It is outrageous: Stephana gives up her comfortable life as a courtesan in the elegant city palace in St. Petersburg to follow her great love Vassili to the Siberian penal camp. There, in exile, Stephana is transformed into a steadfast fighter, defending herself against injustice and slander. In the hopeless situation of the prisoners, hope germinates when the couple's escape, thought impossible, seems to succeed. But then a shot is fired.

The effective and dense plot, the lively emotionality of the characters and the imposing chorus are drawn by Umberto Giordano in his Italian opera Sibirien (Siberia) in the style of verismo. Fascinating Russian sounds - from the Tsar's anthem to the folk song of the Volga tugboats - are embedded in the gripping music. Despite this local color, Siberia remains a universal human drama for Giordano, composer of André Chénier and Fedora: "Love and pain have no nationality."

A member of the "Giovane Scuola," the Young School, Giordano opposed Giuseppe Verdi's omnipresence in the repertoire, fanned realism on the operatic stage, and took his cue much more from Richard Wagner and Jules Massenet than from his famous compatriot. Siberia premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1903 in place of Giacomo Puccini's displaced Madame Butterfly. Two young artists from Moscow bring this stirring and unjustly forgotten work to the Festspielhaus: the internationally up-and-coming director Vasily Barkhatov and Valentin Uryupin, who has already conducted Eugene Onegin in Bregenz.

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