Intolleranza 1960

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January 1970

Intolleranza 1960 is an opera that provides more questions than answers. Can it in fact be called an opera at all? Or does it offer a statement of much greater importance? Does it transcend its own political content when it is staged today, as Intolleranza 2020? Italian composer Luigi Nono sought a new form of music theatre in which the voice, simultaneity and the spatial use of sound were examined and employed in a singular way.

He was initially associated with the Second Vi­ennese School (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern) and rejected traditional operatic conventions at a very early stage. He explored new compositional techniques, made use of tape and electronic music and called certain works ‘situations’ and azione scenica (stage action). Such drama­turgical perception made him an innovator. His musical outlook was fuelled by his political views. As a young partisan fighter, he joined the Italian communist party during the final days of Mussolini’s dictatorship, when membership was still a crime. Nono attempted to make socially­-committed music, which was not only expressed in aesthetic forms but also had a direct impact on its listeners. It was crucial to him that his work was accessible to all social classes.

Nono wrote Intolleranza 1960, seen as his debut in the world of theatre, following a commission for the 24th International Festival of Contemporary Music at the Venice Biennale, where it had its premiere at the Teatro La Fenice almost 60 years ago. It was considered one of the most striking pieces of music in the history of the post-­war avant­-garde and a culminating work of Nono’s first artistic period. He wrote the Italian libretto himself, based on an idea by Angelo Maria Ripellino and documentary writings, as well as poems, by Julius Fučík, Henri Alleg, Jean­ Paul Sartre, Paul Éluard, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Bertolt Brecht. It tells of an anonymous emigrant who returns to his native land. On his journey, he finds himself in the midst of a protest and, although innocent, is arrested, tortured and imprisoned in a concentration camp. His longing for home becomes an urge for freedom. He succeeds in escaping, but fate strikes when a tidal wave causes a humanitarian disaster.

Despite its radicalism, the progress of Intolleranza 1960 was hindered by numerous obstacles. These started before the premiere, as his collaboration with Ripellino did not go according to plan. Nono reworked the text himself, which the then chairman of the Biennale subsequently tried to censor. And the work was also attacked and disrupted by neo­-fascists at its premiere.

The azione scenica reflects Nono’s aversion to the power system and is composed of allegorical epi­sodes that criticize everyday absurdities. It is a pas­sionate and almost visionary protest against racism, intolerance, oppression and the violation of human dignity, with an added climatological catastrophe that directly places the opera within current dis­course. ‘Intolleranza 1960 is the awakening of human awareness in a man who has rebelled against the demands of necessity and searches for a reason and a “human” basis for life. After several experiences of intolerance and domination, he begins to rediscover human relations, between himself and others, when he is swept away in a flood with other people. There remains his certainty in “a time when man will be a help to man”. Symbol? Report? Fantasy? All three, in a story of our time’, wrote Luigi Nono.


This production of Intolleranza 1960 for the cen­tennial season of the Salzburg Festival is unique, not only for its content, but also because Nono’s oeuvre has been performed in Salzburg over the last 25 years in exemplary performances. As a Nono expert, conductor Ingo Metzmacher under­ lines that ‘Nono’s work and legacy are like a guiding light I still follow today’. Over the past two years, Jan Lauwers has been making an intensive study of the importance of political art, which will be reflected in this new staging. ‘Political art negates the beauty of politics. Yet art is always political’, he explains.

Program and cast

Creative Team

Ingo Metzmacher - Conductor
Jan Lauwers - Direction, Sets, Choreography and Video
Lot Lemm - Costumes
Ken Hioco - Lighting
Elke Janssens - Dramaturgy


Sean Panikkar - Un emigrante
Sarah Maria Sun - La sua compagna
Anna Maria Chiuri - Una donna and others
Sung-Im Her, Yonier Camilo Mejia, Victor Lauwers (Needcompany) - Performance and solo dance


Dancers of BODHI PROJECT and SEAD — Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance
Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus
Huw Rhys James - Chorus Master
Vienna Philharmonic


It was Max Reinhardt who suggested that the Winter Riding School should be converted, and it was also his idea to transform the Summer Riding School (Felsenreitschule) into a theatre. During the first half of the 17th century conglomerate rock was quarried here for the building of the cathedral. In 1693, during the reign of Prince-Archbishop Johann Ernst Thun, according to plans by the Baroque master architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, three tiers of 96 arcades were hewn into the walls of the disused quarry so that from here people could watch equestrian displays and animal baiting events.


In 1926, when Max Reinhardt first attempted to use the Felsenreitschule to stage Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters for the Salzburg Festival, the ambience was ideal for the “realistic” character comedy in the style of popular theatre: the action took place on a so-called Pawlatschenbühne, a small raised platform, the ground consisted of compressed earth and the audience sat on wooden benches. In 1933 Clemens Holzmeister built a remarkable set for the production of Faust in the Felsenreitschule, the Faust Town which is still regarded as one of the most impressive transformations of this venue. The first opera production in the Felsenreitschule took place in 1948 when Herbert von Karajan conducted Gluck’sOrfeo ed Euridice.


From the end of the 1960s radical conversion and adaptation work took place, mainly according to plans by the “festival architect” Clemens Holzmeister. An understage area, an orchestral pit and a lighting bridge were installed, a weatherproof roll-back roof to offer protection against rain and cool summer evenings, and finally an auditorium with boxes and circles as well as a depot for scenery were created.

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s staging of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, which was presented here every summer from 1978 to 1986, achieved legendary status. The same is true of Shakespeare’s plays Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and Anthony and Cleopatra in the productions by Peter Stein and Deborah Warner (Coriolanus),which in the early 1990s were internationally acclaimed.


When the Haus für Mozart was built, the Felsenreitschule already received a new audience grandstand, which resulted in improved sightlines and acoustics for the audience.


Improvements are:

- A new roof construction with two fixed girders at the edges and three elements supported by five telescope cantilevers: the slightly inclined pitch roof consisting of three mobile segments resting on five telescope arms will be retractable and expandable within six minutes. Hanging points on the telescope cantilevers for stage technology (chain hoists), improved acoustical and heat protection and two lighting bridges will optimize the stage action.

-     New security technology including electrical installations, stage lighting, effect lighting and effect sound.

-     In addition, the interior expansion of the 3rd floor will be completed at that time, and the building shell of the newly constructed 4th floor under the roof of the Felsenreitschule will be made available to the Festival – this being the last instance in which new space can be created within the Festival District.

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