Marcus Bosch

From 26 May to 28 July 2019, the Heidenheim Opera Festival will once more be creating a widely-audible sensation among Germany’s summer festivals. Piotr Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame and Giuseppe Verdi’s Ernani, along with the children’s musical theatre piece Gold!, are the eagerly-awaited new productions of Marcus Bosch’s 10th season in Heidenheim. His contract as conductor and festival director has been extended ahead of time until 2025. The accompanying OH! concert schedule sparkles with hand-picked programmes and outstanding artists such as the conductor Lukasz Borowicz, the piano virtuosos Lise de la Salle and Federico Colli and the SWR Vokalensemble under Marcus Creed.

The Heidenheim Opera Festival has given its 2019 edition the motto ‘Glück’ – ‘Happiness’. This is not only something that the organisers have already promised and granted to thousands of music fans in the past, but also aptly describes what the festival has found in its artistic director, Marcus Bosch: “A passionate and unwavering orchestral educator of a kind rarely found today, who never tires of doing everything conceivable for his festival – for the big musical moment and for an operatic and orchestral culture with true depth,” says Matthias Jochner, the city councillor in charge of cultural affairs who is responsible for organising the festival.

With the festival orchestra Cappella Aquileia, which Marcus Bosch put together from outstanding musicians coming from a wide variety of orchestras following the model of the Lucerne Festival, and the participation of the Stuttgart Philharmonic (since 2013) as well as the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno (since 2015), the Heidenheim-born conductor has given the festival a major impetus.

Bosch himself also considers his ten years at the head of this traditional German festival on the edge of the Swabian Jura as very happy ones. The festival’s artistic success can be demonstrated not least by a look at the record figures from summer 2018, with some 20,000 visitors and 90% of seats sold overall – the opera production of “Nabucco” was even completely sold-out.

The Heidenheim Opera Festival is now established prominently in the European festival landscape not only because of Bosch’s far-ranging artistic contacts (he will be making his début at the Musikverein in Vienna with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in this season) but also because of his flair for programming.

Piotr Tchaikovsky

The organisers have chosen Peter Tchaikovsky’s penultimate stage work as the operatic centrepiece of the 2019 festival: “Pique Dame – the ‘Russian Carmen’ – is a fitting but challenging choice, because this work tells of Tchaikovsky’s ecstatically unstable life situation, one that ultimately was increasingly imperilled from within. World repertoire, but not mainstream, and yet another début of a work in Heidenheim’s Rittersaal.

In contrast, the plot of ‘Ernani’, our second opera in 2019, which will be on the programme in our series of early Verdi operas, achieves its final happiness in forgiveness and reconciliation,” Matthias Jochner says. The storyline of Pique Dame (première: 5 July), after a novella by Pushkin, seems on the surface to be a gambling tragedy from czarist Russia, but then turns out to be a timeless parable about whether and how happiness can be secured, calculated or forced.

“The story emanates great intensity. And we also have to do with a great choral opera, which suits us very well with the marvellous Brno chorus singers. The musical quality of the work is anyway beyond doubt,” says Marcus Bosch enthusiastically about this work, which is being performed in Heidenheim for the first time. So those are three good reasons right there for staging this romantic Russian masterpiece, even if it is considered as somewhat lacking in popularity: “In Heidenheim, we prefer to rely on audience curiosity,” Bosch says, “but also on the trust that we have built up – I hope – over the past years with our performances.” Outstanding soloists will do their part: the role of Lisa, unhappily in love, will be taken by the Swiss soprano Gabriela Scherer, who only recently fascinated audiences at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf as Arabella. And the main male role of the compulsive gambler and military officer Herman will be played by George Oniani, whose “focused tenor voice” (Frankfurter Rundschau) should still resonate pleasurably in the memory of Heidenheimer audiences from the Mascagni-Leoncavalli double bill in 2014.

In this production by Tobias Heyder, Marcus Bosch will conduct the Stuttgart Philharmonic as festival orchestra, and the festival chorus, the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno, “one of the top vocal ensembles in Europe”.

The continuation of the Verdi series with the production Ernani (première: 18 July) also focuses thematically on the ephemeral momentum of (love’s) happiness – here, in a medieval setting that draws on historical circumstances, in which three men of different social status vie for a woman, each failing in a very different way. With this work, the Heidenheim Opera Festival is continuing with its successful series of the early Verdi operas in chronological order. Ernani is the work that brought its creator the definitive breakthrough and became one of his most-performed operas in the 19th century.

In this Heidenheim production by the young director Jasmina Hadžiahmetović, the main parts are once more taken by top-flight vocal virtuosos. Donna Elvira will be sung by the Canadian soprano Leah Gordon, who recently received a special award from the New York City Opera and will soon make her début there. Marian Pop, who already has engagements at the Vienna State Opera and Volksoper, will sing the role of Don Carlos. And two of the most sought-after operatic performers from South Korea will also be performing: Sung Kyu Park (as the bandit Ernani), who received his diploma in singing at the “Giuseppe Verdi” conservatory in Milan, and Woong-Jo Choi (Don Ruy Gômez de Silva). As with the preceding productions of Oberto, Un giorno di regno (nominated for the ICMA) and I Lombardi, this one will be released on Coviello Classics, and will also be broadcast live on Deutschlandfunk Kultur radio.

As is already tradition, but one that is always fresh and innovative, the 2019 Heidenheim festival will also focus on a young audience, this time with the Young Opera “Gold!” (première 26 June), in which Flora Verbrugge (libretto) and Leonard Evers (music) draw freely on the Grimm fairy tale The Fisherman and His Wife to bring to the stage a fantasy story about what really makes people happy in this life. And that is (spoiler alert!) not the immediate fulfilment of every wish. The Musikwerkstatt OH! („OH! Music Workshop“) will also be offering a variety-filled programme for children where they can learn about opera and try things out for themselves.

Lukasz Borowicz
(c) Bruno Fidrych

In addition to the stage productions under Marcus Bosch, the concerts have become a second exquisite programme section in their own right, with high-quality orchestras, conductors and soloists. At the opening concert, Russische Größen („Russian Greats“, 22 June), the highly-charismatic Polish conductor Lukasz Borowicz will present himself to the Heidenheim audience for the first time.  As well as two fairy-tale pieces by Rimski-Korsakov, he will conduct Tchaikovsky’s opulent Piano Concerto No. 1, with the solo part performed by Federico Colli of Italy, who won the gold medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition. The performance by the Eliot Quartett in the Heidenheim Schlosskirche (11 July), also with a Russian programme, promises chamber music

in perfect quality. The SWR Vokalensemble under Marcus Creed will be bringing the fascination of Baltic choral music to the Stiftskirche (abbey church) of Maria Himmelfahrt (14 July).

The Neuer Kammerchor Heidenheim, a young choir that receives special support from the professional vocalists of the SWR ensemble, will be able to present its calling card in the first part of the concert there. Then, in the Gala Concert, it’s all about Ludwig van Beethoven in what will also be a continuation of the CPO recording project by the Cappella Aquileia under Marcus Bosch.

For the concert, the OH! has been able to gain the services of one of the most sought-after pianists internationally, Lise de da Salle, “a talent in a million” (Gramophone). In the Pauluskirche (24 July), Marcus Bosch will conduct the Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz for Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, the “creation of a giant” that towers over everything else ever written in terms of “intellectual dimensions, fertility and

greatness”, as fellow composer Hugo Wolf noted in 1892. And in the best tradition, the Last Night – Tausendundeine Nacht (One Thousand and One Nights, 26 + 28 July) with the Stuttgart Philharmonic under Marcus Bosch will guarantee a rousing and emotional programme and a fairytale double finale with Scheherazade compositions by Rimski-Korsakov and Maurice Ravel. In the Ravel piece, the soprano Stefania Dohvan will lend her voice to the famous Persian storyteller from

1001 Nights. And, finally, Tchaikovsky’s fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet once more makes a thematic connection between fulfilled and unfulfilled happiness.

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