Perhaps because the world situation is as horrible as it is, the new production of “Lohengrin” is not the sensation of the this year’s Easter Festival in Salzburg. But a concert: the Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev conducts the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden with the Seventh Symphony by Shostakovich. This is the so-called Leningrader, the composer reported to the struggle against fascism; famous in it is the all-crushing Passacaglia, resounding noise of war, oppression, submission. But the festival will open on April 9th with Wagner’s “Lohengrin”, staged by Jossi Wieler, Anna Viebrock and Sergio Morabito, conducted by Christian Thielemann.
This year’s is the last edition of the Easter Festival for which Thielemann is still (partly) responsible. From 2023 Nikolaus Bachler, the former director of the Bavarian State Opera, will direct it alone. Like so many festivals, they were badly hit by Corona; once they were canceled altogether, once they were postponed to the autumn. And even now, “the only fear that drives us is the virus,” says Bachler. In any case, there is great harmony between him and Thielemann: “You know, when professionals start working together, the background noise is gone.” He loves watching Thielemann at Wagner work, experiencing this for the first time – praise the festival, you have time because Ostersalzburg traditionally focuses on a few events.
So, to put it straight away, Bachler has no way of hiring Anna Netrebko; he would do it, also because he is very annoyed by the prevailing culture. In the coming year there will be Wagner again, with whose work Netrebko is more at odds anyway. Wagner, because Herbert von Karajan once founded the Easter Festival for his operas. And because of Romeo Castellucci.
His “Tannhäuser” production caused a sensation at the Bavarian State Opera in 2017; she is a pure work of art and has also been a guest in Japan; now it will open the Easter Festival on April 1, 2023 and will then be shown on April 5 and 9. When the production came out in Munich, Bachler and Castellucci agreed how nice it would be to continue working on the production, in the spirit of Wagner’s workshop in Bayreuth. But in the repertoire business there is hardly any room for something like that, in Salzburg there is, and Castellucci will do it. The cast is spectacular and will probably also attract Munich opera lovers who have already seen the performance to Salzburg: Marlis Petersen sings Elisabeth, her very first Wagner role; Jonas Kaufmann makes his role debut as Tannhäuser, Elīna Garança sings Venus, Georg Zeppenfeld sings Landgrave Hermann and Christian Gerhaher as Wolfram von Eschenbach.
Andris Nelsons will conduct the opera performance, as well as the two orchestral concerts and the choral concert with Brahms’ “German Requiem”, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra playing. Every year a different orchestra will play under Bachler and a different conductor will conduct, 2024 will be Antonio Pappano and the Accademia Santa Cecilia.
For the first time ever there will be dancing at the Easter Festival in 2023: the French-Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat was inspired by Wagner’s “Wesendonck” songs to create a piece for 14 dancers in the Felsenreitschule. Bachler also wants to plant a “seed for something that could become important” in the same place: Westbam, electro artist (vulgo: DJ) with special instinct and curiosity, develops a symbiosis of beats and Wagner there on April 6 with participation the Orchestra Academy of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Chamber and late-night concerts complement the program, for which reduced tickets are also available for everyone under 27 years of age.