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One of history's most notorious figures will make his appearance at the Festspielhaus: the Roman emperor Nero. In Arrigo Boito's lavish opera he appears as as a colourful character. The spectacular self staging of his power contrasts with the feelings of guilt he deals with after murdering his mother.

There is a contrast between the sombre rituals practised by the pagan magician Simon Magus and the transfiguring purity of emerging Christianity represented by the prophet Fanuèl. Rubria, a vestal virgin who sees herself standing between two religious orientations, loves Fanuel. With the assistance of Asteria, who is in love with Nero, Simon Magus conjures up the appearance of a goddess of the night to make the Emperor compliant. However, Nero exposes the illusion proclaiming the demise of the gods. Placing himself on the altar, he begins to sing. Enjoying adulation as an artist and godly poet, he commands that a huge spectacle begin, even after Rome has already started to burn.

Boito started working on the opera in 1862, but struggeled to complete it immediately, leaving it unfinished for several decades. It became his life's work. It was only after his death that the conductor Arturo Toscanini created a performable version. The world premiere was held at La Scala Milan in 1924. Boito's libretti, including those for Giuseppe Verdis's Otello and Falstaff, are some of the most outstanding achievements in operatic history. A leading intellectual in the Scapigliatura artistic movement, Boito also wrote the libretto for Franco Faccio's opera Hamlet, which was performed at the 2016 Bregenz Festival, marking the first time in almost 150 years that it had been performed on a European stage again.

The directorial team behind this acclaimed rediscovery is now working on a new production of Boito's Nerone: Olivier Tambosi, an ardent enthusiast of Boito, is staging this fascinating, multi-faceted opus in collaboration with set designer Frank Philipp Schlössmann and costume designer Gesine Völlm. Dirk Kaftan, who also made his debut on the Werkstattbühne at the 2016 Bregenz Festival, is the musical director.
© Bregenz Festival

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