Cecilia Bartoli (Artistic Director, Salzburg Whitsun Festival) © Fabrice Demessence

Salzburg Whitsun Festival | 26 – 29 May 2023

At Whitsun 2023, we embark upon a journey to the underworld – experiencing once again the birth of opera from the grief of Orpheus over the loss of his beloved Eurydice. Cecilia Bartoli and her guests explore the myth of the enchanting lament of Orpheus, whose moving song and playing are immortalized in works by Monteverdi, Gluck and Haydn. “As a musician and singer, I firmly believe in the power of music and the human voice. Therefore, the Orpheus myth is naturally one of the ancient stories that fascinates me most. It heartens me when I read about the wondrous effect of Orpheus’ music: how it could pacify the most threatening enemies — even death — and how it could change lives in a way that would have been unthinkable if he had not desperately dared to challenge the world’s eternal laws,” thus Cecilia Bartoli, Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, describes the programme she has conceived.

The last day of the Whitsun Festival, featuring a Schubertiade and a benefit concert, is dedicated to Daniel Barenboim, with whom Cecilia Bartoli shares a special artistic friendship: “I will forever be grateful to him for discovering and advising me at the early stages of my career, and for remaining an endlessly inspiring musical partner and faithful friend for 35 years,” she says about her relationship with one of her most important musical mentors and supporters. An exceptional musician, Daniel Barenboim has been enriching the music world for an incredible seven decades, both as a pianist, conductor and initiator of cultural projects. “For me, people like Daniel Barenboim show that great myths are not simply creations of our ambitious minds. Evidently, they can be real, and their origins can lie in profoundly humane persons,” shefurther characterizes the outstanding personality that is Daniel Barenboim.

As a staged new production, Orfeo ed Euridice will be performed in the rarely-heard Parma version of 1769, directed by Christof Loy. Gluck’s opera about the myth of the Thracian singer Orpheus, who follows Eurydice into the underworld to win her back by means of his song, concentrates – despite its title – on a single figure: Orfeo. The work shows an artist in his loneliness, for whom the death of a loved one becomes the central theme. In the process, Gluck places his music wholly at the service of dramatic expression. The work has always been considered the prototype of “reform opera”. Dance also plays an important role in Orfeo ed Euridice, making a merging of the roles of director and choreographer an obvious choice. In Christof Loy’s view, dance should by no means be seen as a discrete element: the borders between dance and text, music and movement should be fluid. The notion of boundlessness is also emphasised by the stage in its evocation of a path that could begin all over again without end. Cecilia Bartoli sings the role of Orfeo, joined by Mélissa Petit (Euridice) and Madison Nonoa (Amore). Gianluca Capuano conducts theorchestra Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, founded by Cecilia Bartoli, and the ensemble Il canto di Orfeo. The premiere takes place at the Haus für Mozart on 26 May, the second performance on 28 May.

In 1790, after almost thirty years at the Eszterháza court, Joseph Haydn suddenly found himself without an employer. When this came to the ears of impresario Johann Peter Salomon, he promptly engaged Haydn to come to London. There, in addition to twelve symphonies, Haydn would write an opera seria for the Haymarket Theatre. Although regarded as an instrumental composer, Haydn was an experienced opera kapellmeister who had distinguished himself at the princely court with adapted performances of other works as well as seventeen operas of his own. For L’anima del filosofo, Haydn was supplied with a libretto on the preferred subject matter of Orpheus written by Carlo Francesco Badini. Although countless works on this theme had been composed since 1600, Gluck’s reform opera Orfeo ed Euridice was regarded as the absolute measure: reduced to its mythological core, it focusses on the power of love. Thus composer and librettist were forced to explore new paths. Badini’s libretto featured a complex plot with a dramatic conclusion. Haydn wrote extended numbers for the chorus, but also included intermezzi and dance interludes as well as richly ornamented coloraturas in traditional da capo arias, and scored the work for the largest orchestral forces to be found in his oeuvre. The premiere was cancelled when King George III refused permission for it to be staged. L’anima del filosofo was only performed 160 years later in Florence. Cecilia Bartoli sings the role of Euridice; further roles are sung by Thomas Hampson (Creonte), Rolando Villazón (Orfeo) and Mélissa Petit (Genio). The concert performance takes place at the Felsenreitschule on 27 May.

Christoph Willibald Gluck’s endeavours, undertaken jointly with the librettist Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, to free thepredominant style of opera from musical excesses and complicated sub- plots, thus distilling its true essence, culminated in Orfeo ed Euridice in 1762. Ever since, the work has since been regarded as the prototype of the “reform opera”, which focusses human emotions into one single plot-line. Twelve years after the premiere in Vienna, Gluck produced a version entitled Orphée et Eurydice that was tailored to Parisian tastes, giving the castrato role of Orphée to a tenor and adding numerous ballet scenes. This version provides the ideal basis for a ballet opera, whose action John Neumeier has set in a modern ballet studio. The overture tells the backstory: an altercation arises during a rehearsal between the prima ballerina Eurydice and the choreographer Orphée. Furious, she leaves the studio and dies shortly afterwards in a car accident. Now the familiar narrative starts. However, it is not Orphée who doubts the happy outcome, but Eurydice who sets things in train when she questions his love, making him turn round to her, and disappears. Devastated, Orphée strikes up the lament “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice,” but contrary to the myth Gluck bows to Parisian convention and has Amor intervene in the action, steering it towards a positive conclusion. In the title roles, Maxim Mironov/Edvin Revazov (tenor/dancer) and Andriana Chuchman/Anna Laudere (soprano/dancer) star. Kazuki Yamada conducts the Camerata Salzburg and the Salzburg Bach Choir. The guest performance takes place at the Großes Festspielhaus on 27 May.

Claudio Monteverdi’s work L’Orfeo marks the first major contribution to opera as a genre; one could call it the “big bang of operatic history”. Monteverdi elaborated his composition in an entirely novel way, characterizing protagonists and the action with particular motifs or the timbres of the different instruments. Thus, Orfeo’s singing is accompanied by the sound of the harp, and the music of the dancing shepherds brightened with flutes and fiddles, while a chorus of trombones adumbrates the sombre atmosphere of the underworld. In an unusual form, namely in collaboration with the 200-year-old puppeteer group Carlo Colla e Figli from Milan, Cecilia brings Monteverdi’s masterwork to Salzburg. The singers – all of them Early Music specialists – will join the orchestra in the pit: we will hear the voices of Renato Dolcini (Orfeo), Carlotta Colombo (La Musica/Euridice) and Sara Mingardo (La Messagera/La Speranza), while the action is brought to colourful life by the Italian puppeteers with carefully elaborated miniature stage sets and costumes. Gianluca Capuanoconducts the ensembles Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco and Il canto di Orfeo. Monteverdi’s “favola in musica” in five acts will be performed at the Haus für Mozart on 28 May.

When Cecilia Bartoli began planning the 2023 Festival, she had in mind the active involvement of Daniel Barenboim as a conductor and instrumentalist, in honour of his recent 80th birthday. Even if this is not possible in the originally envisioned manner, due to the state of his health, she has decided to devote the last day of the Whitsun Festival to a homage to Daniel Barenboim.

Alongside his appearances as soloist and conductor, the inspired and passionate communicator Barenboim has always been driven by the urge to participate in the most intimate form of musical cooperation — in the dialogue, reciprocal listening, the give-and-take of chamber music. Cecilia Bartoli has now invited Daniel Barenboim to once again devote himself with her and Martha Argerich (whom he has known since childhood in Buenos Aires) to a composer who has accompanied him his whole life long, in a Schubertiade. For Barenboim, Schubert’s music has a fascinating emotional complexity: “It allows us to experience completely contradictory feelings and thoughts simultaneously.”

As a finale, Monday evening will see a Gala Benefit in honour of Daniel Barenboim at the Großes Festspielhaus. Numerous artistic friends and companions – Martha Argerich, Plácido Domingo, Lang Lang and Sonya Yoncheva among them – pay homage to the maestro. Zubin Mehta conducts the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.