Every summer, Salzburg's historic centre is in an unusual state of affairs, lasting several weeks – and this has been going on for nearly 100 years. The red carpet is rolled out, VIPs gather and music fans flock from all over the world to experience one of the most important classical music festivals in the world – it's Festival time in Salzburg.
Probably the most famous cultural event in the Salzburg region is the Salzburg Festival from July to the end of August. The artistic program is diverse at the Salzburg Festival, as well as interesting and exciting. Every year around 200 events, including operas, concerts, evenings with plays and readings are held in Salzburg. The city of Salzburg becomes a stage for art and culture.
The Salzburg Festival lasts six weeks and it has helped catapult this small town in the Alps to worldwide fame. The list of conductors, orchestras and soloists reads like a Who’s Who of the 100 years of music history. The festival has continued to grow ever since Everyman was played at the Domplatz in front of the cathedral for the first time many years ago. Apart from the old maestros and the focus on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the programme also includes premiere performances of modern composers. The three main pillars are:
- Drama: From Everyman to Shakespeare to contemporary plays.
- Opera: The focus is on operas by Mozart and Richard Strauss.
- Concerts: From solo performances on the piano to small ensembles through to the best orchestras in the world.
Everyman and the founding of the Festival
The Festival was born in 1920 when Everyman (Jedermann) was performed in front of the cathedral for the first time. To this day, “The life and death of a rich man” is still performed – and with good reason, too. Every new production is an exciting and independent highlight of the Festival, celebrated year after year by locals and visitors alike. Find out more about the turbulent history of the Salzburg Festival.
Easter Festival and Whitsun Festival
Herbert von Karajan, also born in Salzburg, dominated the Salzburg Festival from the 1960s to the end of the 1980s. He initiated the Easter Festival and the Whitsun Festival. While the Easter Festival has music of the highest quality but on a smaller scale, Whitsun quickly became the “alternative date” for the Easter Festival subscribers. Over the years, both festivals have gone through many changes and are now regarded as the spearhead of classical music as well as the most exclusive and best festivals in the world.
Programme focus in 2020
In honor of its 100th birthday, the Salzburg Festival will celebrate with 222 performances in 44 days at 15 different venues. The operatic highlights will include, in addition to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “The Magic Flute”, Strauss’s “Electra” and Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov”, a number of successful productions from Mozart Week (“The Messiah”, 2020), the Easter Festival (“Tosca”, 2018 with Anna Netrebko in the role of Floria Tosca) and the Whitsun Festival (“Don Pasquale”, 2020 with Cecilia Bartoli in the role of Norina). For the first time, this program will span many of the top-quality musical events that make Salzburg a year-round festival destination. The whole program can be found on the page of the Salzburg Festival.
Festival time in Salzburg
While some people are putting on their evening wear, others are working frantically to ensure everything runs smoothly. While some people are sitting in coffee houses, having a quick look at the libretto of the Mozart opera that evening, others are still rehearsing and adding the finishing touches at the Festival Hall. While some people are stuck in traffic and are complaining about the stifling heat, other people are already gathering at the Everyman stage in front of the cathedral. It is obviously Festival time and there are certain things you have to be aware of. Well begun is half done here, too. Go to the Festival district in the historic centre and experience it before or after a performance at the Large Festival Hall for yourself.