From 31 August to 18 September 2017, the new Berlin concert season gets underway with Musikfest Berlin, organised by the Berliner Festspiele together with the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. Over 19 days and 27 events, more than 80 works by some 40 composers will be presented at the Philharmonie and its Chamber Music Hall, at the Academy of Arts at Pariser Platz, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Pierre Boulezsaal and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral by 20 instrumental and vocal ensembles and numerous soloists from the international musical scene and the city of Berlin.
The birth of opera
No composer better represents the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque than Claudio Monteverdi, who was born in Cremona 450 years ago and whose contemporaries even called him the “oracolo della musica”. His Favola d’Orfeo is considered to be the birth of opera, a kind of “big bang” in the history of opera which continues to unfold to this day. Of the numerous operas that Monteverdi wrote, only three have been preserved for posterity: in addition to Orfeo, there are Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L'incoronazione di Poppea which were composed in the final years of Monteverdi’s life.
From pastoral idyll to political intrigue
In this anniversary year of 2017, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, together with numerous soloists, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, are embarking on a grand tour of Europe and America presenting the three Monteverdi operas in a new semi-staged production which in Germany can only be seen at Musikfest Berlin: “By performing the trilogy in consecutive performances,” writes John Eliot Gardiner, “we hope to take audiences on a voyage – from the pastoral world to the court and the city, from myth to political history, from innocence to corruption, from a portrait of man subject to the whim of the gods to a hero imprisoned by his human condition, and finally to a dual portrait of mad lovers, uncontrolled in their ambition and lust.” The three operas at the beginning of the festival in the Philharmonie correspond to the performance of Monteverdi’s famous Vespro della Beata Vergine in the new Pierre Boulezsaal which closes the festival. The sacred composition, attributable to the counter reformation Pope Paul V, is probably the most powerful example of the combination of polyphonic church music style with the revolutionary musical language of the operatic stage.
Baroque, Romanticism, Avant-garde
Parallel to this Monteverdi framework are performances of two Bruckner symphonies: one by Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin which opens Musikfest Berlin, and another by the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Marek Janowski which forms the finale. In between is an interconnected series of compositions from the time of Monteverdi and Johann Sebastian Bach, the music of Salvatore Sciarrino and Nicolò Paganini, Rebecca Saunders and Harrison Birtwistle, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Wolfgang Rihm, Luigi Nono, Isang Yun and many others. In addition to the Berlin-based orchestras, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, other guests at Musikfest include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam with Daniele Gatti, Teodor Currentzis’ musicAeterna choir and orchestra from Perm, plus the Filarmonica della Scala from Milan, conducted by Riccardo Chailly.
Official website Musikfest Berlin 2017