I’ve only been in Salzburg during the Summer Festival, back in 1969, 1971 and again in 1978, when crowds are chaotic, hotels are full and prices are astronomical. Fortunately the Whitsun Festival is still small enough that things are quieter, hotels available and it’s possible to have a good meal without mortgaging your first born. One thing that will never change is the abundance of ticky-tacky Mozartiana souvenirs - to bad the family isn't still around to benefit from the copyright.
Beginning with last year what was once a festival featuring Baroque music in a general way now celebrates the musical genius of Naples. And behind it is that modern Neapolitan genius Riccardo Muti. Like my friend OC, I’m one of those people who worship at the shrine of Muti – and this weekend Laurent has also become a convert to the cause. After watching him at close quarters yesterday, our seats at the side choir of the Kollegenkirche gave us a perfect view of his interaction with the soloists and orchestra, Laurent remarked that he had an almost palpable sense of Muti’s love of music and musicians. Yes there may be stories of his vanity and arrogance but for the two performances he gave us this weekend alone in my book he’s entitled.
Speaking of his vanity I recall the last time we saw him conduct in 1998 – Milan, Les Dialogues des Carmelites – he mounted the podium took his bows, turned away from the audience and surreptitiously slipped his glasses out of his pocket; his year he arrived specs firmly in place and still looking leonine and handsome.
The form of the Festival seems pretty much set now: three concerts of secular and sacred music mixing the classical and the popular (folk) bookended by a Muti-led opera and a Muti-led cantata/oratorio/mass. The Muti performances feature his exceptional group of young Italian musicians, Orchestra Giovanile "Luigi Cherubini" and young singers who in many cases he has mentored. The concerts are by international soloists and ensembles - e.g. this year's Andreas Scholl, theBalthasar-Neumann Chor and Ensemble, Accademia Bizantina and Accordone.
In what has become standard practice for Muti, his Orchestra Giovanile "Luigi Cherubini" joined the performers on stage to share in the 20 minute ovation opening night of Il matrimonio inaspettato . (Photos by Silvia Lelli)
On Satrday Muti was confirmed as Festival director until 2011 and next year's programme was announced. Sunday we decided that we'll be there - God willing and the Salzach don't rise.
I am honestly going to try and get something up about the indivdual performances tomorrow or Friday - it just we're still doing the sight-seeing thing here in Verona.
14 maggio - San San Pachomius