Austria’s annual Salzburg Festival is celebratating its 100th anniversary with a special edition that very nearly didn’t take place.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced organisers to reduce the programme but they were determined that the show would go on.
“It is so important to show the value of culture and arts because it’s food for the soul,” festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler told Euronews. “That was the conviction of our founders and that is why we think the festival must take place.”
Director Christof Loy and conductor Joana Mallwitz worked on a new, shorter version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tuttewith the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The production marks Mallwitz’s Salzburg debut and the first time a woman has conducted an opera at the festival.
“Every note you take away from Mozart, it hurts your heart,” Mallwitz told Euronews, “but at a certain point we said, ‘Let’s not think about what we have to cut out but how we can get as much of Mozart’s spirit.'”
Così fan tutte is a tragicomic exploration of the faithlessness of women, set against a backdrop of disguise and deception.
“Così fan tutte goes from something very playful – giocoso, scherzando, also even cheeky – to some almost romantic numbers and colours,” says Mallwitz. “It’s a game but then the emotions get involved. And between these two poles it is always changing back and forth, sometimes very quickly. In one bar, things change.”
In the opera, the character of Don Alfonso, performed by Johannes Martin Kränzle, sets out to prove to two young soldiers that all women, even their fiancees, can be unfaithful.
“Of course he can be cynical and wicked,” Mallwitz says. “He is the one, probably, who knows from the beginning that, if you are in a partnership with someone, you have to accept and love about yourself and your partner all those different feelings that are in every human being probably.”
“This music turns the deepest, most inner impulses and emotions and feelings out there. You see everything radiating to the outside. This is something magical that maybe only Mozart could do.”
Mozart’s ‘Così fan tutte’ is playing through 18 August 2020 at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg.