For the last few years, the Salzburg Festival had been suffering somewhat from a lack of direction, but from this autumn Alexander Pereira (formerly Intendant of Zürich Opera) has taken up the role of Artistic Director, and he and his team have just announced an ambitious yet well-balanced programme for the 2012 summer festival.

Opera has always been at the heart of the Salzburg festival and it is here that Pereira has tried to stamp his authority. He outlined that under his leadership, there will be seven new opera productions every year and that as a rule he will not put on revivals (although he has allowed revival productions from the Salzburg Easter and Whitsun festivals). He has renegotiated the terms with the Vienna Philharmonic and they will perform four operas each year: in the 2012 festival, Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos conducted by Riccardo Chailly (the original 1912 version, complete with Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme), La Boheme (first time ever at the Salzburg Festival) conducted by Danielle Gatti with Anna Netrebko as Mimi, Carmen conducted by Simon Rattle (with Magdalena Kožená and Jonas Kaufmann), and B.A. Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten (1963) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.

As Pereira admits, the success of the Artistic Director of Salzburg depends on whether he can produce an exemplary Mozart production. In his first season, he has chosen to stage Die Zauberflöte in the atmospheric Felsenreitschule venue and has succeeded in luring back Harnoncourt to the festival together with his period-instrument Concentus Musicus Wien. Furthermore, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its librettist Schikaneder’s death, Pereira has combined this with a German Singspiel Das Labyrinth (1798) by Peter von Winter, a sequel to Die Zauberflöte also written by Schikaneder. Finally, Handel’s Giulio Cesare (co-production with the Whitsun Festival) completes the opera line-up, starring Cecilia Bartoli, Andreas Scholl, Philippe Jaroussky, and performed by Giovanni Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico. Pereira, clearly an advocate of period instruments, has also invited William Christie to conduct a concert performance of Mozart’s Il re pastore (starring Rolado Villazon) with the period instrument orchestra of the Zürich Opera and Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble will perform Handel’s Tamerlano (with Bejun Mehta and Domingo).

Another of Pereira’s innovations is that he has brought forward the opening of the festival by a week and has devised a festival of sacred music entitled Ouverture Spirituelle. He explained that he wanted to explore this rich genre which tends to be overlooked these days, but in order to avoid being too Chrisitianity-orientated, each year he plans a musical dialogue with other faiths, starting this year with the exploration of music by Jewish composers such as Bloch and Noam Sheriff (b.1935) by Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. The 2012 festival will open with Haydn’s Creation by J. E. Gardiner and the Monterverdi Choir (soloists include the British soprano Lucy Crowe). The sacred music lineup also features Laurence Equilbey and his group accentus.

Orchestral concerts include five different programmes by the Vienna Philharmonic (conducted by Gergiev, Jansons, Muti, Heinz Holliger and Haitink) and it is interesting to note that the “sacred music” element extends to here as well, for example Muti conducting Berlioz’s Messe solennelle. Visiting orchestras include the Gergiev/London Symphony Orchestra, Welser-Möst/Cleveland Orchestra and Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Barenboim as pianist will also embark on a cycle of Schubert’s piano sonatas for the first time. Song recitals include Christian Gerhaher, Juan Diego Florez and Elina Garanča amongst others.

Finally, as a festival that also offers a strong theatre programme led by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Pereira is keen to collaborate with other arts fields such as theatre and dance. Indeed, the new production of Ariadne auf Naxos (in the original version) symbolizes this approach and will surely set the tone for Pereira’s leadership. Directed by Bechtolf, this production will revive not only the Molière play but also the ballet music, which will be choreographed by Heinz Spoerli. All in all, there is definitely a sense of heightened expectation in the air for the 2012 summer festival.

by Nahoko Gotoh