Opening night at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale features the world premiere of Antigone, the first opera by Italian composer Ivan Fedele. Michel Tabachnik conducts the Orchestra and Choir of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, along with a cast drawn largely from Italy's baroque music specialists: mezzo Monica Bacelli in the title role, bass Roberto Abbondanza as King Creon, tenor Mirko Guadagnini as Haemon, coloratura soprano Chiara Taigi as Ismene, and countertenor Martin Oro as Tiresias. (There are additional performances of Antigone on May 4 and 6.)
The mythological theme continues with two concert performances of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice conducted by Riccardo Muti (April 28 and 29). Daniela Barcellona sings Orpheus, with Andrea Rost as Euridice and Julia Kleiter as Cupid.
Choreographer Lucinda Childs and her company perform a dance version of the story of Daphnis and Chloe (to Ravel's music) in five performances from May 19 to 24; the program also includes her Symphony of Psalms (to the Stravinsky score).
One of the very first mythological operas, Marco da Gagliano's opera La Dafne (1608), about the unfortunate maiden whom Apollo pursued and then turned into a tree, gets a new staging by director David Livermore, co-produced with the Teatro Ponchielli of Cremona and its Festival Monteverdi. Gabriel Garrido, a specialist in the early Baroque (and in the music of colonial Latin America), conducts the Ensemble Antonio il Verso and the Coro Costanzo Porta; the cast includes Roberta Invernizzi (in the title role), Furio Zanasi (as Apollo), Luca Dordolo, Raffaella Milanesi. Paola Quagliata and Fran‹ois-Nicolas Geslot. Performances are May 31 and June 1 in the 18th-century Teatro Goldoni.
The second half of June brings to Florence the very apotheosis of mythology in opera, Wagner's Ring cycle. The Maggio Musicale presents the first two operas in the tetralogy, Das Rheingold and Die Walk‹re, in a staging (co-produced with the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia) by the Barcelona theater troupe La Fura dels Baus. (The name translate roughly as "The Sewer Rats.") Zubin Mehat conducts the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale; among the cast members are Juha Uusitalo (Wotan), Jennifer Wilson (Br‹nnhilde), Peter Seiffert (Siegmund), Petra Maria Schnitzer (Sieglinde), Matti Salminen (Fafner and Hunding), and Franz-Josef Kapellmann (Alberich). (Anna Larsson, known worldwide for her portrayal of Erda, will take the role of Fricka.) There will be four performances of each opera between June 14 and 29.
Not every event will fit into the mythological theme, of course (except for the myths that have grown up around some of the formidable works and performers). On May 3, Mariss Jansons will conduct the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Bart‹k's The Miraculous Mandarin and Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra (which does have a mythological theme, come to think of it). The Contempoartensemble and director Mauro Ceccanti present a portrait of Ivan Fedele (composer of Antigone) on May 2. The B_jart Ballet Lausanne presents La vie du danseur racont_e par Zig et Puce and Maurice B_jart's signature Bolero May 11-13. On June 22, Mehta (who is the festival's music director) conducts the Maggio's orchestra and chorus in Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements and Symphony of Psalms as well as Bartok's Violin Concerto, with Leonidas Kavakos as soloist. The festival's dance company, Maggiodanza, presents a special gala on June 28; for the Last Night on June 30, Fazil Say joins Mehta and the orchestra for an all-Tchaikovsky program including Romeo and Juliet, the Piano Concerto No. 1 and the 1812 Overture.
Even this isn't all the Maggio Musicale has to offer this year. There will be an entire series of performances by young artists called "Maggio Off" June 6-13. And there will be a total of four special concerts at each end of the festival under the rubric of "The Barenboim Project." On May 12, Daniel Barenboim will give an all-Liszt piano recital (including transcriptions from Verdi); on May 18, he joins Mehta and the Maggio orchestra for Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 4 and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1. (Bart‹k's Concerto for Orchestra completes the program.) After the official end of the festival, on July 3 and 4, Barenboim brings his Staatskapelle Berlin to Florence for performances of Mahler's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies.
Complete information on the 70th Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is available at www.maggiofiorentino.com.