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Salzburg festival commissions new operas from Kurtag, Dalbavie, Ades and Widmann

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Salzburg Festival has commissioned new operas from composers Gyorgy Kurtag, Marc-Andre Dalbavie, Thomas Ades and Jorg Widmann that will premiere one per summer from 2013-16.

The ambitious program of contemporary music was announced this week by new artistic director Alexander Pereira, who will oversee the Austrian festival for the first time next summer.

"Salzburg has to be adventurous," Pereira said. "The fact that we decided to commission these works means Salzburg wants to be ahead of the newest developments. These elements were very important to me, that Salzburg pushes forward the development of contemporary music."

Pereira said it was too soon to announce casting.

"This is too much of an egg that hasn't been laid," he said.

Kurtag, a Hungarian who will be 86 in February, is composing an opera based on Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" that will open in 2013.

Dalbavie, a French composer who turns 51 in February, follows in 2014 with an opera based on Richard Powers' "The Time of our Singing," a 2003 novel about a biracial American couple who meet at a Marian Anderson concert in 1939.

Dalbavie premiered his first opera, "Gesualdo," in October 2010 at the Zurich Opera, where Pereira is in his 21st and final season as general manager. That work was based on the life of composer Carlo Gesualdo in the 16th and early 17th century.

Subject matter for the latter two works has not been finalized.

Ades, a 40-year-old whose work opens in 2015, is known for "Powder Her Face," a 1995 chamber opera that debuted at England's Almeida Opera, and "The Tempest," which earned rave reviews at The Royal Opera in London seven years ago and is coming to New York's Metropolitan Opera next season.

The opera of the 38-year-old Widmann will debut in 2016. In 2003, his "Gesicht im Spiegel (The Face in the Mirror)" opened at the Munich Festival in Germany, a futuristic work with a mad scientist and a wife's clone.

Known for conservatism under Herbert von Karajan from 1957-89, the Salzburg Festival took an avant-garde turn under Gerard Mortier (1990-01).

Past world premieres at the festival have included Richard Strauss' "Die Liebe der Danae" (1952), Luciano Berio's "Un re in ascolto" (1984) and Kaija Saariaho's "L'amour de loin" (2000).

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