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Thread: What constitutes a festival opera?

          
   
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    Senior Member Involved Member jflatter's Avatar
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    What constitutes a festival opera?

    Despite being a regular opera goer, I have never been to one of the main British or European opera festivals (although there is a possibility that I may go to one or two next year).

    I have just returned from holiday where I had a mainly self imposed internet ban and returned to see the article below on Intermezzo's blog regarding future Salzburg plans and there are some people who post who give their view on is and is not a festival opera. I am obviously aware that Bayreuth is a specialist festival dedicated to one composer but as you will see in the article one writer states that out of Bayreuth you could not put on the first three mature Wagner operas on at a festival such as Salzburg. Glyndebourne took many years to put one any Wagner at all. So really I am just simply asking if anyone can help me possibly fill an information gap that I may have.

    http://intermezzo.typepad.com/interm...ival-2013.html

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Hope you had a good holiday.

    I'm not quite sure what you're asking. Are you asking what is an appropriate opera for a Festival? Or are you wanting to see a Wagner at a Festival?

    I've thought about going to Salzburg but the tickets were very expensive & when I looked, you couldn't choose your seat. I'd want to see more than one opera so it would be an expensive trip.
    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    In a recent magazine article, Salzburg's new boss, Alexander Pereira, defined an opera festival as consisting of new productions every year. If revivals are presented, then the festival is no different from a repertory house, he says. (So I'm assuming the Cosi production next year will be new, even if that particular director has staged a version of the opera previously.) Of course, this defines what a festival is, not what a "festival opera" might be.

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    Senior Member Involved Member jflatter's Avatar
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    If you see the comment below from the intermezzo blog.

    John - I think Salzburg should stick as closely as possible to the vision of the festival's founders, ie lots of Mozart, Strauss and new work, with regular spots for modern masterpieces such as Wozzeck. I think the Verdi and Wagner year's could have been celebrated with one opera each - Don Carlos and Meistersinger are perfect choices, as would be Otello or Falstaff, Tristan or Parsifal. Il trovatore would be fine for a concert performance as it's not really the kind of opera that lends itself to great theatrical presentation. Logistically the Ring would be difficult for Salzburg and the three earlier works are so ubiquitous that they hardly qualify as festival operas outside Bayreuth. It's a pity that no room was found for an opera by Britten. The summer festival has never staged one. It's an interesting discussion about what constitutes a festival opera but in my view La Boheme, La traviata and Carmen are not examples. I suppose the Decker traviata with Netrebko and Villazon was the exception that proves the rule and it is interesting that Netrebko herself regarded it as a one-off and has appeared in none of it's revivals.

    Now why do Tannhauser, Hollander and Lohengrin not qualify as festival opera outside of Bayreuth? Does this mean that they are draining on festival resources to stage or is it other reasons?

    Salzburg's new boss has been controversial in his choice of operas. Carmen is not something you usually see at a European festival.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Oh sorry I can see what you mean now. But is it only in his/her opinion they're so ubiquitous they don't qualify? I don't know enough about the traditions of Festivals to know the answer.
    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    As I see it, a opera festival is an opera house that gives a small number of operas (like Glyndebourne, Bayreuth or Salzburg) in a limited duration of time, smaller than that of a normal season.
    They may well focus on specific composers (mainly Mozart and Strauss for Glyndebourne and Salzburg, and all Wagner for Bayreuth), but it is not necessary.

    As for the no Wagner at Glyndebourne, it has mostly to do with the fact that the house was to small before the re-build. John Christie, the founder of Glyndebourne, intended it as an English Bayreuth, and indeed, the first scene of act III (I think) of Meistersinger was the first piece to be performed there (albeit in a drawing room in the manor itself). Because of the house's rather modest size (especially before it was re-built and enlarged), putting on something as huge as a Wagner opera was quite simply impossible.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Festival operas tend to dedicate itself to a particular composer, or a particular theme. When I read "Handel Festival ...", it tends to have only Handel's music.

    But when it sounds rather generic, me suspect that has more to do with marketing. For example, "Summer Festival of Opera". That does not really mean anything specific musically speaking.

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Pereira mentioned in the same interview that he intends to return to an emphasis on Mozart's and Strauss's operas at Salzburg. Time will tell, I suppose.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Thinking about what constitutes a festival opera in light of the above opinions from OL members and operatic professionals, I'd say... any.

    While it is desirable to have a theme in a festival, either a composer or two, or an era or sub-genre or national tradition; and while it is desirable to show new productions and even new operas (world premieres) in festivals; and while certain warhorses don't necessarily fit the bill for a festival, there is nothing intrinsic to any of the above categories of operas that would exclude them from festivals or make of them mandatory inclusion in festivals.

    A festival can successfully produce a new and inventive staging of a well know opera alongside other more specific or new fare, as a way of achieving balance.

    So, if people go to a festival to enjoy new opera or new productions of rare operas, it doesn't mean they won't enjoy a break from all the novelty and settle *as well* for a bit of the proven warhorses, to rest and breathe and take on more novelty the next day.

    The bottom line is that I don't think *any* opera would be inappropriate in a festival... depending on the quality of the production and its integration within the thematic idea behind the festival.

    Let's say a location in France wanted to give a festival to promote and celebrate the French legacy in opera. They could have a couple of world premieres by young French composers, show two or three existing but more obscure French operas... and then throw in a nice new production of Carmen right in the middle of the calendar, and I bet festival goers wouldn't complain. Chances are that the Carmen evening would actually get more tickets sold than the others, and would therefore help in terms of subsidizing the other unknown operas.

    I don't think that Intermezzo blog contributor John's opinion for excluding the likes of Aida, Bohème, and Carmen from festivals holds water. Of course one wouldn't want a festival made of only the usual warhorses (although that's exactly what Verona does... but then, they aim for tourists rather than for passionate life-long opera lovers), but there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with having one of these blockbusters as *part* of the offers in a festival.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 25th, 2012 at 05:03 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Involved Member jflatter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Thinking about what constitutes a festival opera in light of the above opinions from OL members and operatic professionals, I'd say... any.

    While it is desirable to have a theme in a festival, either a composer or two, or an era or sub-genre or national tradition; and while it is desirable to show new productions and even new operas (world premieres) in festivals; and while certain warhorses don't necessarily fit the bill for a festival, there is nothing intrinsic in any of the above categories of operas that would exclude them from festivals or make of them mandatory inclusion in festivals.

    A festival can successfully produce a new and inventive staging of a well know opera alongside other more specific or new fare, as a way of achieving balance.

    So, if people go to a festival to enjoy new opera or new productions of rare operas, it doesn't mean they won't enjoy a break from all the novelty and settle *as well* for a bit of the proven warhorses, to rest and breathe and take on more novelty the next day.

    The bottom line is that I don't think *any* opera would be inappropriate in a festival... depending on the quality of the production and its integration within the thematic idea behind the festival.

    Let's say a location in France wanted to give a festival to promote and celebrate the French legacy in opera. They could have a couple of world premieres by young French composers, show two or three existing but more obscure French operas... and then throw in a nice new production of Carmen right in the middle of the calendar, and I bet festival goers wouldn't complain. Chances are that the Carmen evening would actually get more tickets sold than the others, and would therefore help in terms of subsidizing the other unknown operas.

    I don't think that Intermezzo blog contributor John's opinion for excluding the likes of Aida, Bohème, and Carmen from festivals holds water. Of course one wouldn't want a festival made of only the usual warhorses (although that's exactly what Verona does... but then, they aim for tourists rather than for passionate life-long opera lovers), but there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with having one of these blockbusters as *part* of the offers in a festival.
    Of course I can see your point. There is also a social element to these festivals as Glyndebourne I doubt would ever stage the one act version of the Dutchman as there would be no interval and people go to that festival for social reasons more than opera reasons in many cases so this must be a factor. I also cannot recall in recent years a Tosca being staged at a festival outside of Italy. Please correct me if I am wrong, but that does seem strange in my view.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jflatter View Post
    Of course I can see your point. There is also a social element to these festivals as Glyndebourne I doubt would ever stage the one act version of the Dutchman as there would be no interval and people go to that festival for social reasons more than opera reasons in many cases so this must be a factor. I also cannot recall in recent years a Tosca being staged at a festival outside of Italy. Please correct me if I am wrong, but that does seem strange in my view.
    Well, no, I've just posted a review of Tosca as part of the five offerings of Santa Fe Opera, which operates as a summer-only festival house - it's a typical festival setting, with people pic-nicking and tailgating in their beautiful campus, etc. It was a brand new production with quite compelling staging and settings, so, its presence was justified, in my opinion. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed *more* the opera I saw the following night which was the world premiere of the new critical edition of a relatively obscure opera (therefore perfect fare for a festival) Maometto II, but I didn't dislike the fact that I got to see another Tosca. Together with these two they also had compelling festival choices, such as Król Roger and The Pearl Fishers which are rarely given at repertory houses (and also Arabella, since Richard Strauss has been a sort of specialty of the Santa Fe festival since its beginnings decades ago), but this brand new Tosca production wasn't out of place there, exactly for being visually striking and tasteful; like I said, it's a question of quality. And needless to say, it was a sold-out house. If they had a stale old Tosca revival there with traditionalistic staging then it would have been weird to see it in a festival, but the way they did it, I thought it was fine, and a way to attract more conventional opera goers as well, in addition to those who felt motivated to travel to Santa Fe for the opportunity to see some works that are rarely given elsewhere.

    For me a festival needs to provide this sort of opportunity for variation from a repertory house, but can perfectly include a blockbuster or two as well, for balance and fund-raising, as long as the production itself is new enough to add to the excitement of the festival.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jflatter View Post
    There is also a social element to these festivals as Glyndebourne I doubt would ever stage the one act version of the Dutchman as there would be no interval and people go to that festival for social reasons more than opera reasons in many cases so this must be a factor.
    Is Glyndebourne really that geared toward social butterflies? I'm asking seriously, since I've never been and I honestly don't know. It just surprises me, since they have a history of very strong productions.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Is Glyndebourne really that geared toward social butterflies? I'm asking seriously, since I've never been and I honestly don't know. It just surprises me, since they have a history of very strong productions.
    I can't speak for James but I don't think he meant it this way. Glyndebourne is one of the leading opera companies in the world, and they go through painstaking steps to produce the best possible musical elements. But they also have beautiful grounds and pic-nicking there became a tradition. Also, there is a tradition of people attending the productions in black tie and socializing during intermission. I've never been to it - tried recently and couldn't find a ticket for the only day I had available to travel there - but that's what I hear.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I can't speak for James but I don't think he meant it this way. Glyndebourne is one of the leading opera companies in the world, and they go through painstaking steps to produce the best possible musical elements. But they also have beautiful grounds and pic-nicking there became a tradition. Also, there is a tradition of people attending the productions in black tie and socializing during intermission. I've never been to it - tried recently and couldn't find a ticket for the only day I had available to travel there - but that's what I hear.
    I would hope that's the case. But it was the "people go to that festival for social reasons more than opera reasons in many cases" that gave me pause.

    Then again, when you get right down to it, that would be true "in many cases" at most opera houses.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I would hope that's the case. But it was the "people go to that festival for social reasons more than opera reasons in many cases" that gave me pause.

    Then again, truth be told, that would be true "in many cases" at most opera houses.
    I got the "in many cases" to be deliberately different from "in most cases." And sure, there will always be the kind of crowd who goes to the opera because they think it is chic and have no clue about the art form. I wouldn't expect Glyndebourne to have a much bigger slice of that crowd than other opera houses, although maybe they have a slightly bigger slice given their bucolic location and beautiful grounds.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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