|Tyrolean Festival Erl, Austria, 2015|
Tour Dates: 6th - 19th October
“Every year the cultural summer in Tyrol begins with the Tyrol Festival Erl. And this is also its culmination.”
Friday, 9th October, 18:30, Beijing Poly Theatre, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
“Every year the cultural summer in Tyrol begins with the Tyrol Festival Erl. And this is also its culmination.” These were the words of Tyrol’s governor Günther Platter in his opening speech for the summer season 2013, and there can hardly be a more apt description of what Gustav Kuhn has achieved in the seventeenyear history of the Tyrol Festival Erl. Founded in 1997 in a village more renowned for its cows than for double basses, the Tyrol Festival Erl has taken place since 1998 every year in July in the Passionsspielhaus or in the years when the Passion Plays are performed in alternative locations in the region. Besides the highly acclaimed and internationally recognized artistic achievements, this necessity of finding an alternative venue was one of the decisive reasons for Hans Peter Haselsteiner, now president of the Tyrol Festival Erl, to implement the plan – devised together with Gustav Kuhn – to build a new festival hall and also to provide most of the funding. This has now been complemented by a car park building which offers extensive parking facilities and is also impressive architecture.
For Gustav Kuhn, who is the overall artistic director of his festival, this was providence. Since the opening of the new Festspielhaus in December 2012 he has been able to work in winter too on the artistic refinement of his idea of staging opera evolved from the music with the orchestra and artists of the singing academy Accademia di Montegral – both founded and directed by him – and of course on improving the general artistic quality.
He has done this with great success: the Tyrol Festival Erl has developed to become an economically viable and artistically renowned fixture in cultural life not only in Tyrol but also in the international calendar. Work focuses in the summer on Wagner, Strauss as well as on the classical and romantic repertoire. In the winter the unique acoustics of the newly built Festspielhaus enhance works by Mozart, Bach, Italian composers as well as bel canto. Public interest in the Tyrol Festival Erl is constantly and steadily growing which means that performances both in summer and in winter enjoy almost 100 per cent capacity audiences.
One factor that may contribute to this could also be that the Festival – not least thanks to the spectacular car park building mentioned earlier – can now fully indulge in providing superior service, of central importance to the Festival’s philosophy: not only are sufficient parking spaces offered combined with the Festival’s own shuttle service to cover the walking distance of about 10 minutes from the car park to the festival halls, but cloakroom facilities and programme booklets are provided free of charge. Moreover: since 2005 the Festival has been run as a limited company and it supports its own orchestra, a choral academy as well as a costume-design and -manufacturing studio, whose headquarters are now the Festspielhaus Erl.
Founder & Artistic Director: Gustav Kuhn
Born in Turrach in Styria, Gustav Kuhn studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky, Bruno Maderna and Herbert von Karajan at the conservatories in Vienna and Salzburg and graduated from Salzburg University in philosophy, psychology and psychopathology. Kuhn was only 24 years old when he won the prestigious international conducting competition of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF).
From 1970 to 1977 Kuhn worked as chorus director and conductor at the Istanbul Opera House, then as first Kapellmeister at the Dortmund Opera House. During this time, he already gave guest performances in Palermo, Naples and Bologna. Later he had engagements as guest conductor in Rome, Florence Venice and Zurich. Gustav Kuhn conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala in Milan, the Orchestre National de France in Paris, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo, and, last but not least, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1986 Gustav Kuhn started to direct and produce operas so as to achieve a greater artistic union between a work’s visual and musical components. Kuhn produced and staged The Flying Dutchman (Trieste), Parsifal and La Bohème (Naples), Don Carlos and Don Carlo (Torino), Mozart’s Da Ponte operas (Festival di Macerata), Rossini’s Otello (Berlin, Braunschweig and Tokyo), La Bohème, Falstaff and La Traviata (Tokyo), Capriccio (Milan), among others.
After making his debut as an opera director with his staging of The Flying Dutchman in Trieste (set design and costumes: Peter Pabst), he developed the“Hall Opera” series for Suntory Hall Opera in Tokyo (1993). Kuhn conducted at the Salzburg Festival until 1997 (1978 debut, 1980 Figaro, 1989 Un ballo in maschera; 1992, 1994 and 1997 La clemenza di Tito). From 1983 to 1985, Kuhn served as general music director at the Bonn Opera, which was followed by engagements as principal conductor of the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome and later as artistic director of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. Kuhn headed the music festival in Macerata from 1990 to 1994; from 1994 he served as artistic director of the Filarmonica Marchigiana, Ancona (1997-2002). Gustav Kuhn was artistic director of the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento from January 2003 until December 2012. In October 2013 Gustav Kuhn conducted two performances of Wagner’s Parsifal in Peking. This was a very special occasion because Wagner’s opera had never been performed before in China.
Program: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
As the only comedy among Richard Wagner’s mature operas, die Meistersinger von Nurnberg Wagner’s is among the longest operas still commonly performed today and is Wagner’s brilliant counterpoint to the ecstasy of Tristan. From a practical point of view Wagner wanted to compose a work that would be easy to perform, something that every theatre can play. He said it was difficult to write the libretto but easy to compose. Tyrolean Festival can only bow to Wagner’s genius. Meistersinger is one of the most difficult operas in the repertoire to produce and with extremely demanding singing roles. It is a challenge both for the performers and for the audience. It is not the length of the opera that is challenging, but the attention with which one has to perceive the nuances of this comedy so as to avoid an all too easy misunderstanding. The apotheosis of saving culture as one of the founding pillars of society can simply be pronounced in C major, without any further connotations.
Program: Tristan und Isolde
Composed between 1857 and 1859, Tristan and Isolde is a three-act opera by Richard Wagner based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Strasburg. Many see Tristan as the beginning of the move away from common practice harmony and tonality and consider that it lays the groundwork for the direction of classical music in the 20th century. Wagner’s composition of Tristan und Isolde was inspired by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer and his affair with Mathilde Wesendonck. In the production of Tyrolean Festival, the audience will finally know how close were Richard Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck indeed to each other? The score will give a clear answer. Besides, an experiment will start with Tristan und Isolde, the chamber opera (despite an orchestra with 120 players) among his music dramas. Tyrolean Festival Erl has made a conscious decision to have the orchestra seated behind the stage, but this time not out of necessity. On the apron stage the protagonists enmeshed in the constraints of morality are carried away in the intoxication of love and music.
Program: Der Ring des Nibelungen
The success of the past festival summer almost compels Tyrolean Festival Erl to present the Ring des Nibelungen again in 2015. They are doing it again mainly because they are absolutely convinced about the production. They believe that it is not only Wagner who deserves a scenic interpretation of his work from the music but also our public. Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas - Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), Siegfried und Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods) - by the German composer Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a“Buhnenfestspiel" (stage festival play), structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend ("ante-evening").
In 2014, Tyrolean Festival Erl made headlines in 2005 by giving the entire four-opera cycle“The Ring of the Nibelung” within 24 hours. This time, they will serve the audience a compact experience by presenting the four operas, as Wagner originally intended, on four consecutive days. The production can continue to provoke reflection on the compatibility or of power and love, as well as the question whether the mythical figures of the past can be ice-hockey players of today. It will be easy for the audience to understand the mysteries of this incredible work with the figures dressed in daily costume. It is not necessary to impose a dramatic concept on the work and encode the staging so as to make it interesting; the work is in itself too complex and unfathomable. Besides, a great deal of the mood of the opera will be communicated by lighting the screen behind the orchestra in various colors and it will provide the audience a wonderful experience.