Since its January 2006 rededication as Vienna's third full-time professional opera company (after the Wiener Staatsoper [Vienna State Opera] and the Volksoper), the historic Theater an der Wien has dared to be different.
The house's first season (aligned with the calendar year) was, for the most part, an adventurous celebration of Mozart's 250th anniversary. With a repertory ranging from the composer's first stage work (the incomplete Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots) to his last (La clemenza di Tito), productions have mostly been revelatory: director Patrice Ch_reau's insightful CosÐ fan tutte, Keith Warner's raucously funny Don Giovanni, Christof Loy's dramatically intense Tito, Claus Guth's mesmerizing Lucio Silla. Still to come are a world premiere with the tantalizing title I Hate Mozart and Simon Rattle leading the Vienna Philharmonic in the last three symphonies. To date, the inaugural season has been playing to houses averaging about 96% of capacity.
2007 will mark the first season to give free rein to the imagination of Roland Geyer, the artistic director and driving force behind Theater an der Wien's transfromation after decades of use as a venue for big musicals.
In a press conference on October 5, Geyer announced his focus for the theater's future: Baroque opera, Mozart, and contemporary works.
The 2007 season will feature no fewer than six new productions, five co-productions, a world premiere, and numerous recitals and concerts.
Fans of Baroque opera, seriously underserved in Vienna, will be in heaven. Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto will take the stage with Ren_ Jacobs conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester in a production by Christof Loy with Marijana Mijanovic, Veronica Cang_mi and Malena Ernman in the leads. Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his Concentus Musicus Wien will bring Haydn's Orlando Paladino to life in a production by Keith Warner starring Kurt Streit, Eva Mei, Jonathan Lemalu and Juliane Banse.
Bach's Christmas Oratorio will supply the basis for the world premiere of a dance work by legendary American choreographer John Neumeier and his Hamburg Ballet; in the pit, Alessandro de Marchi will lead the Wiener Symphoniker (Vienna Symphony) with Christoph Pr_gardien and Aleksandra Kurzak among the vocal soloists.
Three Baroque operas in concert will receive performances by some of Europe's leading period-instrument ensembles: Jacobs conducts the Akademie f‹r Alte Musik Berlin, Concerto Vocale and the Vocalconsort Berlin in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo with St_phane Degout in the title role and Sunhae Im as Euridice; Martin Haselb‹ck and his Wiener Akademie offer Haydn's Il ritorno di Tobia, abetted by the Chorus Sine Nomine; Alan Curtis leads his Venice-based ensemble Il Complesso Barocco in Vivaldi's Montezuma, starring Vito Priante, Marijana Mijanovic and Roberta Invernizzi.
The "Post-Mozart Year" brings two new productions. La finta semplice, directed by Laurent Pelly, features the Wiener Symphoniker under Fabio Luisi and a cast including Diana Damrau, Topi Lehtipuu, Silvia Tro Santaf_ and 2005 Belvedere Vocal Competition first prize winner Adriana Kucherovš. Michael Sch‹nwandt leads the Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien and the Arnold-Sch‹nberg-Chor in a new Le nozze di Figaro from director Kaspar Bech Holten and starring Christopher Maltman, Andrea Rost, Elizabeth Futral, Johan Reuter and Anna Bonitatibus. (The production later travels to Copenhagen's Royal Opera, where Holten is artistic director.) Idomeneo, a 2006 co-production with the Vienna State Opera, returns with Bertrand de Billy and Peter Schneider sharing the podium, with the Staatsoper Orchestra and soloists Michael Schade, Angelika Kirchschlager, Genia K‹hmeier and Barbara Frittoli.
Opera of the 20th and 21st centuries gets luxury treatment. Janice Watson, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Mary Mills will star in a new production of Andr_ Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire conducted by Sian Edwards and directed by Stein Winge; Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, a co-production with Dresden's S‹chsischen Staatsoper by director Nikolaus Lehnhoff, receives its Austrian premiere with Kristine Jepson, Mel Ulrich, Frederica von Stade and Roberta Alexander in the leading roles and Edwards leading the Vienna Radio Symphony. Valery Gergiev leads his Mariinsky forces in Prokofiev's The Gambler, starring Vladimir Galouzine, Olga Guryakova and Larissa Diadkova. Der Seelen wunderliches Bergwerk, a pastiche conceived for the Ruhr Triennial, with music from Boccherini to Britten and texts from Rilke to Celan, stars Tobias Moretti and the Moderntimes chamber orchestra.
Most tantalizing, perhaps, is the reunion of director Ch_reau with conductor Pierre Boulez, some three decades after their legendary Ring cycle for Bayreuth, a production which some critics consider to be the birth of modern Regieoper ("director's opera"). Boulez and Ch_reau will collaborate on Janšcek's Z mrtv_ho domu ("From the House of the Dead"), in a co-production with the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Fesival) which later travels to the Holland Festival (Amsterdam), the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Metropolitan Opera.
Filling out the opera season are Offenbach's La P_richole, in a co-production with the Wiener Festwochen and Paris's Op_ra-Comique, and Gergiev leading the Mariinsky in Eugene Onegin.
Recitalists at the Theater an der Wien during 2007 include baritones Thomas Hampson and Thomas Quasthoff, countertenor Bejun Mehta and pianist Andršs Schiff, who begins a two-year traversal of the complete Beethoven sonatas.
Beethoven, who once lived in Theater an der Wien, is also the subject of the season's inaugural concert on January 7, as Andr_ Previn condcuts the Wiener Symphoniker in the "Pastoral" Symphony (No. 6) and Violin Concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter as soloist. Both works had their world premieres in the house.
Other concerts include performances by the Bl‹serensemble Sabine Meyer, the wind ensemble founded by the renowned clarinetist; the Kammerorchester Basel with mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager; and the annual September concert by the Vienna Philharmonic established as part of the KlangBogen Festival.
KlangBogen, founded by Geyer, celebrated its tenth and final season this summer: its programming has now been supplanted by the reestablishment of Theater an der Wien as a year-round opera company operating on the stagione system. (That means one production following another, as in Italian houses, rather than several operas running in repertory, as at the Metropolitan, the Vienna State Opera and other companies.) Geyer hopes to continue another KlangBogen tradition: co-productions of contemporary operas with Neue Oper Wien in the Semper-Depot, the theater's former scenery warehouse located behind the theater on nearby L_hargasse.
The other festival established and overseen by Geyer, OsterKlang, will continue to present Easter-time concerts in various venues in Vienna. Details of the 2007 festival will be announced in November.
More information on the activities of the Theater an der Wien is available at www.theater-wien.at.