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Salzburg Whitsun Festival

The Whitsun Festival is the smallest and most exclusive classical music 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 smallest and most exclusive festival in Salzburg

The Whitsun Festival in Salzburg is not only the newest but also the shortest of the three festivals. The roughly ten yearly concerts run from just Friday to Whit Monday, centring around an opera production.

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 the 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

2017 – Joy of grief

The theme next year is Scotland. Apart from Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony and parts of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, the focus will be on Joseph Haydn’s opera Ariodante, a story of a Scottish royal family. Besides Nathan Berg, Kathryn Lewek and Norman Reinhardt, the eponymous lead will be sung by Cecilia Bartoli.

Try not to miss the anniversary concert with Anne-Sophie Mutter where she will be playing works by Franz Schubert and Antonio Vivaldi.

Tickets for the Salzburg Whitsun Festival 2017 are available from 14 October 2016.

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