A Quick Rant: Munich Opera Festival 2014

…by Isabel del Rio

Munich Opera House

Munich Opera House

The key summer music festivals in Europe are held in Munich, Bayreuth and Salzburg.  This year, Munich’s venues offered music-lovers a vast array of concerts and productions in all their magnificence, from the Prince Regent Theatre in the style of Bayreuth, to the Opera House, with its less solemn décor yet magnificent acoustics, and the delightful Cuvilliés Theatre, a rococo reproduction for the more intimate concerts.  The spirit of the Festivalspiel is to make music accessible to the public, comparable to the British Proms during the summer at the Royal Festival Hall, and this is exactly what it does, through a policy of accessibility and reasonable pricing.

This year the Munich Opera Festival or Münchner Opernfestspiele had splendid offerings.  There were remarkable and ground-breaking opera premieres alongside the eternal, never-aging productions from the Bayerische Staatsoper or Bavarian State Opera repertoire, together with exceptional vocal recitals.  Premieres included Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and Verdi’s La forza del destino.  And in well-known productions, the festival public had a real treat with two of Richard Strauss’s finest operas, Ariadne auf Naxos, in a stark black and white production, and Die Rosenkavalier, with British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote radiantly singing the nearly impossible title role.  There were ups and downs, of course.  We also saw a minimalist production, yet somewhat tedious and lacking in tempo, of Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro, with a disappointing and unconvincing performance by the celebrated Uruguayan baritone, Erwin Schrott.

Concerts and recitals were also varied and exciting.  From contemporary

Cuvilliés Theatre

Cuvilliés Theatre

orchestral compositions, notably by the American John Adams, to the timeless Winterreise, by Schubert, sung by German baritone Michael Volle, and a recital of Strauss songs by the American baritone, Thomas Hampson.

In all, the Festival offered a series of glowing events, and the city –an elegant imperial urban sprawl with exceptional museums and beautiful cathedral and churches– shone under the equally dazzling, operatic July weather, with both sunshine and the odd storm.

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