2020 MUSICAL AMERICA DIRECTORY 9
of the year The Salzburg Festival
a colorful figure who
had previously headed
the gritty, contemporary
He was succeeded
by the ever-ambitious
Alexander Pereira (2012-
14), who successfully instituted the still-extant,
Ouverture spirituelle, devoted to sacred music.
Pereira, in a coup, also
engaged Cecilia Bartoli to
head the Whitsun Festival
and advocated a policy,
largely continued today, of
performing operas only in
new productions. He also
planned to premiere a new
opera every year, of which
Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel and Marc-André
Dalbavie’s Charlotte Salomon were products. Ultimately, the
idea proved overly ambitious and was abandoned.
Unlike his predecessors in the post-Mortier era—and,
for that matter, Mortier himself—Hinterhäuser, a pianist
now in his third year as artistic director, had a long previous
association with the Salzburg Festival, and it shows in the
smoothness with which its disparate and complex parts
function under his leadership. During the Mortier years,
Hinterhäuser ran Zeitfluss, a new-music series within the
Festival, and from 2006-2010 he headed concert program-
ming. He was interim artistic director in 2011, and has
since proved his mettle at the top with ambitious, artisti-
cally intriguing projects.
The audience is challenged, he concedes, but fundamentally it’s a matter of trust. “The trust we have in our
audience is repaid by their trust in us.” His programming
brilliantly epitomizes the founders’ wisdom in favoring a
festival with a significantly broad base. With its thematic
interconnections, ample representation of new music,
and in-depth investigation of composers and performers,
a typical Salzburg program will look mouthwatering to
many and perhaps a bit daunting to others.
ANCIENT MYTHS, MODERN CHALLENGES
Last summer’s over-arching theme of myths from
antiquity embraced George Enescu’s rarely done Oedipe,
along with six of the composer’s instrumental works
in concert. Myths also animated the drama program,
which included the world premiere of Theresia Walser’s
Die Empörten (The Outraged Ones), an updating of the
Antigone story. The popular Austrian actor Tobias took
the title role in Jedermann. Theater performances are in
German, but the institution of English supertitles in 2017
has helped to broaden their audience.
Apart from Sellars’s Idomeneo, conducted by Teodor
Currentzis, Andreas Kriegenburg sensibly updated Simon
Boccanegra, and Alcina benefitted from a masterful portrayal of the title role by Cecilia Bartoli. Barrie Kosky’s
production of Orphée aux enfers was eye-poppingly zany.
Achim Freyer produced Oedipe, with Christopher Maltman
in stunning form as the protagonist, Simon Stone cleverly
updated Cherubini’s Médée. Doing yeoman service, the
Vienna Philharmonic was in the pit for five of the seven
It is hard to imagine that, as its centennial approaches,
the Salzburg Festival has ever been healthier. All three of the
principal sectors—opera, drama, concerts—are flourishing.
The stimulating programming common to all reinforces
the Festival’s artistic breadth and intellectual cachet as envisioned by its founders. Hinterhäuser and Rabl-Stadler have
come up with a formula for transforming their forebears’
vision into a reality for modern audiences. And in today’s
troubled world, this achievement could hardly be more welcome. No doubt they will make the 100th anniversary something extraordinary. It is sure to be worth waiting for. •
With reporting by George Loomis.
Susan Elliott first covered the Salzburg Festival in the 1980s
and has written about the performing arts for most of her
career. She is the News and Special Reports Editor for Musical
Final applause for Peter Sellars’s controversial Idomeneo.
Left to right, Russell Thomas (Idomeneo), Ying Fang (Ilia), Paula
Murrihy (Idamante), Nicole Chevalier (Elettra), Peter Sellars (Director),
Brittne Mahealani Fuimaono (Dancer), 2019. Photo: © Salzburg Festival/
The masterful Cecilia Bartoli in the
title role of Alcina and Angelika
Nieder as Old Alcina, 2019. Photo:
© Salzburg Festival/Matthias Horn.