Saturday, 18 May 2013

Opening night Salzburg

We got dressed in our formal wear and walked over to the concert hall know as the Haus fur Mozart, it is part of the complex housing also the Riding School which is today another concert hall.

Though there is no dress code in Salzburg going to the festival means dressing up and arriving in style, the parade of S class Mercedes Benz and BMW 750 is a spectacle in itself, all perfectly aligned, Austrian are big on courtesy and protocol. Upon entering the hall we went to the Karl Böhm room for a drink, in the early renaissance time was a jousting room, the frescoes ceiling show Turkish prisoners loosing their heads to chivalrous knights carrying them on their swords. The enormous room is in beautiful dark panel wood and stone.

We then went to take our seat in the festival hall. The crowd is dressed in either black tie, Austrian formal wear or dark business suits, the ladies have the most beautiful outfits and jewellery.  The production this evening for the opening was the opera Norma by Bellini.  A Gaul priestess is in love with a Roman ProConsul and trouble ensues, Rome of course will prevail, we all know that. This production was set in occupied France 1940. Though the occupiers in the story are Italians (Romans) not Germans, a call to the original story by Bellini. The 1940 setting worked, it was fantastic, I was on the edge of my seat the whole evening, I cannot recall saying that of many operas I have seen, but this production by the gay couple Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier is riveting. Cecilia Bartoli who makes her home in Zurich and sang the title role of Norma is also the Festival Director. This opera production is a great success and received a thunderous standing ovation of 40 minutes. I do hope that it will be toured around the world. What I liked most was the fact that Bartoli as Norma was highly believable and you could see the terrible emotions causing her so much pain in her body language and facial expressions, it was not just a string of lovely arias.
Program cover of Norma

The end is spectacular, an enormous fire, real flames on stage, I was looking at the Exit sign, I was not sure if this was just a little too real. Norma and her lover the Roman Proconsul Pollione are burned alive in a house set on fire by the Gauls, (memories of Bosnian war ?), there was so much smoke that you could hardly see the singers and chorus at curtain call. This dramatic ending let's the spectator know that a terrible revenge will fall on the Gauls once the Romans realise that the Proconsul of Rome has been killed, no one will survive. Thus in modern times think of Bosnia and Serbia or Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1967, occupying armies always create havoc and horror for the civilians. Again both Will and I were moved close to tears by the drama and intensity of the delivery by John Osborn, Cecilia Bartoli and the Chorus. You can well understand why the audience gave them such a rousing ovation.

We walked back to the Bristol, only about 5 minutes from the concert hall, we had made a reservation at the Sketch Bar of the Bristol for a 10:30pm dinner. Our favourite table was waiting for us as always.
We had proseco to start and then ordered dinner, Will had asparagus soup and I had a variation on trout and salmon with horseradish and salad bouquet. Followed by fillet of trout for Will and I chose Kaiser Franz Jozef favourite dish, boiled beef with horseradish and potato. Dessert was sorbet and home made apple strudel.
Will reading the menu of the Sketch Bar. It really is the menu of the dining room.
Two types of Salmon (Czar and Scottish) and fresh lake Trout.

Apple strudel made fresh by the Chef daily. The best I have ever had.

The bar pianist played well and we really enjoyed his medley of songs,  no Andrew Lloyd Weber, we sent him some red wine as a thank you.

What a great opening night for the Festival. Tomorrow morning at 11am we go to hear Andras Shiff at the Mozarteum just around the corner from our hotel, in a piano concert of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.


  1. It sounds like a wonderful evening from beginning to end.


  2. you two lead a life I envy - gentlemanly, elegant, and no plastic or kitsch.

    1. Will often says we lead a charmed life and its true.