the fast-evolving festival scene


Readers of Classical Music Daily (and, previously of Music & Vision) know that this reporter spends the summer gambolling from festival to festival, especially opera festivals. Indeed, I patronized several Italian festivals and a few European festivals: Aix en Provence in early July, Erl in the Tirol in late July, Salzburg in August and every other year the Enescu Festival in Bucharest in September. Occasionally, I crossed the Channel to reach Glyndebourne.

This Summer, almost all major European festivals are casualties of COVID-19. Only the open air Orange Festival is programmed in mid July. As reported on 17 May, some Italian open air festivals may resist and take place because of climate conditions. In Italy, the sun shines until September - in Sicily until October there are open air performances, mostly in ancient Greek and Roman theatres. In the rest of Europe, rains begins in August. Consequently, decisions on whether a festival can be held must be taken in the Spring.

However, there is hope. The Salzburg festival's directorate - President Helga Rabl-Stadler, Artistic Director Markus Hinterhäuser and Executive Director Lukas Crepaz - informed the press that the Centenary Festival may take place, although in a revised format to that announced in mid-November 2019.

The Salzburg Festival directorate. From left to right: Lukas Crepaz, Helga Rabl-Stadler and Markus Hinterhäuser. Photo © 2018 Lydia Gorges
The Salzburg Festival directorate. From left to right: Lukas Crepaz, Helga Rabl-Stadler and Markus Hinterhäuser. Photo © 2018 Lydia Gorges

The Austrian Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler and Federal Minister Rudolf Anschober have advised that regulations for cultural events are to be gradually loosened in significant ways from June onwards. According to their statements, in August, events with up to a thousand audience members may be possible if the organization presents an adequate security concept.

This means that after long weeks without live events, artists can once again invite their audiences to experience art together. What exactly will become possible can only be explored after the ordinance has been published. After all, the old saying that 'the devil is in the detail' applies particularly to the current situation. In particular, clarification is needed on the conditions under which stage rehearsals and performances by orchestras and choruses will be permissible.

The Mozarteumorchester Salzburg. Photo © 2017 Nancy Horowitz
The Mozarteumorchester Salzburg. Photo © 2017 Nancy Horowitz

The only thing that is certain is that the new health regulations mean that the festival cannot take place as planned before the outbreak of the pandemic, both in terms of programming and duration. Therefore, the Festival will present an alternative for this extremely challenging year to the Supervisory Board on 25 May 2020.

The Salzburg festival aims to publish the newly arranged programme for the summer in early June. Details on the further procedure for tickets previously purchased will be communicated to all our customers shortly and will also be published on the festival's website. The directorate was justified to pursue a strategy of not cancelling the Festival too early, but waiting and observing the development of the pandemic, setting 30 May as the goal for decision-making.

The festival's Directorate is optimistic that despite the coronavirus, it will be able to send a strong signal for the power of the arts, especially in these difficult times.

Copyright © 21 May 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy





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