Vienna Opera Tickets

Vienna State Opera

I, € 278
II, € 228
III, € 184
IV, € 130
V, € 103

Palestrina, Opera by H. Pfitzner

Palestrina, Opera by H. Pfitzner

The Vienna State Opera presents Palestrina, a German-language operatic masterpiece by Hans Pfitzner, this season in the Austrian capital. The opera's debut performance, which met great acclaim, was at the Prinzregententheater in Munich on 12 June 1917. Palestrina's central theme consists of what Pfitzner, who was born in 1869, saw as the mystery of artistic inspiration. As such, this work is often viewed by critics as a post-Romantic opera, one that still used Romantic ideas for some of its composition but that wished to break new ground artistically, too. As the action unfolds, Palestrina – a Renaissance-era composer – comes up with music so masterly that it re-establishes an entire musical tradition, thereby saving it from almost certain extinction.

Pfitzner wrote the libretto as well as the music for Palestrina. His opera is based on a real historical figure, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who lived in what is now modern-day Italy in the 16th century. Thanks to his work, Missa Papae Marcelli, Palestrina was deemed to have resurrected the art of polyphonic composition. This polyphonous form of music uses multiple melody lines in harmony with one another. The cultural context of this style of musical composition was, for Palestrina, part of the events of the Reformation. He had been asked to write a Mass by Cardinal Borromeo who wanted to demonstrate to the Pope that polyphonic music had a place in Church and sacred music. Although Palestrina initially refused, he took on the task and achieved the cardinal's aim by writing his masterpiece overnight. When Pfitzner wrote his opera to tell the tale, he was also signalling his views about music in a wider cultural landscape, skilfully using the story of the real Palestrina to make his opinion known about the direction that early 20th-century composition was going in.

Pfitzner's creative ideas in Palestrina are subtly able to blend stylistic elements of Renaissance music with more contemporary music. He includes some of the elements of his late-era Romantic work in a fusion that is both backward and, to some extent, forward-looking. A three-act opera, Palestrina's opening and closing sections highlight the world of the composer as Pfitzner imagined him. The second act in the middle of these two dramatic components is different, however, and was written to reflect the hustle and bustle of the outside world, something that Pfitzner clearly thought was troubling for the work of any serious artist. Perhaps this reveals more about the character and times of Pfitzner than of Palestrina himself? Either way, this dramatic production of a tremendous opera will no doubt delight audience-goers with its notable themes and stunning venue.

image Vienna State Opera / Julius Silver