Esteemed Festival Visitors!
‘Art is a language that reveals what is hidden, tears open what is sealed, and gives shape to what is deep inside. It exhorts, excites, unsettles and delights.’ This was the crux of a 1995 speech made by Nikolaus Harnoncourt for the 75th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival, which drove his message home to the audience. As the newly appointed Festival President, I was immediately transfixed by this idea. Art as a language that has the power to do everything it sees fit, so long as you let it.
‘Art as nourishment’, to quote Max Reinhardt, rather than just a decorative add-on to our lives.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal vividly summed up our remit in Salzburg when he declared the Festival ‘a matter of European culture, of eminent political, economic and social importance’.
As I bid this institution a fond adieu, it fills me with infinite happiness that I was able to serve the Gesamtkunstwerk that is the Salzburg Festival for more than a quarter of its hundred-year history.
All the accolades we received from scholars and journalists, as well as from you, our wonderful audience, are a confirmation of both our remit and our responsibility.
· The Festival as a compass in uncertain times.
· The Festival as a beacon in the search for one’s own identity, for the meaning of life.
· And the Festival as a recurring locus of European memory.
However, the definition chosen by the cultural philosopher Bazon Brock strikes me as the most coherent: the Festival as a community of devotees. This embraces three sources of strength that work in synergy to bring about the marvel that is the Festival:
· Everyone behind the scenes, led by our artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser, who succeeds every year in making Salzburg an epicentre of the extraordinary.
· But above all, it is the artists who strive to create not just a spectacle, but truly great performances that linger on in our daily lives. As our memorandum for the centenary states: ‘The Salzburg Festival regards itself as an international festival: international
through its programming, through the artists who perform here, and through audience members who come from all over the world.’
· As for the strength that flows towards us from you, our audience, nobody described it more wonderfully than Max Reinhardt: ‘the best must not only be on stage but also in the auditorium, if the perfect miracle of which theatre is capable on a propitious evening is to occur.’
You, our esteemed visitors to the Festival, played a decisive role in ensuring that the pandemic did not cast a dark shadow over the Festival during the difficulties of the last two years. You rallied round and made us a guiding light in 2020, just as we were in 1920 and 1945.
With this, my farewell as Festival President, I urge you to keep nourishing your interest in art. Stay curious and stay passionate. I am a firm believer in the power of art to offer orientation in an uncertain world.
With our 2022 programme of opera, drama and concert performances, we want to ask the right
questions. We want to encourage our audience to think deeper and more broadly. We want to fire up the imagination for new solutions. And I will be in the audience — at your side — as a member of the community of devotees.
President of the Salzburg Festival
Current as of 22 November 2021