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Austrian conductor dead after collapse at German opera

Austrian conductor Stefan Soltesz has died after collapsing during a performance in Munich, the city's opera house said.    

a view of the National theater in Munich,
A picture taken on May 8, 2019 shows a view of the National theater in Munich, southern Germany. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

The maestro of Hungarian extraction held the baton at opera houses in Vienna, Graz, Hamburg and Berlin during his long career.

“With dismay and deep sadness, the Bavarian State Opera must announce the death of Stefan Soltesz,” it said late on Friday in a statement.

Soltesz died late on Friday “after a collapse while conducting ‘The Silent Woman’ by Richard Strauss at the National Theatre” in Munich, it said. He was 73 years old.

No details on his cause of death were immediately available.

The general director of the Bavarian State Opera, Serge Dorny, tweeted he was “deeply saddened” by Soltesz’s death.

“We lose a talented conductor,” he said. “I lose a good friend. My thoughts are with his wife, Michaela.”

Soltesz served as musical director of the state theatre of Brunswick in central Germany from 1988 to 1993 and chief conductor of the Flemish Opera in Antwerp and Ghent from 1992 to 1997, followed by engagements in the western German city of Essen.

He debuted on the Bavarian State Opera stage in 1995.

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CULTURE

Music, drama and controversy: What can you expect at the Salzburg Festival?

The annual Salzburger Festspiele - Salzburg Festival - is already hitting the headlines due its Russian connections, but there is more to the event than politics. Here’s what to expect at the 2022 edition of the festival.

Music, drama and controversy: What can you expect at the Salzburg Festival?

As the Salzburg Festival kicks off on Tuesday July 26th with a keynote address by Vienna-based author Ilija Trojanow, all eyes on this year’s theme of war and peace.

The title of Ilija’s speech is Der Ton des Krieges, die Tonarten des Friedens (The Tone of War, the Tonalities of Peace) – something that, according to ORF, has placed the festival “under scrutiny” as the war continues in Ukraine.

The Kronen Zeitung also reports that Trojanow – who fled Bulgaria in 1971 for Germany – is expected to reference Russian funding of the festival and the turbulence of current times.

Trojanow said: “Markus Hinterhäuser [Salzburg Festival Artistic Director] knows me, he knows my work. He knows that he will get a politically dedicated, but also poetic-musical speech from me.”

Meanwhile, a large security operation is underway at Salzburg’s Festspielhause and across the city’s festival sites ahead of a speech by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen as part of the opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Police Chief Inspector Hans Wolfgruber said: “The maximum level of security will be provided, but there will be minimum restrictions for the people of Salzburg.” 

With the festival programme set to run until August 31st, here’s what you need to know about the 2022 Salzburg Festival.

What is the Salzburg Festival?

The Salzburg Festival is an annual celebration of art and culture in the historic city of Salzburg, in the west of Austria.

It has been described as one of the most important festivals in the world for opera, classical music and drama, and the organisers sell over 200,000 tickets each year.

The event was officially established in August 1920 by Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal in a bid to promote peace following World War I and to support the creation of a new Austrian identity following the fall of the Habsburg empire.

Today, the festival programme still includes an annual performance of Jedermann, a mystery play written by Hofmannsthal, in honour of the founder.

Anything controversial about this year?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, many organisations and institutions have come under fire for their associations with Russia – including the Salzburg Festival.

Last week, the festival organisers justified its decision not to cancel a performance by Greek-Russian conductor Teodor Currentzis, who is scheduled to open the festival with his orchestra musicAeterna.

The Guardian reports that musicAeterna is funded by VTB Bank, which is currently under western sanctions and is often referred to as Vladimir Putin’s “private bank”.

Other venues in Munich, Vienna and Paris have already cancelled performances by Currentzis and musicAeterna, but Salzburg Festival Director Hinterhäuser has defended his decision by describing the conductor as a “counter model” to Putin.

In further criticism, the festival is also reportedly receiving funding in the form of sponsorship from a foundation run by oligarch Leonid Mikhelson who has been sanctioned by the UK and Canada, although not the EU.

But Salzburg Festival organisers have severed ties this year with two Russian performers – Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev – over their connections to Putin.

What are the highlights this year?

The opening ceremony will take place in the Felsenreitschule (a theatre) on Tuesday. Attendees will include Austria’s President Alexander van der Bellan, Salzburg’s Governor Wilfried Haslauer, Secretary of State for the Arts Andrea Mayer and Salzburg Festival President Kristina Hammer.

The keynote speech by Trojanow will be broadcast live on ORF 2, which will be followed by a performance by Currentzis and musicAeterna.

Other highlights during the festival include classical music performances by the Vienna Philharmonic, opera productions of Aida and Bluebeard’s Castle, and a youth programme titled Jung & Jede*r.

The full festival programme can be found here.

Performances and events take place at venues across the city, including the Schauspielhaus Salzburg, Kollegienkirche, Dom Platz and the Festspielhaus.

Tickets should be booked in advance and prices range from €5 to €445, although some key events, such as drama performances of Jedermann and Reigen, are already sold out.

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