On 25th June 1850, Robert Schumann’s only opera, Genoveva, received its first performance at Leipzig State Theatre. It was a much-awaited event, as Schumann, widely regarded as the leading German instrumental composer, had set his mind to the urgent task of creating a national opera. However, despite the efforts of the composer’s supporters to maintain interest in the work, the opera was soon forgotten. When conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt first came across Genoveva some 15 years ago (he subsequently recorded a CD of it in 1996), he voiced the opinion that “Genoveva is a work of art for which one should be prepared to go to the barricades”. Harnoncourt sees the main reason why Genoveva has not been recognised as a brilliant composition and perhaps the most significant opera written during the second half of the 19th century, as having much to do with the false expectations attached to the work. “You mustn’t look for dramatic events in this opera. What it offers us is a glimpse into the soul. Schumann was not interested in creating something naturalistic – he wanted to write a type of opera in which the music had a greater say.”
This new, excitingly original production of Mozart's most popular opera was the sensation of the 2006 Salzburg Festival. "What young director Claus Guth has made of Figaro - with Harnoncourt's active collaboration - is genius … The stellar cast performed with power and precision …" (Le Monde). "…a fully rounded musical performance…By and large the opera could hardly be more strongly cast. Anna Netrebko is a dreamy, vulnerable and beautifully sung Susanna, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's smouldering Figaro is a really macho rival to the Count.” (Gramophone)
For the "Ouverture spirituelle", featuring sacred music within the Salzburg Festival, Nikolaus Harnoncourt chose two seldom heard works by Mozart. Together with the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and his Concentus Musicus Wien ensemble, he conducts the Litaniae de venerabili altaris sacramento K.243 and the Missa longa in C major K.262 in the unique venue that is Salzburg Cathedral, a jewel of Baroque architecture. These two highly expressive works were written by Mozart when he was a mere twenty years old.
One of Mozart’s best-known opera, Die Zauberflöte, opened the series of new opera productions of the 2012 Salzburg Festival. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducted his ensemble, the Concentus Musicus Wien, performing the Salzburg Festival’s first-ever performance of Die Zauberflöte on period instruments.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt created an interpretation in which Haydn’s work can become a veritable gem of opera literature. Renowned actor and director Tobias Moretti relates the story as a light-footed, magical fairy tale infused with slapstick, witty details and fantasy costumes.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt presents his reading of “La Finta giardiniera”, a long-forgotten wonderfully tragicomic opera by the young Mozart. Almost a quarter of a century ago Harnoncourt presented his reading of the rediscovered work on CD, but in this version from the Zurich Opera, the great Mozart magician conducted a staged production for the first time, making the premiere an event in itself.