2-18 July 2004. Once again this historic arts festival, now in its 47th year and still headed by the legendary 94-year-old composer Giancarlo Menotti, is short of money. In addition the opera theatre which traditionally hosts many events and above all the opera productions is closed this year for renovation. The programme has suffered as a result, especially the opera section which sees Haendels Oreste conducted by Daniel Beckwith (3-10 July) and Viktor Ullmans The Emperor of Atlantis conducted by James Conlon (8-16 July) cramped up in the tiny Teatro Caio Melisso. The excellent Julliard Orchestra is present for all musical events in the beautiful Piazza del Duomo. There is no great dance company this year, and the performances by the Ballet Hispanico and Dance Brazil are at the Teatro Romano. There are two works in the drama section connected to Carmelo Bene and a performance entitled Throat by John Paul Zaccarini. The cinema programme includes tributes to Jeanne Moreau, Bernardo Bertolucci and Ingrid Bergman. There are the wonderful puppets, the Marionette Colla, in Al Baba and Il Guarany, and the successful Great Trials cycle which see well-known lawyers tackle the defence of controversial historic characters.
Unlike Rome, where the summer season will focus on major, important operas, the Spoleto Festival has decided to go for two practically unknown works. The first is Handels Oreste, based on Euripedes tragedy Iphigeneia in Tauris. The opera was first performed at the Covent Garden opera house in London in 1734, and was not performed again during the composers lifetime. This work is unusual because it is a sort of collage; all of the music comes from other works of Haendel. The conductor will be Daniel Beckwith, a specialist in 16th- and 17th-century lyric opera, whose production of Handels Alcina was warmly received at the New York City Opera last Sept. The other rare work is Der Kaiser von Atlantis (8-16 July), by Viktor Ullman, a Czech composer born in 1898 who died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. It was during his imprisonment there that he wrote this opera, which is about a tyrant that declares war on the entire world. It is a desperate reflection on violence and war, constructed on expressionist foundations similar to those of Kurt Weill.