Vicenza Opera Festival — Concept
by Ivan Fischer, Artistic Director
It is like going back to the sources. The magnificent Teatro Olimpico has been completed around 1600 while intellectuals of the Florence Camerata discussed how to revive ancient Greek and Roman theatre.
Was this beautiful stage design built for one production only?
For me the concept looks similar to these ancient ruins:
If the building looks the same, where is room for a stage set? Or do we need to focus on something else? On the music, on the words, on the human drama?
The fact that a wonderful 16th Century design fills the stage reduces our temptation for Regietheater. Here the focus of attention must be clearly acting and music. We can turn the limitation into a virtue: all styles of opera can be performed here but the backdrop will always be the same. Therefore the performance will have a different feel. Whereas in opera houses all over the world the music is the same and the visual image is different in each production — here the visual image will have to be the constant element and the music and acting will have to offer the variety. Fascinating.
This theatre is one of the greatest treasures of Europe. In the last years of his life, Claudio Abbado and I had many conversations about Italian theaters.
He was worried that many beautiful buildings were empty and unused and felt a strong responsibility that these lovely opera houses should again be filled with life and performances. It was this great conductor and wonderful colleague who turned my attention to Italian towns where a new opera festival could be created.
Here in Vicenza, I found a unique opportunity to realize this plan: an opera festival where the surroundings lead us back to the sources: to create a balance of music and drama without unnecessary additions to a performance.
It has to be October because the summer is too hot and the winter is too cold. I fully agree that the theatre must be carefully preserved and no heating or cooling system should be built in here.
We will engage the best international singers, costume designers, musicians who will all love this spectacular building. (I am sure that they will happily accept that there are no comfortable dressing rooms in this old theatre.) In the first festival we will produce one production. From the second year we will offer two. The repertoire should cover all periods from Monteverdi to contemporary operas.
We will offer an alternative to the usual trends of the international opera scene. We will share Palladio’s magic with the world. The Teatro Olimpico was built for performances — we shall fill this space again with music and drama.