Full Wagner drama to be performed for the first time in the Middle East - 2013

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 | 11:17:00 pm

The Lebanese Al Bustan Festival brings the first Wagner opera to the Middle East for its 20th Anniversary


Artistic Director Gianluca Marciano and president Myrna Bustani celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Al Bustan Festival by bringing a stellar lineup of soloists and ensembles to Lebanon including Anna Tifu, Gautier Capuçon, Boris Berezovsky, Paco Pena, Nino Surguladze and Khatia Buniatishvili. 2013 will mark the 200th anniversaries of Verdi and Wagner and the Festival is celebrating by inviting the Russian company Helikon Opera to perform Das Liebesverbot, the first performance of a Wagner opera in the Middle East.

The major festival is held annually in the Emile Bustani Auditorium and the Crystal Garden conservatory at Al Bustan in Beyt Meri, just outside Beirut. It delivers more than thirty performances each year spanning opera, dance, orchestral and chamber music, not to mention the education and workshop programmes for the Beirut Conservatoire. The Festival has a history of commissioning contemporary composers such as John Taverner, Naji Hakim and Roxanna Panufnik.

The programme for the 20th anniversary opens on Tuesday 19 February with young Italian violinist Anna Tifu and Russian cellist Boris Andrianov performing the Brahms double concerto, Brahms Violin Concerto and Elgar Cello Concerto. They will be joined by the Al Bustan Festival Orchestra, conducted by Gianluca Marciano. Brahms will also be represented in a concert of chamber music by the Wiener Kammersoloisten on Tuesday 26 February. Their programme includes Bach and Mozart Fugues and the Mozart Quintet K 581. Other highlights include Boris Berezovsky performing a recital on Monday 18 March and two performances of Verdi’s Requiem on Saturday 23 March and 25 March including sinders Nino Surguladze and Askar Abdrazakov. The Festival closes with a special gala concert on Thursday 28 March also including Nino Surguladze, Joyce El Khoury and Christina Nassif.

Richard Wagner’s early opera Das Liebesverbot was largely forgotten and only performed twice in the composer’s lifetime due to the shambolic first and second performances. The first was poorly attended with the lead singer forgetting their words and the second had to be cancelled after a fist fight between the prima donna’s husband and a leading tenor. The piece deals with many themes of restrained sexuality and erotics, something which Wagner would explore further in later operas, and is a comedy with the conclusion being an orgiastic riot at curtain fall. It is often known as the ‘forgotten comedy’, falling in shadow behind his later 1868 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The Russian company Helikon Opera, a group specialising in unconventional productions, will give the Al Bustan Festival performance on Friday 8 March. The company have a long-standing relationship with the Festival, having performed a total of 12 operas since 1996.

Founded by former Lebanese MP Myrna Bustani in 1994, the Al Bustan Festival has enjoyed twenty years of the highest quality music making. Over the years, the Festival has invited artists such as Maria Ewing, Angelika Kirschlager, Evelyn Glennie, Helikon Opera, the Jacques Loussier Trio, Irek Mukhamedov, June Anderson, the Labeque sisters, Sumi Jo, Gautier Capuçon, Antoni Wit and the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The Festival’s Artistic Director is Italian-born conductor Gianluca Marciano.