Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Festival d'Aix en Provence 2009 - preview

Since the days of the Florentine Camerata, many of the greatest operas have tied their sails closely to those of myth. The sixty-first Festival d’Aix en Provence explores that relationship in a number of staged performances. Mozart, ever the festival’s guiding light, offers the first and last of his fully mature operas. Oliver Py produces Mozart’s Cretan drama, Idomeneo, with Marc Minkowski conducting his Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble; Richard Croft, Yann Beuron, and Mireille Delunsch head an impressive cast. Director William Kentridge makes his Aix debut, collaborating with René Jacobs and the Akademie für Alte Musik in Die Zauberflöte. Orpheus, almost the patron saint of opera, makes his inevitable appearance, though not in Monteverdi or Gluck, nor in Haydn or Birtwistle. In a European Academy of Music production of Offenbach’s Orphée aus enfers, Alain Altinoglu conducts the Camerata Salzburg, with stage direction from Yves Beaunesne. And where would mythological opera be without Wagner? The Aix Ring culminates in Götterdämmerung. Sir Simon Rattle again conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the final instalment of Stéphane Braunschweig’s production. (See Siegfried from last year and my DVD review of Die Walküre.) The cast includes Ben Heppner, Mikhail Petrenko, Katarina Dalayman, Dale Duesing, and, in a welcome surprise, Anne Sofie von Otter as Waltraute.

The Berlin Philharmonic gives no fewer than three orchestral concerts. Pierre-Laurent Aimard joins Pierre Boulez for Ravel’s left-hand concerto alongside works by Bartók and Boulez himself. Lang Lang could hardly be a more different pianist from the fearsomely intellectual Aimard; Lang plays concertos by Haydn and Ravel, with orchestral works by those two composers completing the first of Rattle’s two programmes. Borodin’s second symphony and The Rite of Spring form the second. Various ensembles drawn from the BPO’s membership provide a wealth of chamber music: the Athenäum Quartet in Mendelssohn and Schumann; the Trio Sainte Victoire (including pianist Kyrill Gerstein) in Beethoven and Tchaikovsky; and the marvellous Scharoun Ensemble in an all-French programme of Ravel, Debussy, André Caplet, and Marc André Dalbavie.

Two other concerts return us to the world of myth. Magdalena Kožená joins Louis Langrée and Camerata Salzburg in an all-Haydn programme, which includes his masterly cantata, Arianna a Naxos, whilst Joyce DiDonato continues her Handel explorations in excerpts from the operas, partnered by Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. Kožená also collaborates with Private Musicke in a programme of seventeenth-century Italian music. György and Marta Kurtág perform works for piano, four hands, by Bartók, Bach, and Kurtág, in a concert that also includes Kurtág’s Hipartita for violin solo from Hiromi Kikuchi. Heinrich Schiff plays Bach cello suites. Kentridge delivers a lecture (in English) on Shostakovich’s The Nose. Langrée and Camerata Salzburg give a second concert, of arias by Haydn and Mozart, with singers from the European Academy of Music. Another Academy concert presents works by Kurtág and the young Italian composer, Francesco Filidei.

In addition, three events at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume explore the music of the Mediterranean. Swirling dervishes from Turkey and Syria appear in Déplacé; Ensemble Constantinople looks at songs of women and love from Persian, Jewish-Hispanic, and troubadour traditions; the same ensemble turns to flamenco in El Grito, El Silencio.

The Festival d’Aix en Provence runs from 3 to 31 July. Further details may be found here.

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