Sunday, 19 May 2013

Beautiful Sunday in Salzburg

Another wonderful day of music and great artists. It all started this morning when we went downstairs to the breakfast room of the hotel which is all about mirrors, pine wood paneling and crystal chandeliers, very Sud Tyrol.  They have the nicest breakfast, they will make fresh egg dishes for you in the kitchen so as not to bother other guests with smelly smells. Even their potato pancakes are made fresh with yellow potatoes. Beautiful cheese selection and cold meats, fresh fruits and pastries. Wonderful coffee served individually in silver pots with hot milk. Afterwards we walked around the Mirabel gardens (see movie) to the Mozarteum to listen to Niccolo Jomelli 1742 oratorio Isacco figura del Redentore, or Isaac's sacrifice, taken from the Biblical story.  This baroque piece continues with the theme of this year's festival of Sacrifice, Offering and sacrificial victim, in this story we have Abraham ordered by the God of the Old Testament to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys God All Mighty but his rewarded by a lamb as a substitute. The twist in this musical piece is at the end, Abraham has a vision of his son Isaac being spared while God the Father sacrifices his own son Christ. Don't forget this was written in Italy in 1742 Rome.  Diego Fasolis, conductor, the orchestra was I Barocchisti, chorus of the Swiss Radio, Lugano, the tenor Javier Camarena (Abraham), Roberta Invernizzi as Sarah, Franco Faggioli as Isaac (a counter-tenor role).

I was afraid the Mozarteum would be too warm and it was around 30C inside the room, at intermission we went out into the garden for fresh air, at the back of the garden Will pointed out something quite wonderful, the wood house where Mozart composed the score of the Magic Flute around 1791. I did not know anything about this little house, it is a simple one room house made of wood. Originally it was in Vienna, Mozart would meet singers in this house. Then it was moved to Salzburg and was located in the Gnome garden of the Mirabell gardens next to the Bristol Hotel, it was moved again to the Capucin Monastery and finally after suffering damage due to bombings at the end of WWII  it was moved to its present location at the Mozarteum after the WWII. Imagine walking into this original building where Mozart composed one of his most famous operas, the Magic Flute.

This is what I love about Salzburg, such surprises, totally unexpected. Again the people attending the Festival are people who love music and are here for it, a baroque piece like Isaac's sacrifice by Jomelli is an acquired taste and you will not find your average tourist. What was also nice was to hear it sung in Italian by Italians, the diction and pronunciation was perfect. Camarena who sung Abraham, is from Mexico and he is staying at our Hotel, we met him in the lobby and had a nice chat, he told us that he was singing this role for the first time, he usually sings Bel Canto roles in Opera. We also met Fagioli and Lepore it was nice to speak with them outside the performance and this is what happens here in Salzburg.

We had a very short time for lunch, just 60 minutes, so we had a quick bite at the Sketch Bar and I changed suits for the afternoon presentation at the Grosses Festspielhaus built for Herbert Von Karajan 40 years ago. We saw the 3 ballet by Igor Stravinsky in their original set and costume design.

 Les Noces (1923) with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska and costume by Natalia Gontcharova.
This is a sad ballet, a young women is forced into an arranged marriage, her long hair locks are a symbol of the ties that bind her to her husband and her role is to procreate for the survival of the tribe. A theme common to our human condition but not one feminist would support.

Le Sacre du Printemps (tableaux de la Russie Paienne) (1913), choreographie by Vaslav Nijinsky, costume by Nicolas Roerich. This piece is about Spring, sowing crops, hunting animals and gathering food and in the end Virgin Sacrifice to appease the Gods. Again a very human history in pagan Russia but also true elsewhere.

L'oiseaux de feu (1910), choreography by Michel Fokine and costumes by Alexander Golovin and Leon Bakst.

The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre under the baton of Maestro Valery Gergiev with the corps de ballet of the Mariinsky (Kirov). Interesting to note that the Mariinsky II opened last week in St-Petersburg, this new theatre which stands next to the old Imperial Mariinsky Theatre was designed and conceived by a Canadian Architect from Toronto.

Gergiev is superb and so was the orchestra, it was also wonderful to see such classic works by Igor Stravinsky in their original setting and costume. After seeing it I am of the opinion that Russians are not Europeans but more an Asiatic people. I formed this opinion 14 years ago when we lived in Poland, though a Slavic people, the Russians have this Asian element to their personality, strange and exotic all in one.

We had dinner at Herzl which is part of the Goldener Hirsh (golden stag) Hotel in Salzburg, excellent cuisine in a Tyrol style restaurant, Herzl has been around for at least 100 years and the quality is tops.
The cuisine is Austrian favourite dishes.

Upon returning to the Bristol we decided to go to the Sketch Bar to wait for the guests returning from this evening performance of Norma to compare notes on what they saw. It was great fun to meet fellow Festival goers and talk about what we had seen in the last 2 days. Tomorrow Monday is the last day of the Festival, we have 3 concerts to attend.

The program for the Festival 2014 is out and it will be a Rossini Festival with all the big opera names you can possibly imagine coming to Salzburg, I was incredulous just reading the list of opera stars who will be here. We are already planning next year.



  1. Hope you were informed on the Gubaidulina and Shostakovich by the English notes...btw that's Goncharova's design for the final scene of Firebird. And I have been moaning on to Will about how this 'Rite' is only original in terms of sets and costumes, not the choreography which is a tame travesty of what must have been amazing work by Nijinsky.

    Still, such a banquet of the best.

    1. David, yes the choreography was a little strange and very repetitive, running in circles? Jumping up and down like in an aerobic class? Nonetheless it was beautiful to look at.
      Indeed please see my entry on Gubaidulina, read your notes twice! Not because they were obscure, no, because I wanted to make sure I understood it all and then went to have a listen and appreciated more. Of course Shostakovich was wonderful.

  2. I think the best photos are of you - handsome man !