15 Nov 2019

A festival to shine as a
guiding light

A festival to shine as a guiding light in the search for one’s own identity, for the meaning of life, but also for the restoration of the identity of whole peoples – that was the thought uppermost in the minds of the artists and citizens who a century ago founded the Salzburg Festival as ‘one of the first deeds of peace’. Chief among them were that magician of the theatre Max Reinhardt, the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the composer Richard Strauss, the stage designer Alfred Roller and the conductor Franz Schalk.

Through our Ouverture spirituelle under the sign of Pax – Peace we call back to mind in this anniversary year of 2020 that founding principle of the Festival as a project dedicated to peace.
The Salzburg Festival began on 22 August 1920, when Jedermann (Everyman) was performed before the most beautiful stage backdrop in the world, the façade of the Salzburg Cathedral.
One hundred years provide a reason to celebrate and an occasion to express thanks – to all the artists, the staff members and employees who nurtured that delicate seedling, the Festival, and made it into the greatest classic festival in the world: More than 200 performances in 15 venues on 44 days, with guests from 80 countries, 40 of them non-European.
Several ideas are at the heart of our anniversary programme – community, the relationship of the individual to the whole, radical individualism and, as a great hope, the idea that the world can be changed through communal solidarity, through a new humanity.
As if running amok, Don Giovanni keeps darting like a will-o’-the-wisp toward his own destruction. In his world, there is no love, no utopia, no light. His driving force is excess, even nihilism. Someone just as driven, but in a much different way, is Elektra, ruthless, raving and unrestrained in her thirst for revenge. Similarly unrestrained is Richard III, whom Shakespeare portrays as the incarnation of evil.
Set in antithesis to the extreme crossing of boundaries by individuals is the dynamic of a whole people and of the masses found in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza 1960. These are works that call for protest and change. In Mussorgsky’s opera the people themselves are the main protagonist. Luigi Nono, in his works, invokes rebellion and resistance as exemplary. Even though Intolleranza 1960 documents the fate of an individual person, Nono is in fact speaking of the anonymous masses. His work cries out against all the injustices of this world and is a passionate defence of humanity and justice.
In Zdeněk Adamec, a world premiere by Peter Handke, a society is formed out of speeches and counterspeeches by bringing into being as a communal enterprise the fictive psychological profile of a young man who has made himself into a beacon through the disturbing act of setting himself on fire.
Like William Shakespeare, Friedrich Schiller was a central author in Max Reinhardt’s involvement with theatre. In Mary Stuart, two women rulers confront one another; their respective stances treat in exemplary fashion of the relationship between law and justice.
What gives the Festival its substance is in feeling itself committed to survey the map of great artistic utterances from all epochs and periods, from Monteverdi to the music of our own time, from Greek tragedy to Peter Handke.

One hundred years of the Salzburg Festival mean one hundred years of cultural history. The Salzburg Festival does not have to be reinvented each year, though it must be led again and again into a new present. ‘A work of art that aims to act as a stimulus, to have a moving effect, needs qualified rejection just as much as it does acquiescence. […] Art must mirror the spiritual and intellectual state of its time; it must be adversarial and oppositional’, as Nikolaus Harnoncourt so pointedly stated in his Festival address of 1995, inspiring still today.
Bazon Brock, professor of aesthetics, called you, our wonderful audience, a ‘community of devotees’, because a unique form of communal experience comes about at the Festival, one that unites people of different origins, languages and religions. A community of devotees for the power of art.
Accordingly, one hundred years of the Salzburg Festival also prompt our thanks to you, dear audiences, with the request that you will remain members of our community of devotees!

Helga Rabl-Stadler
Markus Hinterhäuser
Lukas Crepaz

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