The New Salzburg
Gerard Mortier made it his task to overcome the stagnation that had become evident especially in the last years of the Karajan era. “The New Salzburg” that he proclaimed followed a policy of opening up the festival to a broader and modern repertoire, to unfamiliar, occasionally also provocative views as regards aesthetics, to different and a younger generation of audiences. Each festival season was given a specific motto which was intended to be reflected in the entire programme. The number of annual new productions increased considerably and a new generation of stage directors came into the limelight in Salzburg: Herbert Wernicke, Ursel and Karl-Ernst Herrmann, Peter Mussbach, Hans Neuenfels, Luc Bondy, Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson and Christoph Marthaler made their mark on stage aesthetics in the Mortier era. World premieres did not figure prominently –three new operas were given their first performances between 1992 and 2001 – but repertoire from the 20th century was consistently fostered and determined the programme of operas. A cycle of works by Janácek, Messiaen’s magnificent Saint François d’Assise, Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre and operas by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, Weill and Busoni were milestones in programming policy. In accordance with Max Reinhardt’s vision, drama was again to acquire greater importance. Peter Stein, Ivan Nagel and Frank Baumbauer were the successive heads of drama. Concert programming throughout the entire Mortier decade was supervised by Hans Landesmann and presented thematic cycles of works or projects whose programmes were compiled by individual artists – the most outstanding example was the Progetto Pollini comprising compositions from the Middle Ages to the present. Gerard Mortier enjoyed conflicts and antagonised some institutions: the Vienna Philharmonic and their privileges, the star circus, the rich and glamorous, the omnipresent record industry, hackneyed opera and he thus became a target of conservative critics, in particular of the Viennese press. Triumphs were closely followed by scandals and vice versa. “Mortier’s era in Salzburg was not a revolution but it had a great impact”, was how Gerhard R. Koch, writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, summed up the artistic achievements.
Details of the several years: