Summer Stage Festivals

Swimming in the clear blue waters of a lake or hiking across flourishing meadows during the day, then enjoying the pleasures of high culture in the evening: what could possibly be lovelier than immersing yourself in the sounds of the violin produced by Anne-Sophie Mutter, or the wild drummers of Stomp on a lovely summer’s night? The extensive series of events that makes up the Festival Summer opens with the Vienna Festival (13 May -19 June).

“Completely different forms of theatre, new to us” promises director Luc Bondy this year, who is bringing productions from such exotic theatrical nations as Greenland, Mali, Kazakhstan and Columbia to Vienna. Salzburg (27 July-30 August) is a tad more traditional, naturally enough. “To awaken the ear, the eyes, human thinking” is the Festival’s motto this year, the first in the post-Flimm, pre-Perei ra era. “I am particularly looking forward to Riccardo Muti and Peter Stein in Verdi’s “Macbeth”, Christoph Marthaler’s take on “The Makropulos Affair” by Leos Janacek, Luigi Nono’s “Prometheus” and the Mahler scenes,” says temporary director Markus Hinterhdu- ser. Farther west still, at the Bregenz Festival (20 July – 21 August), director David Pountney is taking the risk, in the wake of last year’s hit “Aida”, of playing the little-known opera “Andre Chenier“ by Umberto Giordano on the lake stage – with the revolutionary turmoil that is the theme of the play having acquired undreamt-of currency in recent months. Styriarte (24 June – 24 July), brought to life by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and now in its zjthyear, sounds out – as profoundly as always – the entertaining, the catchy and (apparently) light-hearted aspects of the music of greats ranging from Bach to Smetana.

The focus ofHaydnDays (8 -18 September) is on a single composer, of course; the events at Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt will again feature giant conductors and orchestras from Sir Neville Marriner to Trevor Pinnock, II giardino armonico, and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic Orchestra under Adam Fischer. Lisztomania 2011 (12-26 June and 19-23 October) pays homage to thisyear’s composer of choice, Franz Liszt, the 200th anniversary of whose birthday falls on 22 October. The festival will be held in the tiny village of Raiding, the composer’s birthplace and famed for its outstanding acoustics. And another Burgenland tip: the programme of the St. Margarethen Opera Festival (19 July-28 August,), to be held on the unique open-air stage provided by an atmospheric Roman quarry, includes Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” with bass baritone Josef Wagner in the title role this year. Innsbruck becomes a stage for gripping contemporary dance: Innsbruck

Summer Dance (14 June -15 July) presents a varied programme including “Stomp” and new pieces by Canadian star choreographer Eric Gauthier.

For those seeking a lighter take on high culture on a balmy summer’s evening, the Kufstein Operetta Summer (21 July -14 August) is bringing Milldcker’s “Gasparone” to the stage. The Morbisch Festival on the Lake (14 July-28 August) will feature the indomitable classic “The Gypsy Baron” by Straujl thisyear, while the Summer Arena ofthe Stage Baden (18 June -10 September) will be difficult to resist with Leo Fall’s wonderful operettas “The Dollar Princess”, Suppe’s “Boccaccio” and Raimund’s fairytale “TheVerschwender”.

One newcomer to the list of festival thisyear is the Grafenegg Music Festival (19 August – 7 September). In this, its sthyear under the direction of star pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, the festival will feature, amongst others, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist, at the impressive Open Air Arena in the Schlosspark, which offers space for 1,730 music lovers. Size isn’t everything, of course, and some considerably smaller festivals will light up the summer evenings every bit as the major events.

In conclusion, therefore, a tip: the small Wellen- kldnge festival (8-30 July) will demonstrate its unconventional and impressive range on the magical lakeside stage in lunz thisyear, from women’s voices through to yodelling and Brazilianjazz.

The opportunities offered by just this brief selection will blow away any holiday or summer resort experience – so enjoy the agony of choice over your evening’s entertainment during a summer of high cultural endeavours.