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Jedermann prepares to die – for the 600th time

29 AUG 2011

published in: Drama, General

Jedermann: Buhlschaft and Jedermann (Birgit Minichmayr, Nicholas Ofczarek) Photo: Hermann and Clärchen Baus
Everybody knows Jedermann – and although this year, he lives and dies in the same way for the 600th time already, the story of the sinner who ultimately repents is more current than ever. Greed for money and power and questions of responsibility and forgiveness have been important at all times, for people are people – and yet, as Jedermann shows, there is hope until the end.  

The beginnings of the Jedermann success story go back to 1911. At that time – 100 years ago – the piece had its world premiere in Berlin. In 1920, Max Reinhardt brought the “play of the rich man’s dying” by Hugo von Hofmannsthal to Cathedral Square for the first time. This was the beginning of Jedermann at the Festival – and the beginning of the Festival itself. Until 1931, Alexander Moissi played the title role, as he had already done at the world premiere in Berlin.

The fable of the play is old, going back even to the Middle Ages. There was a Middle English morality play (a folkloristic form of theater that originated in the 14th century) with the title The Somonynge of Everyman (The Summoning of Everyman), written by an anonymous author. At the time, the play contained about 900 verses; it was printed for the first time under Henry VIII in 1529. At the same time, the Flemish Everyman drama Elckerlijc (Diesthemius) first appeared. Around 1903, Hofmannsthal was inspired by a friend’s letter with quotations from a London performance, and began working on his own version. In 1911, the play was first performed in the German-language region, directed by Max Reinhardt. Since 1920, when it was first seen on Cathedral Square, Salzburg cannot be imagined without Jedermann.

Famous Jedermann actors and stunning Lovers have characterized the Salzburg Festival and impressed its audiences. Of course, Will Quadflieg and Curd Jürgens must be mentioned. Maximilian Schell, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Helmuth Lohner and Gert Voss are unforgotten. Peter Simonischek alone played the dandy for eight consecutive seasons with unbroken success.

The role of the Lover in the morality play became the epitome of seductive femininity as the years went by and the famous names took turns. Among many others, the names of Judith Holzmeister, Christiane Hörbiger, Senta Berger and Veronica Ferres awaken many beautiful memories. The roles of Jedermann and Lover were and are always cast with outstanding actors in Salzburg, and are considered an honor for the chosen performers. Thus, it is not surprising that not only has the story not lost any of its appeal, but the actors in front of the impressive backdrop of the Salzburg Cathedral lend new brilliance to each and every performance. The 600th performance takes place on August 29 at 5:00 pm with a forceful Nicholas Ofczarek and a radiant Birgit Minichmayr – hopefully accompanied by beautiful weather and well-deserved ovations.