Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 7

Songs of Summer: International Opera Festival Preview

by Joseph So / April 1, 2011

Flash version here

The weather is still cold outside, but there is nothing like planning a trip to the summer festivals to warm the hearts of Canadian opera fans. Since opera in Canada during the summer is virtually non-existent, we travel elsewhere. If time and money are not a concern, one can festival-hop to venues such as the Salzburger Osterfestspiele (April), Prague Spring Festival and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (May), White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Holland Festival and Aix-en-Provence (June), Munich, Glyndebourne, Bregenz, Salzburg, Santa Fe, Glimmerglass, Bayreuth, Savonlinna, Verona, Torre del Lago, Orange, Aix-en-Provence, Macerata, Pesaro (July and August). Things quiet down in the Fall, but there’s still the last weeks of the London Proms (Sept.) and Wexford in Ireland (Oct.). Below is a mini-preview of some of the great offerings this summer. With the high Canadian dollar, there is no better time for a visit.

Top on my personal list is the Munich Opera Festival (June 28 – July 31). There are many Canadians singing there this summer, including four in Don Giovanni (Gerald Finley, Erin Wall, Joseph Kaiser and Philip Ens). Fans of Adrianne Pieczonka can catch her in Ariadne auf Naxos and Lohengrin; and our own Ben Heppner will be there at the end of the festival for two performances of Tristan und Isolde opposite the fabulous Isolde of Nina Stemme. The great Soile Isokoski will give a liederabend of Grieg, Sibelius, Ives and Strauss in the intimate and truly exquisite Cuvilliés Theater. Other singers giving recitals include baritones Michael Volle and Christian Gerhaher, as well as tenor Pavol Breslik, all at the larger Prinzregententheater. But tenor Jonas Kaufmann, whose fame has reached rock-star status in Europe, will give one in the biggest theatre, the National theater. And likely it will sell out, as his concert last summer was sold out in a matter of hours! Very special is the rare Saint François D’Assise by Olivier Messaien, and this is a great chance to hear Jonas Kaufmann as Florestan in Fidelio. COC Music Director Johannes Debus will be there for a single performance of Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Speaking of conductors, Canadian Yves Abel will conduct Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Bel canto queen Edita Gruberova reprises her Lucrezia Borgia, and there will be two performances of the magnificent Jürgen Rose/Otto Schenk production of Der Rosenkavalier starring the incomparable Anja Harteros as the Marschallin. www.bayerische.staatsoper.de/866--~Staatsoper~bso_aktuell~aktuelles.html

From Munich it’s just a short hop to the Salzburg Festival (July 27 – Aug. 30), with its glitz and glamour, not to mention fabulous music. As usual, it will feature seven operas, with Die Frau ohne Schatten conducted by Christian Thielemann as the must-see. If you miss Gerald Finley’s Don Giovanni in Munich, you can catch it in Salzburg, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Other Canadians include Michèle Losier as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte, and John Relyea in the double-bill of Le Rossignol and Iolanta. Salzburg tickets and accommodations are expensive.


It is the dream of every Wagner fan to “make a pilgrimage” to the Bayreuther Festspiele (July 25 – Aug. 28). This is a Ring-less summer – just Tannhauser, Die Meistersinger von Nurnburg, Lohengrin, Parsifal, and Tristan und Isolde. Bayreuth productions are extremely avant-garde so be prepared! If you are one of the lucky ones with tickets in hand, enjoy the unforgettable experience; if you don’t have tickets and hope to show up hoping for returns, my advice is – don’t bother, as your chance of success is very slim.

If Europe is too far for you, I can recommend Glimmerglass Opera (July 2 – Aug. 23) and Santa Fe Opera (July 2 – Aug. 27). Located it Cooperstown, New York, it is ideal for opera fans who are also into baseball—there are quite a few of us out there, believe it or not! If you are not a baseball fan, I would suggest that you avoid the Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend (July 22 – 24) as things get crazy in this small town. This season, the operas are Carmen, Medea, Annie Get Your Gun (!), and a double-bill of A Blizzard in Marblehead Neck/Later the Same Evening. Deborah Voigt, the Met’s Brunnhilde, is adding Annie Oakley to go with her Minnie in La fanciulla del West. She has the dashing Rodney Gilfry as Frank Butler. Francesca Zambello directs. The double-bill of contemporary works is intriguing: Blizzard is based on an episode in the life of playwright Eugene O’Neill, and Evening is inspired by on five paintings by Edward Hopper. Given the small town environment, booking accommodations in advance is a must. www.glimmerglass.org/season/season.html

Finally, a favorite summer destination is the Santa Fe Opera Festival. I have attended this venue almost annually for the last dozen years. The magnificent outdoor theatre with its superb acoustics set against the spectacular desert landscape of northern New Mexico is unforgettable. The five operas this summer are Faust, La Boheme, Griselda, The Last Savage and Wozzeck. Usually there are lots of Canadians singing there each summer, but this year it’s just baritone Daniel Okulitch in the rarely seen The Last Savage by Giancarlo Menotti. The superb singer and actor, soprano Nicola Beller Carbone, Opera de Montreal’s Salome, will sing Marie in Wozzeck. Highly recommended!

(c) La Scena Musicale