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A papal music tour

TESS CREBBIN tours Bavaria with the local tourist office,
and witnesses an unusual performance of Tosca


From 30 June until 3 July 2005, the Bavarian Tourist Office invited a group of select journalists on a press tour around Bavaria, called In the footsteps of Pope Benedikt. Plenty of points of musical interest were visited, partly because Joseph Ratzinger is also somewhat of a music scholar who has written many scientific articles on church music. He comes from a musical family and his brother used to be chief conductor and director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, a world-famous choir. The group of invited journalists included two music critics, and part of the tour was the première of a production of Tosca at Gut Immling's summer music festival. Gut Immling is a horse rescue facility owned by a former opera singer, the baritone Ludwig Baumann, whose own international stage career ended when he suffered a stage accident. In a dream setting near lake Chiemsee, he now runs his own music festival and attracts some big names each year. The performances take place in the indoor riding school, specially adapted for the occasion, which makes for a very unusual stage setting with surprisingly good acoustics.

Alexander Teliga as Scarpia and Helene Bernardy in the title role of Puccini's Tosca at Gut Immling. Photo © 2005 Philip Crebbin
Alexander Teliga as Scarpia and Helene Bernardy in the title role of Puccini's Tosca at Gut Immling. Photo © 2005 Philip Crebbin

On arrival we were greeted by the sight of horses, peacefully munching away at their hay. Through pouring rain and muddy patches we were then led to the indoor riding school that somehow, and surprisingly, did manage to look like a concert hall. Tosca, on 1 July, was the première of a new production by Verena von Kerssenbrock, sister of conductor Cornelia von Kerssenbrock who is currently one of the most talked about young female conductors in continental Europe. She studied church music at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and conducting in Freiburg with Peter Guelke. Additional studies included stays at the Academia Musicale Chigiana in Siena/Italy with Gianluigi Glemetti, and master courses in London (with Paul Goodwin) and Houston (with Mariusz Smolij).

Von Kerssenbrock now lives in Salzburg, from where she travels all over Europe. This year at Immling, she is one of two noted conductors appearing for the summer festival, the other one being Greek-born Ivan Anguelov who has recently recorded all the Dvorák symphonies. The lady has a Celibidache touch and, not surprisingly, she cites the conductor as one of her major influences. 'I was born in Munich,' she said after the performance, 'and so he became a major role model for me. Other than that, I was influenced by the American school a lot.'

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Copyright © 21 July 2005 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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