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Salzburg Whitsun Festival

The Salzburg Whitsun Festival brings excellent concerts and productions to the stage every year.

Cancellation of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival 2020 because of government measures due to coronavirus pandemic.

Cancellation of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival 2020. More Information.

Small and exclusive festival in Salzburg

Herbert von Karajan founded the Salzburg Whitsun Festival as an extension of the Easter Festival. Cecilia Bartoli is the current artistic director of probably the smallest and most exclusive classical festival in Salzburg.
Even Hugo von Hofmannsthal had a vision of holding a festival outside of the summer season. But his vision only became a reality many years after his death. Herbert von Karajan founded the Easter Festival in 1967 and a few years later, Karajan being the driving force again, the Whitsun Festival was born.

The Whitsun Festival in Salzburg is not only the newest but also the shortest of the three festivals. From Friday 28th May to Whit Monday, 1st June 2020, the concerts and both operas, “Don Pasquale” and “Orphée” are being held.

La couleur du temps – The Colours of Time

The life of Pauline Viardot-Garcia, a singer, a European music ambassador, an excellent pianist and composer, is at the heart of the 2020 Salzburg Whistun Festival program. While, before the 19th century, it was mainly the men and castrates, who as outstanding artistic personalities influenced musical and social life, at the beginning of the 19th century, more and more women took on this role – the “Divo” became the “Diva”.

“The further the rays of this enlightenment continued in 19th century, the more the fans turned away from these extravagant young men, warped by absolutist monarchs, and turned to a new deity – the Primadonna. From then on, they lay at the feet of women, wonderful artists who embodied the values of post-revolutionary and bourgeois society better than castrates, whose artificiality, so loved by the nobles, was suddenly regarded as unnatural. Women were the new muses for aspiring composers, they influenced what ultimately got into a score, the repertoire politics of theatres, casts and gags. Some of them had a great social influence”, says Cecilia Bartoli, Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival.

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The Whitsun Festival and its artistic directors

The Festival has been shaped by great personalities ever since it was founded. It was clear from the onset that it should be an independent institution with a programme very different to the festivals in summer and at Easter:

  • Karajan‘s era: At first, the Festival was intended to be an extension of the Easter Festival. Founded six years previously, it drew large crowds and Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra created a first-class programme.
  • From 1982: Subsequently, more and more orchestras and conductors from around the world were invited. The focus had been on works by Anton Bruckner until Karajan died in 1989. After this devastating experience, the Salzburg Whitsun Festival started to lack direction.
  • New start in 1997: After Baden-Baden played host to the Whitsun concerts in 1997, it prompted a new start in Salzburg in the following year. Completely different to the other two, it was now dedicated to the Baroque composers.
  • Riccardo Muti: The Festival reinvented itself in 2007. Muti, from Naples, wanted to put the spotlight on the composers of his home country. So, until 2011 the programme included Italian composers of the 18th
Cecilia Bartoli as Artistic Director

Cecilia Bartoli has not only been the artistic director since 2012, but has also taken on the lead in the opera production. Alexander Pereira also became the Festival director in 2012 and saw to it that the opera productions could also be used for future summer festivals:

  • 2012: Friedrich Händel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto
  • 2013: Vincenzo Bellini: Norma
  • 2014: Gioachino Rossini: La Cenerentola as well as Otello
  • 2015: Iphigénie en Tauride
  • 2016: Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story
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