There has been widespread speculation about the new Tankred Dorst-directed Ring cycle that will bow at Bayreuth later this month. Dorst, an 80-year-old dramatist who is considered Germany's foremost playwright, has kept details of the staging largely secret, as have officials of the Wagner festival. But the production's conductor, Christian Thielemann, gave a few hints about it in a recent interview with London's Guardian.
Don't look for the new Ring to be a "director's opera" — Thielemann thinks such productions are self-indulgent and insulting to composers and musicians. And don't expect the new Ring to be overtly political. "We want to keep politics out of it," Thielemann said. "It is so boring, so predictable. We know the Ring is about power, we know that; water is wet. We don't need to point it out. We can trust the public and the intelligence of people a little bit more."
The 47-year-old Thielemann, who quit the Deutsche Oper in Berlin two years ago after a string of very public disputes with city officials over funding, says he would rather conduct at Bayreuth's Festspielhaus than any other hall. Still, he has been working full-steam elsewhere, including in Munich, where he recently took the helm of the city's Philharmonic Orchestra. Thielemann brought the Philharmonic into the studio over the winter, along with the Bavarian Radio Chorus and several young vocalists, to record Mozart's Requiem. The CD, Thielemann's first Mozart recording, is due out in October on Deutsche Grammophon.
When Ren_e Fleming sang her first Violetta at the Metropolitan Opera, it was the biggest event of the season. Three years later, Decca was planning to document Fleming's portrayal of Verdi's tragic heroine on a Traviata DVD to be recorded at the Los Angeles Opera. But the project has suffered a number of setbacks. In May, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky pulled out of the production. Now, the L.A. Opera says it may not have enough money to stage the opera for the video. The company, which planned to open its 2006-07 season with three performances of Traviata, says it needs $600,000 to refurbish the sets from its 1999 production and to finance the taping. L.A. Opera officials insist they will be able to raise the money this month, news that no doubt comes as a relief to the diva's many fans.
If the DVD does get recorded, it will be a star-studded affair. In addition to Fleming, the production will feature rising-star tenor Rolando Villaz‹n and conductor James Conlon, who makes his debut as L.A. Opera music director this fall.
While Fleming awaited word on the fate of the L.A. Traviata, she was supposed to be heading to northern California for the final concert of the new Festival del Sole in the Napa Valley, a celebration of music, art, food and wine. But illness forced her to cancel and Christine Brewer stepped in at the last minute to perform Strauss's Four Last Songs.
The young violin virtuoso Nikolaj Znaider was also headlining at the Festival del Sole this month, part of a packed schedule of festival performances that is keeping him on the road all summer. After playing the Sibelius concerto at Napa with the Russian National Orchestra, Znaider was scheduled to head down to Los Angeles to perform with Andrew Davis and the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. In August, he plans to play Mozart at the Tuscan Sun Festival (the Festival del Sole's older sister) in Cortona, Italy. Then it's off to London for the BBC Proms, where Znaider will play the Mendelssohn concerto. He began his summer festival tour in June at the Risêªr Festival in Norway before returning to his native Denmark to lead his own Nordic Music Academy. He also stopped off at the Baden-Baden Festival in Germany to play the Brahms Violin Concerto, with Valery Gergiev conducting. There is more Brahms on tap for Znaider this fall: Sony/BMG Masterworks plans to release Znaider's recording of the complete Brahms chamber works for violin and piano, recorded with pianist Yefim Bronfman.
Stars descended on Aspen earlier this month to celebrate conductor David Zinman's 70th birthday. In a gala concert, Zinman, the director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, was saluted by such notables as violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Gil Shaham; cellist Truls Mêªrk; bassist Edgar Meyer; pianists Yefim Bronfman, Leon Fleisher and Joseph Kalichstein; and the Emerson String Quartet. When Zinman isn't spending the summer in Aspen, his duties include leading the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, which he helped put on the map with his recordings of the Beethoven symphonies for Arte Nova. The symphonies are part of a huge effort to record all of Beethoven's music with orchestra. The recordings are now complete and the final disc in the series, containing the first two piano concertos, is due out this fall. With Beethoven behind him, Zinman has begun another monumental recording project with the Tonhalle — a Mahler cycle.
Daniel Barenboim will appear in Istanbul for the first time next month when he conducts his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in the opening performance of its summer tour. The orchestra, which brings together young musicians from Arab countries and Israel, will also play in Cairo, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Weimar and Milan.