Moderation, mindfulness, and mutual cooperation

Artistic Director Benedikt Stampa offers first glimpse of autumn 2020 program under new conditions

Photo that shows Benedikt Stampa C Christian Grund.

John Neumeier’s new ballet Ghost Light will be opening the 2020–2021 season at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden on October 8. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Artistic Director Benedikt Stampa will be adapting his program with the help of many artists with close ties to the Festspielhaus. The Artistic Director comments: “It will be an art, In practicing moderation and restraint, to find a new way of being together. I see this both in terms of people being physically together in the lobby and the hall, and of the cooperation between the Festspielhaus and our artists.” In view of the protective measures currently in place during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the capacity of Germany’s largest opera house and concert hall will be initially reduced to 500 seats. At the same time, there will be changes to the program due to the different hygiene requirements under which Festspielhaus artists are currently permitted to rehearse and travel. The program will be announced in several stages – for the time being until November 1, 2020.

Season opening to feature new ballet by John Neumeier

John Neumeier’s Ghost Light will be presented in four performances up to October 11, 2020. The Hamburg ballet director and choreographer will also be moderating a Ballet Workshop devoted to this work on October 11, 2020. The Hamburg Ballet was one of the first companies worldwide to resume its rehearsals on the ballet stage after the shutdown. Soon afterwards, Neumeier developed the idea of a work that not only respects the current distancing requirements, but uses them as the basis of the ballet’s structure. Neumeier’s conception involves 55 of his company’s dancers. In view of the distancing requirements, he organized the rehearsals in small groups of two up to a maximum of eight dancers. “Ghost Light is an ensemble ballet which I have developed in fragments. It can be compared to the individual instrumental parts of a symphony, or to a traditional Japanese meal, with its series of carefully arranged, hopefully ‘delectable’ miniatures. The way the individual parts will ultimately come together to form a single work will depend on the moment when we’re able to gather together and touch one another again on stage,” explains Neumeier. With the title Ghost Light, Neumeier is referencing an American theater tradition. After a rehearsal or performance, a metal stand with a single light bulb is placed on the stage, signaling that no artists are permitted to use it from that point. This ghost light remains on throughout the whole night, until the stage is once again filled with life. The German-French broadcaster ARTE is planning to stream Ghost Light live from Baden-Baden on the internet and then present it on television.

The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden season will continue with the concert featuring the Bamberger Symphoniker and cellist Sol Gabetta (23.10.2020, 8:00 PM) and a matinee with Ukrainian violinist Diana Tishchenko (25.10.2020, 11:00 AM).

Thomas Hengelbrock to present Brahms weekend

The All Saints’ weekend from October 30 to November 1, 2020 has been redesigned. “I am very grateful to Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble for rescuing this weekend with a truly festival-worthy program,” says Benedikt Stampa. Johannes Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem will open the mini-festival on October 30, 2020 at 8:00 PM. The Baden-Baden program will feature two performances on Saturday, October 31, 2020: in a symphony concert, Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble will interpret Brahms’s Third Symphony in F major, which will be presented alongside the concert waltz Seid umschlungen, Millionen and arias by Johann Strauss. The Deutsches Requiem will be performed once more on October 31, 2020 at 8:00 PM before the symphonic Brahms program is repeated in a matinee on All Saints’ Day at 11:00 AM. “Thanks to the new program structure, many music lovers will now be able to safely enjoy the long-missed concert experience,” says Artistic Director Benedikt Stampa. “In this connection, the flexibility and resourcefulness shown by our musicians cannot be praised highly enough.”

Resilient artistic friendships

“At the moment, long-standing artistic friendships and fairness toward our musicians are the keys to a festival-worthy program,” says Benedikt Stampa, who has been working closely for months with the conductors, orchestras, singers, and ballet companies of the 2020–2021 season in order to design alternative programs where they are needed. “Without revealing too much just yet, I can already announce that over the course of the season, we can look forward to welcoming such world-class ensembles as the Berliner Philharmoniker and SWR Symphonieorchester along with stars like Cecilia Bartoli and Elīna Garanča.”

Guests to receive personal assistance

All Festspielhaus guests who have already purchased tickets for autumn 2020 will be personally contacted over the coming days: “We will explain in detail what options are available,” says Stampa, who in this connection would like to thank his team: “Over the last several months, our colleagues in customer communication have been doing incredible work.” The Artistic Director also expressed his special thanks to both the guests and supporters of the Festspielhaus: “Without the patience, the donations, and the solidarity of these past months, it would not have been possible to believe in a program for this autumn. For this, we are grateful to all our supporters, and naturally also to the City of Baden-Baden and State of Baden-Württemberg.”

Next stage of the program to be announced around mid-September

Festspielhaus Artistic Director Benedikt Stampa looks forward to announcing more programs for autumn 2020 in mid-September. “If the pandemic remains under control here, we hope to possibly offer 1000 seats per event. For this to be achievable, however, we will all need to act respectfully – toward each other as audience members as well as us, as the organizers, toward our artists.”

Updated: 3/15/2021