Kastela, Croatia August 2nd 2015
There is an extremely good motorway from Split to Zagreb across the top of the Dinara mountain range, spectacular in it’s barreness. It makes the drive from Split to Slovenia fast and safe, well worth the expensive toll. Once in Slovenia small winding roads through green wooded hills with fields of sugar cane and sunflowers, neat houses with colourful gardens, very pretty. We were assured there was parking at the boutique Hotel Actum in the old town in Kranj but were unprepared for the necessity to punch in a code to lower the street bollard then drive through the tiny old streets, now a pedestrian precinct, to find this extraordinary hotel.
Each room individually decorated, ours with a spa in the corner (sadly not filled and heated for our arrival, another 25 euros for that!).
The previous owner had been a Rolls Royce fanatic so memorabilia festooned the walls and one of his cars had been cut in two and stuck in the walls of two rooms. Dinner of young venison and wild goat was without doubt the best meal we have eaten all summer.
We arrived in Munich in time to get to the Statsoper and stand outside hoping for a return ticket to Arabella. We did and so were able to join Maria and Jurgen, whom we’d met in Sofia last July, in an evening of Strauss.
They very kindly spent the weekend taking us to local haunts and we paid homage to King Ludwig II on a boat cruise on Starnbergersee. Known as the Mad King, he was infatuated with Wagner and his music and spent much of his kingdom’s money on fantastical castle building. He was finally deposed and was found drowned together with his doctor at this spot.
Ironically he was proved right in the end as his castles now bring more tourist money to the area than he ever spent on them.
Sunday evening we attended Elektra with Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier as Klytemnestra and Adrienne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. Outstanding production and performances under the baton of Asher Fisch, it was notable there were not even German surtitles.
So on to Salzburg, again temperatures in the 30’s, we were true tourists for 3 days.
Stumbled upon a performance of Mozart’s Requiem at the Dom and got tickets to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in the Grosse Festspeilhaus, the beginning of the Salzburg Festival.
Another spectacular drive to Erl, in the Tyrol, for our 16th Ring Cycle. Our hotel was totally geared for the festival. A meal 2 hours before each performance, coach to the Festpsielhaus then a cold buffet on our return. What we had imagined was a country hotel in a field was actually a posthotel in the village surrounded by milking barns. You have cows – you have flies and with no air conditioning, little sleep!
The Ring, however, staged in the Passionhaus, was of a very high standard. Our first surprise was the surtitles in English, only! The wonderful, young orchestra under Gustav Kuhn sat on tiers taking up most of the huge stage making it difficult for sets. Although the stage was wide it was particularly narrow so one did feel it was almost semi-staged. It did not take away from the production nor the direction which were both superb.
Because it was performed over 4 consecutive days the cast changed for each opera. However, we suspect the orchestra did not and during of Götterdämmerung the horn players were getting decidedly ragged. We were delighted to be at James Roser’s debut as Gunther on Götterdämmerung. He is a young singer from Sydney who had been acclaimed as Beckmesser in Meistersinger at Erl the previous week.
The next day we drove 800 kilometres back to Exotica in Marina Katela near Split. The plan was to drive across Austria avoiding the motorways in order to see the hills of the Tyrol. Sadly it was pouring with rain and the cloud level was so low that we saw virtually nothing, not even the road at times!
By the time we arrived in Croatia the weather was warm and the sun was shining and Exotica was waiting for us and the next adventure.