Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019

Bregenz Festival 2019


This year’s Bregenz Festival (the 74th in its history) brings us, as its main open-air opera, Verdi’s Rigoletto. There will be 25 performances starting on 17th July and ending on 18th August. Massenet’s Don Quichotte is also showcased, with just three performances inside the Festspielhaus, on 18th, 21st and 29th July.

There are other cultural events, in particular theatre and orchestral concerts: the Vienna Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Fabio Luisi in a Verdi Requiem, and Philippe Jordan will conduct all Brahms’s symphonies. The local Symphonie Orchester Vorarlberg will play three versions of Don Quixote, by Massenet, Ibert and Richard Strauss.

Bregenz lies at the eastern end of Lake Constance, known locally as the Bodensee. It is a popular tourist destination for Germans in particular, although the nearest international airport is in Switzerland, in Zurich, 80 miles to the West. Germans can fly into Munich (160 miles northeast) or Friedrichshafen, which is nearby, on Lake Constance. Some make the mistake of flying to Vienna, 400 miles to the East with some high Alps in between.

First some facts and figures about the Bregenz Festival: this is opera for the masses, there are a staggering 6,980 seats overlooking the huge stage, which floats on the lake itself. As most performances are sold out, that is a whopping total attendance (just for Rigoletto) of nearly 175,000. Should it rain heavily, the open-air performance is abandoned and 1,650 lucky punters that evening get to go inside the Festspielhaus just behind them to watch the opera (without its set) in the dry. The rest have to go home (or back to their hotels) and should get a voucher for another performance. Two-thirds of the audience come from Germany, most from places a few hours’ drive away. A quarter comes from Austria, 15% from Switzerland and only a few per cent from other countries.

Due to the large number of virtually consecutive performances, three singers are engaged for each major role; the sheer scale of the whole undertaking means that serious amplification is necessary. This gives younger, up-and-coming singers their chance to shine in major roles. The title role will be sung by Scott Hendricks, Vladimir Stoyanov and Franco Vassallo. Gilda will be sung by Hila Fahima, Mélissa Petit and Ekaterina Sadovnikova. The Duke of Mantua will be sung by Stephen Costello, Sergey Romanovsky and Pavel Valuzhin. The Vienna Symphony Orchester will be conducted by Enrique Mazzola and Jordan de Souza. Producer is German film and opera director Philipp Stölzl. We can expect the court scenes (where Rigoletto himself is the jester) to be transformed into a giant circus with a huge helium-filled balloon, circus tent and high-wire acts courtesy of Wired Aerial Theatre.

Ticket prices are reasonable, top price tickets are in the region of £120 (138 euros), slightly more on Friday and Saturday evenings; there are cheaper seats for as little as 30 euros. A mid-price ticket will set you back around 90 euros, which is around £80.

Rigoletto will be repeated next summer (2020); in 2021 (and 2022) a new production by Andreas Homoki will be presented, Madame Butterfly.

Further details about the festival itself can be found by clicking here; for travel and accommodation click here. The surrounding area is beautiful and well worth a prolonged visit. If it doesn’t rain.

John Rhodes

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