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Amid Global Turmoil, Salzburg Festival Plans a Summer of Reflection


With the pandemic still lingering and the war in Ukraine raging on, the Salzburg Festival in Austria announced plans on Friday for a summer season that might seek to supply space for reflection.

The festival, classical music’s most storied annual event, will stage two operas based on works by William Shakespeare: “Macbeth” and “Falstaff,” each by Verdi. There are also plans for more offbeat repertoire, including Bohuslav Martinu’s “The Greek Passion,” which tells the story of a Greek village staging a Passion play, in a production led by the conductor Maxime Pascal.

“Our present reality appears to be completely out of joint with universal bonds and perspectives,” Markus Hinterhäuser, the festival’s artistic director, said in an interview, quoting from “Hamlet.” “Subsequently, we now have constructed a festival giving artists the chance to deal with these issues directly and not directly.”

The festival will feature greater than 200 events — a combination of operas, spoken drama, orchestra live shows and recitals — over six weeks starting July 20.

The festival’s house band, the Vienna Philharmonic, will perform several live shows, including “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (“A German Requiem”), an hourlong choral work by Brahms, under the conductor Christian Thielemann. Amongst other outstanding orchestras making appearances are the Berlin Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli will star in Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice”; the conductor John Eliot Gardiner will lead a concert performance of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens,” featuring his ensemble, the Monteverdi Choir; and the soprano Renée Fleming and the pianist Evgeny Kissin team up for a recital of works by Schubert, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Duparc.

Franz Welser-Möst, the music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and a Salzburg regular, will take the baton for “Macbeth,” which opens in July, in a production by Krzysztof Warlikowski. In August, Welser-Möst will lead the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert featuring works by Ligeti and Richard Strauss.

The festival will again prominently feature the conductor Teodor Currentzis, who has faced scrutiny because the start of the war in Ukraine due to his ties to a state-owned bank in Russia. He’ll take the baton for a concert presentation of Henry Purcell’s opera “The Indian Queen” together with his latest ensemble, Utopia. Currentzis can even lead Utopia in performances of Mozart’s Mass in C minor.

Currentzis announced the formation of Utopia, which is backed by European benefactors, in August, after he faced a wave of criticism for his longtime association with the Russian ensemble MusicAeterna, which is sponsored by VTB Bank, a state-owned institution that has been sanctioned by the USA and other countries. (Currentzis had been trying for several years to secure funding for Utopia.)

While the pandemic has wreaked havoc across the performing arts, the Salzburg Festival, drawing on government subsidies and sponsorship deals, has managed to attenuate the disruption.

The festival never canceled a season through the pandemic. In 2020, it staged a sturdy program for limited audiences, before returning to relative normalcy in 2021.

Whilst turnout for a lot of classical events world wide has been tepid because the return of live performance, the Salzburg Festival continues to draw an enthusiastic audience. Attendance was 96 percent last summer, the festival said.

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