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An Island of Theater: 20 Years at the “Perner-Insel”

11 JUL 2012

published in: General

The Salzburg Festival has always been distinguished by the uniqueness of its “exquisite” performance venues. For more than 90 years, the massive Cathedral façade has lent an incomparable, mythical framework to the “rich man’s dying” in Jedermann. The monumental Felsenreitschule, hewn into the Mönchsberg rock, was and is the venue for unforgettable opera and theater performances. Since 1960, the Großes Festspielhaus with its enormous stage dimensions has given the Festival’s artistic programmers the opportunity to expand our offerings, including grand operatic works of the 19th century.

From the very beginning, the Festival’s founding fathers strove to include not only the city of Salzburg, but also the region in its events – very much in the spirit of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who wrote: “Presenting a musical and theatrical festival in Salzburg means reviving what has been alive since ancient times; it means redoing in ancient places, carefully selected, what has been done there since time immemorial.”

For many years, however, what the Salzburg Festival lacked was a space for modern, contemporary art and experimental theater. For the longest time, the search for an alternative venue was fruitless. When the factory sirens lamented the end of more than one thousand years of salt-mining on the Dürrnberg in 1989, however, the Salzburg Festival, led by Peter Stein, its Director of Drama at the time, launched an initiative to add another performance venue to the Festival: the Old Salt Refinery on the Perner Island. On August 20, 1992, the first performance of Andrei Serban’s antique trilogy took place here, which has since become a legend; unforgotten Festival productions like Die Riesen vom Berge in 1994, Schlachten in1999 and König Ottokars Glück und Ende in 2005 followed, as did Peter Stein’s return to Salzburg with Oedipus at Colonus in 2010 and the world premiere of Peter Handke’s most personal play, Immer noch Sturm, as well as Nicolas Stemann’s Faust marathon in 2011.

The Perner-Insel has long become an indispensable venue to the Salzburg Festival. With its unique atmosphere, it is a favorite with many stage directors and audience members. This summer, it will witness three extraordinary international theater projects. The English director Irina Brook will present both Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in English as well as Shakespeare’s The Tempest in French here. And our young and young-at-heart audiences will enjoy Mojo, a piece without words by Sue Buckmaster and her company Theatre-Rites.

Thus, in its 20th year, the Perner-Insel has long become an indisputable part of the Festival.

Helga Rabl-Stadler