GIUSEPPE PENNISI looks at the detail
of the replanned 2020 Salzburg Festival


The 'Centenary Salzburg Festival' has not be cancelled, as most other European and American festivals have been because of coronavirus disease, the greatest challenge our society has faced since the end of World War II. Never before has cultural life in democratic countries been curtailed so severely in peacetime.

Nonetheless, the Summer Festival will take place, albeit in a drastically revised form as compared with the program announced in November 2019. It has to be remembered that the Salzburg Festival was founded at a time of abject misery as a courageous project against the crisis. Max Reinhardt was convinced that only the arts could reconcile the people, even peoples, whom war had driven into battle against one another - art as the food and meaning of life.

The festival can take place in a modified and abbreviated form between 1 and 30 August; this makes this consideration by the founding fathers - art as the food and meaning of life - appear more topical than ever. Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler commented: 'I did not doubt for one minute that we would perform this summer'. Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016) was convinced: 'When we, the artists, are good, people leave the performance different than when they arrived.'

The festival management waited to decide whether there would be a festival; this was a mixture of hope, dreaming and intuition that the pandemic's case numbers might move in a direction which enabled people to assemble again.

'The 2020 festival will have significantly fewer events than in the past decades, with significantly fewer available tickets, and therefore with fewer visitors. And it will be a festival which conforms with each and every security requirement,' says Artistic Director Markus Hinterhäuser. 'Great as the joy of enabling shared experiences of art at the Salzburg Festival is, the health of all those involved takes precedence. Therefore, we will of course comply painstakingly with all the regulations passed by the federal government, but we will extend and exceed them if we consider it necessary, given our responsibility. In times of coronavirus, the festival must and wants to set standards in matters of security as well', Executive Director Lukas Crepaz declared.

The Salzburg Festival has modified its programme in this aspect as well, reducing the number of performance venues from sixteen to eight. The organization has developed a prevention concept that will be adapted continuously to accommodate any new developments.

Unlike regular festival summer practice, there will be no simultaneous events in the Festspielhäuser, in order to prevent groups of visitors from meeting. There will be no intervals and no catering as a general rule. Since controlling queues outside of bars or toilets would be very difficult, there will be no refreshments. This means that all the bars at the festival's venues will be closed, including before and after events. Only personalized tickets will be on sale, enabling authorities to speed up contact tracing. Ticket purchasers will have to show ID to the ticket-takers.

The special hygiene measures include disinfection stations at all points of entry and at neuralgic points, frequent cleaning of contact surfaces etc. In keeping with distancing rules, seating will be arranged in a chequerboard pattern. In areas with more than one metre distance to the seats behind them, other forms of seating allocation are being examined. Instead of two hundred events over the course of forty-four days at sixteen performance venues, there will now be 110 events over thirty days at eight venues. The program will commence with the opening of the State Exhibition at the end of July 2020 and only end next year, on 31 August 2021.

The opera program features two titles only: Strauss' Elektra and Mozart's Così fan tutte. They are both new productions.

Krzysztof Warlikowski (born 1962, Szczecin, Poland) will direct the Salzburg Summer Festival's new production of 'Elektra'. Photo © 2018 Anne Zeuner
Krzysztof Warlikowski (born 1962, Szczecin, Poland) will direct the Salzburg Summer Festival's new production of Elektra. Photo © 2018 Anne Zeuner

There is a rich concert program with conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Kent Nagano, Gianluca Capuano, Daniel Barenboim, Christian Thielemann, Vasily Petrenko and Gustavo Dudamel.

Italian conductor Gianluca Capuano will appear at the 2020 Salzburg Summer Festival. Photo © Monika Rittershaus
Italian conductor Gianluca Capuano will appear at the 2020 Salzburg Summer Festival. Photo © Monika Rittershaus

There is also a varied rich chamber music program and, of course, a large offering of drama. The details and the procedures to book tickets are on the festival web site.

Copyright © 15 June 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy




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