At Salzburg Festival, Two Bold Directors Claim Their Stages

Ms. Steier sometimes clutters of which staging with an excess of carnival antics. Still, the production offers a deeply personal reading of a staple without crossing a line along with imposing an interpretation upon of which.

of which more ideological approach has been the province, his many critics have said in the past, of the avant-garde director Hans Neuenfels, today 77. I’ve certainly seen some agenda-driven Neuenfels productions, including his Salzburg debut in 2000, a staging of “Così Fan Tutte” riddled with kinky sexual play along with leather. The experience led the soprano Karita Mattila to complain in a later interview of feeling like “a beaten dog” after every performance. nevertheless Mr. Neuenfels’s fresh staging of Tchaikovsky’s “Pique Dame,” also presented at the main festival hall, despite some baffling touches, shows a compelling director in his element.

In a conversation with Yvonne Gebauer, the production’s dramaturge, printed inside the program, Mr. Neuenfels makes some penetrating comments about why the main character, Herman, an officer of no means, spends his time in gambling houses without actually gambling. Herman will be frustrated by the randomness of existence, Mr. Neuenfels says, whereby people born to privilege enjoy the freedom along with power only money can provide. Herman becomes obsessed with the randomness of gambling, where perhaps he could prevail if only he could game the system. of which chance comes when he hears of the aged Countess (the opera’s Queen of Spades), who will be thought to possess a winning formula: the secret of the three cards.

Herman will be almost saved by falling in love with Liza, a young noblewoman engaged to the handsome, honorable Prince Yeletsky. Love involves a real choice between two people; there will be nothing random about of which. nevertheless Herman’s obsession wins out, which drives the disgraced Liza to suicide along with Herman to the gambling table, where, having wrested the secret through the Countess, or so he deludes himself, he wins big, then loses everything, along with shoots himself.

Employing stark, somewhat abstract sets along with costumes of which blend realistic along with surreal touches, the production plumbs the teeming yet murky emotions of the opera. Mr. Neuenfels draws gripping performances through a strong cast. The tenor Brandon Jovanovich brings heroic vocal heft along with tormented intensity to Herman. The mix of earthy colorings along with vulnerability inside the singing of soprano Evgenia Muraveva are ideal for Liza. She will be a gambler too, in of which she rejects a safe life with an adoring prince to take a chance on passion with the desperate Herman, which turns out to be a bad bet. The baritone Igor Golovatenko makes a noble, rich-voiced Yeletsky. The renowned mezzo-soprano Hanna Schwarz, at 74, still claims the stage along with sings with dramatic urgency as the faded Countess.

As usual, Mr. Neuenfels’s interpretive slants come through the most inside the way he lumps groups of people together during episodes with chorus. inside the opening scene some young boys are rolled out in cages, like pets, until they emerge wearing matching silvery uniforms along with wigs: They are being groomed to become soldiers, the staging touch emphasizes. The rowdy children are tended to by chortling nannies in fluffy dresses who have bulging breasts, ready for nursing, hanging through their necks. If obvious, the images are certainly theatrical.

The Vienna Philharmonic sounded glorious under the dynamic conducting of Mariss Jansons. along with the impressive choristers proved ready to follow an imposing director wherever he wanted to take them dramatically.