In the middle of the Black Forest in Germany there is a beautiful, historical village known for its thermal-water wellness resorts. Besides being visited for its relaxation and medical purposes, people come here every summer for the Rossini in Wildbad, Belcanto Opera Festival. It spans a history of 34 years, and although it is a small festival compared to others, it has established itself as one of the classical music jewels in the world of opera. Why Rossini? The story tells that in 1856, the composer Gioachino Rossini spent, together with friends, several weeks in this idyllic place, a journey that rekindled his compositional interest.
This year’s Rossini in Wildbad festival was, as always, a spectacular blend of successful well-known operas paired with delightful discoveries. Over the course of 10 days, there were no less than 15 representations of different operatic and non-operatic pieces. They included Il Barbiere di Siviglia, conducted by maestro Antonino Fogliani, and starring John Chest as Figaro, Teresa Iervolino as Rosina, Fabio Capitanucci as Don Bartolo, César Cortés as Conte Almaviva, and Shi Zhong as Don Basilio, and Il signor Bruschino, directed by José Miguel Pérez-Sierra, with Emmanuele Franco in the title role, Eleonora Bellocci as as Sofia, Giorgio Caoduro as Gaudenzio Strappapuppole, and Hyunduk Kim as Florville, as the know operas. Both operas were directed by maestro Jochen Schönleber, who is also the manager of the festival. The “discoveries” were Il vero omaggio by Rossini with Teresa Iervolino, Giorgio Misseri, Michele Angelini, Roberto Lorenzi e Sofia Mchedlishvili in the cast, and Gli arabi nelle gallie by Pacini with Serena Farnocchia, Diana Haller, Michele Angelini, Roberto Lorenzi in the main roles.
The festival makes use of its beautiful placing/ambient and, apart from the beautiful Kurtheater, brings opera shows, concerts, and recitals to unconventional venues. Such a concert is the one held at the Baumwipfelpfad. This concert – by now a tradition – is held literally in a spiraling tower which has a 360 degree panorama of the Black Forest, or the Waldkonzert, which is held in the “Wald”, in the forest.
The festival also emphasizes the importance of new talent. Its Akademie has had singers the likes of Michael Spyres and Olga Peretyatko as students throughout the years. As per usual, the ones involved with the Akademie were not only part of two sold-out concerts in the Kurtheater, but were also included in the productions of the different operas presented.
Rossini in Wildbad sits in the middle of the Black Forest as a landmark in the world of opera, combining artistic quality with the pleasure of being in a wonderfully relaxing place, Bad Wildbad. We talked to Jochen Schönleber, the manager of the festival, as well as with maestro Antonino Fogliani about the festival and its inner workings.