Not one boo for Christof and his production team. This is remarkable in the German-speaking world,as any regular opera-goer will testify and I believe shows that Christof’s deep and thoughtful reading (as with many of his productions) has had a transformative effect. After all this intensity , a quick change, and then on to the second serious business of the evening , the first -night party!

After six weeks of hard work our musical family is determined it enjoy itself. First stop-off point is the Moenchberg for an official photo of the cast  at the  sponsor’s (Audi) party. Juergen (Flimm) gives Tess and I a lift. He is pleased with the evening and is vindicated for his courageous determination to put this little-known work centre-stage in his Festival.

I meet Ulrike Hessler, the incoming Intendant of Dresden’s Semper Opera and an old friend of mine from Munich. She is full of ideas for her new company. Down the hill we go to join our team in full-flow in Krimpelstaetter. A joyful, boisterous evening follows, which includes the choir’s good-humoured ‘revenge’ on Christof’s meticulous rehearsal technique as Gregor Faistauer directs an alternative version of the Act 1 chorus in the middle of the restaurant with Christof and his team as cast. Conductors were not exempt from this rehearsal either!

Finally, as the exhaustion brought on by this long day takes over we take our leave and look forward to a rare event for me in Salzburg-a free day.