Festspielhaus is known far beyond the borders of Austria for its contemporary dance, and the Festspielhaus also kicks off the 2023/24 season with a first-class Austrian contemporary dance show. In September, the famous Swedish GöteborgsOperans Danskompani will have guests as part of a double evening by two of the world’s most famous choreographers: Hovesh Schechter and Sharon Eyal. Both are already known to Festspielhaus audiences through other productions from the past – albeit with different companies.
The next Austrian dance premiere follows shortly thereafter: The Seven Deadly Sins have conquered humanity for thousands of years. At the beginning of October they will be brought to the Festspielhaus stage by seven of the most famous choreographers: Aszure Barton, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sharon Eyal, Marco Goecke, Marcos Morau, Hofesh Shechter and Sasha Waltz dedicate themselves to the false tour of greed and laziness, pride and gluttony, Lust, anger and envy.
International and national productions
The Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève will be making a guest appearance in December 2023 in the form of a double evening special: in Damien Jalet’s lavishly successful production of “Skid”, the stage is literally coming out of joint. Dancers dance all evening. A platform with a slope of 34 degrees – “like a mountaineer or like Sisyphus, who keeps climbing the mountain and falling,” declares Bettina Masoch, artistic director of the Festspielhaus.
But Austrian dance can also be found in the program – including the premiere production of “SONNE”, which the Festspielhaus is bringing to the stage as a co-production as part of the Choreographic Platform Austria (CPA).
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Of course, classical concerts by the resident Festspielhaus orchestra are a constant part of the program: the Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria, including the annual New Year’s concert. Not only will Tonkunstler play in the parent company, but he will also appear at the opening of St.
Friends of famous and rising Jazz stars will get their money’s worth from November. For example, the American Cecil McLaurin Salvant, who has already won several Grammy Awards, and the Icelandic jazz musician Anna Greta Sigurardóttir, who is now in demand outside the Scandinavian region, will be on stage. Musicians like Fatoumata Diawara from Mali, who bring an exciting mix of Afropop, Afrofolk and Afrofuturism to the Festspielhaus, are also drawing audiences away from jazz.
St. Polten’s got its own youth dance company
The Festspielhaus is particularly proud of the collaboration that has given St. Pölten its own youth dance company – together with the management of the School of Music and Art in Lower Austria and the St. Pölten School of Music.
“I would like people to join this company because they want to enter into a dialogue,” says Bettina Masoch, describing the goal of the new band, “His goal, perhaps not entirely verbal, but through movement, approach, touch and responsibility for oneself and other bodies.”
Masoch wants to “pump energy into the hall”
noe.ORF.at: Mrs. Masoch, let me start with a cheeky question: year after year we can count on Austrian premieres at the Festspielhaus. How could this be almost predictable?
Bettina Masoch: It’s a combination of good communication and long-term planning. Basically, I must say: Of course, it is important for me to continue to introduce our audience to new artists. I think there are many outstanding artists in the world. So it would be a pity if you only see good old friends, who of course also have to be seen regularly. But every now and then a fresh perspective and a fresh perspective are of course very important, especially in such a diverse program that we offer.
noe.ORF.at: In addition to diverse music, contemporary dance is one of the focal points of the Festspielhaus. How do you attract top international stars to St. Polten?
Masuch: The Festspielhaus has a very special and very well equipped stage especially for contemporary dance which is also very big. We also have the Tonkünstler Orchestra in Lower Austria and thus the opportunity to work with artists. This is a unique opportunity for many choreographers. Of course I would like to offer that as well.
noe.ORF.at: What is remarkable about your dance program: This year you have put a particular focus on Israel.
Masoch: We often work with thematic focus, and this year I am very happy that we managed to bring outstanding representatives from the Israeli dance scene to the Festspielhaus. There is such a nucleus around the Batsheva Dance Company with its chief choreographer Ohad Naharin, who has been a style-setter for entire generations of choreographers, who generally all started there as dancers and then at some point started creating their own.
Hovesh Schechter and Sharon Eyal are the first. They are very special because they both present their very own style, which is very material and very energetic. It was very important to me that the energy from the stage be pumped into the auditorium, so to speak. And this is really a master dance.
noe.ORF.at: Especially when you bring home big stars that are in demand all over the world: how far in advance do you have to plan behind the scenes?
Masoch: Just like, I would say we need a year off, although I have to say we are already planning for the 2024/25 season, and in some cases even 2025/26, especially for large and complex productions. In addition to my artistic imagination, technology naturally plays an important role here, as does production. It should be clarified whether absolutely all ideas and plans can be implemented. One thing leads to another.
noe.ORF.at: Despite all the internationality, you’re clearly still looking for many points of contact and collaboration within St. Polten this year. Why?
Masoch: It is important to me that the Festspielhaus is not a UFO landing here, but rather a part of St. Polten. Together with the management of the music school and the St. Polten School of Music, we have established a youth dance company that will of course have a lot to do with the city of St. Polten. In addition, Cathedral Square is being redesigned this year. Here too, the Festspielhaus will play an important role in opening with our resident orchestra, the Tonkunstler. So there are many aspects here that we can use to connect with the city.
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