The 2014 festival (8-17 August) celebrates two anniversaries – Eri Klas 75 and Birgitta Festival 10. Hence the inclusion of a celebratory event, a staged gala concert, in the festival programme. Birgitta Festival’s identity lies in showing high quality musical theatre. Not just staging famous and popular operas, but showing the different genres of musical theatre. This year the programme includes staged oratorio, comic opera, grand dramatic opera, ballet and staged gala concert. The guest performers hail from America, Western Europe, Russia and Latvia.
Birgitta is Tallinn’s signature festival, much like the Festivities Week (Juhlaviikot) is in Helsinki and the Water Festival was in Stockholm.
Birgitta Festival combines the dark charm of the medieval Pirita convent in Tallinn, Estonia with the latest in modernmusical theatre in all its variety and richness. The festival takes place in Tallinn, Estonia, in a theatre hall built for the festival time in the ruins of a nunnery.
The opening night, 8 August, features Mass by the famous American musical composer Leonard Bernstein. A work, which merited a warning by the FBI to the White House and the Church banning its performance. Written to the memory of John Kennedy. In main role Douglas Webster from USA. Mass was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is dedicated to John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago in November 1963.
In cooperation with American, Estonian, Latvian and Russian actors. Bernstein wrote this work with dissidents and ministers. Webster has said, that in the current political situation, Mass is particularly topical and he is very glad to come and perform it in Estonia. On stage are opera, pop, jazz and rock singers, in addition to the symphony orchestra also a so-called street band.
For the first time we introduce a St. Petersburg troupe at the festival. According to leading critics, the Jacobson Ballet Theatre is currently one of the most professional, developing and interesting ballet troupes in Russia.
“Spartacus“ or “Scenes of Roman Life“ (August 10th) is a modernized performance based on the choreography of the theatre’s legendary director Jacobson. It is an enhanced version of the “Spartacus” that premiered in 1956 in Leningrad’s Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre. The current production is gripping and spectacular – the breathtaking fight scenes are almost movielike. In this regard “Spartacus” exceeds the figurativeness of the ballet genre (the ballet dancers fight like actors from our Linnateater). The choreography is modern (Roman sandals instead of pointe shoes) and the stage design is contemporarily psychological.
The performance is very fast-paced – scenes alternate with kaleidoscopic speed. Gladiatorial combat, legionaries’ parade, the parties and orgies of the Roman elite, the feasts of the plebeians, and finally the slave revolt. These scenes blend into the scenic-theatrical whole, which reflects the overwhelmingly luxurious ancient Roman life before the empire’s impending doom. On the colorful background of mass scenes, the protagonist duos rise up “in the grand plan” – the tender duet of Phrygia and Spartacus and the passionate dialogue of Aegina and Harmodius.
On August 14, Mozart’s comic opera from the heart of Europe comes to the festival stage – a Swiss Opera cooperation with the Liechtenstein director Georg Rootering.
From the stage director: “Mozart is sexy – two couples, two rivals, 6 romances and a happy end. Mozart is fast, funny, charming, subtle, comprehensible and as good as ever. Relationships, humour and wine are the components, which Mozart’s playful dialogues are based on. The audience is charmed by the characteristically beautiful music and fast-paced rhythms.
The production shows a journey to the inside of the human soul – through the tangled relationships, longing, suffering and joy. Pasha Selim’s country house transforms into a labyrinth of feelings and desires. It is a beautiful opera, with magnificent and humorous music, with tragic and extremely funny scenes – just like life itself. A fascinating meeting with a young Swiss opera troupe, soloists from Mexico, Germany etc.
The second half of the festival comes from Helikon-opera. This avant-garde Moscow opera theatre was Birgitta Festival’s first guest theatre in 2005.
Helikon’s „A Masked Ball“ (August 15th) is a tale of the intrigue surrounding a contemporary head of state – images of the rulers and public figures of our time are worn as masks at the fatally-ending ball. And this is no modern exaggeration, but a concept deriving from the opera’s original version. “A Masked Ball” is really the story of the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden at a ball in an opera theatre. Since this might have led to a popular uprising, the plot was forbidden in the 19th century (in Russia also, since Gustav was a relative of Catherine) and Gustav’s name was substituted for Count Riccardo.
For Dmitry Bertman, the stage director, “Un ballo in maschera” opera is about two passions, two drugs which attract almost everyone – power and love.
And the festival is concluded on August 16th and 17th by the gala evenings of maestro Eri Klas, the artistic director of the festival – performances, which are born for just this year and can only be seen at Birgitta Festival.