Voci celesti – Heavenly Voices Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019
Entitled Voci celesti – Heavenly Voices, the 2019 Salzburg Whitsun Festival dedicates itself to the memory of the great castrato voices. ‘It is no coincidence that I can realize the idea now, when discussions about the abuse of the bodily integrity of artists have become so topical. In the name of art, thousands of boys were mutilated – a terrible tradition which was kept alive for centuries and only rarely questioned. Given this background, I wondered whether the great artistic accomplishments of this era should be celebrated at all by performing these pieces of music? To me, the answer is obvious: yes, absolutely. However, their art must be illuminated from other perspectives too, and the highly problematic context discussed,’ says Cecilia Bartoli, Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.
Artistic Director Cecilia Bartoli returns to the composer George Frideric Handel, who is once again the focus of the four-day Whitsun Festival in 2019. In her first year as artistic director in Salzburg, it was Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto she staged with the directors’ team of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier and under the baton of Giovanni Antonini. She herself sang the role of Cleopatra. In 2017 Handel’s opera Ariodante followed, featuring Cecilia Bartoli in her first trouser role, Ariodante. Over the course of the action, Christof Loy’s production transformed the Nordic hero into a woman, winning accolades from reviewers and audience alike. Now another Handel opera is the focal point of the Whitsun Festival: Alcina, in a new production directed by Damiano Michieletto, who already staged Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role at the 2014 Whitsun Festival. Gianluca Capuano will be the music director, leading the orchestra Les Musiciens du Prince – Monaco, founded by Cecilia Bartoli, and the Salzburg Bach Choir. Alongside Cecilia Bartoli as Alcina, Sandrine Piau sings the role of Morgana, Kristina Hammarström that of Bradamante, Christoph Strehl appears as Oronte and Alastair Miles as Melisso. Philippe Jaroussky performs the role of Ruggiero, which Handel tailored to the castrato Giovanni Carestini in 1735. The premiere takes place on 7 June 2019 at 6:30 pm at the Haus für Mozart; the second performance is scheduled for Sunday, 9 June, at 4 pm.
For the first time since they were both premiered in 1735, the audience has an opportunity for direct comparison between Handel’s Alcina and Nicola Porpora’s competing Polifemo, which will be performed in a semi-staged version at the Felsenreitschule on Whitsun Saturday. Porpora was Farinelli’s teacher, who sang the role of Aci in this dramma per musica. The libretto by Paolo Rolli is based on two Greek myths connected with the Cyclops Polypheme: the story of the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis, and the encounter with Ulysses which does not end well for the one-eyed giant. Porpora wrote music of great expressivity and virtuosity for these colourful scenes, which had the intended effect on the audience at the time. In the Salzburg performance, Yuriy Mynenko sings the role of Aci, Pavel Kudinov that of Polifemo, Julia Lezhneva performs the role of Galatea, Dilyara Idrisova appears as Nerea and Nian Wang as Calipso. The music director is George Petrou, conducting Armonia Atenea and the Salzburg Bach Choir. Max Emanuel Cencic is not only responsible for the semi-staging, but also sings the main role of Ulisse. Before this event on Whitsun Saturday, the programme features two additional items: at 11 am, a panel discussion illuminates the subject of the castrati from historical, medical and vocal perspectives. Led by Jürgen Kesting (journalist, music critic and author), the panel includes Jochen Kowalski (legendary countertenor), Corinna Herr (musicologist, Ruhr University Bochum) and Bernhard Richter (specialist in phoniatrics and pedaudology, director of the Freiburg Institute of Musicians’ Medicine). At 12 pm on Saturday, ‘Das Kino’ screens the film Farinelli – Il Castrato (1994). Under his stage name Farinelli, Carlo Broschi was the greatest opera star of the baroque era. The audience adored him; women were known to throw themselves at his feet. The Belgian director Gérard Corbiau delves deep into the world of the 18th century in his opulent costume drama with music, trying to trace Farinelli’s career and his intense relationship with his brother, the composer Riccardo Broschi, in partial fictional exaggeration.
Great baroque arias, scenes and duets by George Frideric Handel, Nicola Porpora, Johann Adolph Hasse and Riccardo Broschi are featured on Saturday night at the gala concert Farinelli & Friends at the Großes Festspielhaus. Under the baton of Gianluca Capuano, the Whitsun Artistic Director Cecilia Bartoli appears together with the sopranos Julie Fuchs, Patricia Petibon, Sandrine Piau, Nuria Rial, the mezzo-sopranos Lea Desandre, Vivica Genaux, Ann Hallenberg, the contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux and the countertenors Christophe Dumaux and Philippe Jaroussky. Not to mention the moderator of the evening: Rolando Villazón.
A rarely-performed jewel of sacred music can be heard on Sunday 9 June, at 11 am at the Mozarteum: Antonio Caldara’s oratorio La morte d’Abel, setting a text by Pietro Metastasio. Composed for Farinelli, the work has a direct connection with Austria: it was first performed in 1732 at the chapel of Vienna’s Hofburg. The oratorio will be conducted by Gianluca Capuano, leading the ensemble Il canto d’Orfeo and the Salzburg Bach Choir. Nahuel Di Pierro takes on the role of Adamo, Julie Fuchs sings Eva, Christophe Dumaux appears as Caino, Lea Desandre is heard as Abel and Nuria Rial as Angelo.
The concert programme of the Whitsun Festival ranges from the centuries-old tradition of vocal polyphony practiced by the Papal Choir of the Sistine Chapel to Pergolesi’s touching Stabat Mater, to which Arvo Pärt and Giacinto Scelsi respond as composers of our times. Thereby, the tradition of sacred music for castrati or high male voices singing falsetto is illuminated by works from different eras. The church concert Stabat Mater | Pärt features works by Giacinto Scelsi and Arvo Pärt. Peter Phillips conducts The Tallis Scholars on Whitsunday at 9 pm at the Kollegienkirche. This is juxtaposed with the sacred concert Stabat Mater | Pergolesi, which also includes works by Antonio Vivaldi. Andrés Gabetta leads his ensemble Cappella Gabetta from the violin. Cecilia Bartoli and countertenor Franco Fagioli sing on Whitsun Monday at 11 am at the Main Auditorium of the Mozarteum Foundation. The finale of the next Whitsun Festival will be a concert on Monday afternoon at 4 pm at Salzburg’s Cathedral. The Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Cecilia Bartoli, has managed to invite the Papal Choir of the Sistine Chapel – the Cappella Musicale Pontificia SISTINA – one of the oldest, most famous and also most exclusive musical ensembles in the world – to Salzburg. She was able to extend this invitation on the occasion of her own performance at the Sistine Chapel in the autumn of 2017. The Cappella Musicale Pontificia SISTINA stands for breathtaking vocal polyphony with a unique sacred aura, performed a cappella following a centuries-old practice – and for the longest time, it was associated with the unique sound of castrato voices. Conducted by Massimo Palombella, works by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, Giovanni Maria Nanino, Gregorio Allegri and Tomás Luis de Victoria will be performed.
For more information on the 2019 Salzburg Whitsun Festival click here.