By way of a 30-seat turboprop plane and a prayer from Vienna, OC passed the weekend in Linz to celebrate the opening of London-based architect Terry Pawson’s new opera house, the Musiktheater Volksgarten (also, we were dying for a hit of Upper Austria supermarket therapy, simpering orchestral elasticity and fresh Danube-filtered air). Besides, after living in Italy, it’s become intuitive to check out the cultural little leaguers – La Scala’s and Opera di Roma’s sweet, neighboring opera houses set on pedestrian-only cobblestones such as the opera theaters in Parma, Bologna and Torino.
Originally intended to park at the Danube, clustered with other city landmarks like the Ars Electronica Center and the Brucknerhaus, Pawson rallied for an accessible, green site as an organic, living space so he turned to the quaint city’s Volksgarten. At the time, it was burdened with problems – a major road cleaved/rendered it desolate, seedy and pedestrian-unfriendly. But the city obliged Pawson and in four years after breaking ground, the road was moved and the green was crowned with his glass, steel, concrete and wood.
The opera house is rooted in egalitarianism; open to the city, for the people, lacking traditional identifiers of politically-misappropriated opera houses -- no central VIP box (at the gala, the Linz mayor sat in the front row), no unwieldy auditorium chandelier, no proscenium arch collage – it’s an austere, modern theater, the best grosser saal tickets maxing-out at 60/70 euro.
Programming’s malleable, a mix of modern dance, traditional opera, operetta and musical theater. During the opening weekend, we took in a traditional staging of Der Rosenkavalier, Anne Schwanewilms as the Marschallin, Kurt Rydl as Baron Ochs and Dennis Russell Davies on the podium; an energetic, well-acted, Broadway-inspired The Witches of Eastwick in German translation; a water-soaked modern dance to a soundtrack of Monteverdi and Purcell, Campo Amor; Philip Glass’ opera world premiere of Peter Handke’s bleak, post-trauma dystopian play, Spuren Der Verirrten; and a cabaret-sourced, performance-driven show, Seven in Heaven. La Fura del Baus threw a few replications of a free, one-hour Wagner pastiche, Ein Parsival, exploding fireworks and stampeding puppets at the foot of the opera house's facade, post-twilight.
The state-of-the-art auditorium meets every flex of artistic muscle. There’s a hydraulic-driven orchestra pit, a stage that rotates on different turntables and a backstage that can hold up to eight simultaneous productions. In the auditorium of burnished gold, dark woods and intimate acoustics, enormous, red plush velvet seats have large touch-screen displays that control subtitles.
Now that you’ve heard about our evenings, we’ll soon share the daylight hours…
(Top ticket price is around 60/70 euros)