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The Salzburg Festival Mourns the Death of Dr. Gerard Mortier

9 MAR 2014

published in: General

Gerard Mortier
“Gerard Mortier was one of the rare artistic director personalities who fought incessantly for the arts and their social importance – not even severe illness could stop him. His death is a terrible loss,” said Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler in a very personal statement about the death of Gerard Mortier, who was the Salzburg Festival’s Artistic Director from 1991 to 2001.
“Gerard Mortier was a steadfast follower of the philosophy of Giuseppe di Lampedusa, who wrote in his novel Il Gattopardo: ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change’.”

“Mortier wanted the Festival to remain the best and most important one in the world. He knew that he had to change a lot of things after the death of his all-powerful predecessor Herbert von Karajan, and he wanted to change them. Thus, he succeeded in having the Karajan era followed by a Mortier era. It was wonderful to work with him when he used his competence and passion to realise programmes which seemed impossible at first, for example Saint François d’Assise by Olivier Messiaen. It was difficult to work with him when his delight in provocation hurt colleagues and artists.”

“At his best,” thus Rabl-Stadler, “Mortier succeeded in making the killer term ‘random’ disappear from the newspaper’s cultural pages as a description of the Festival’s programme. His motto was, ‘I want to create a Festival community which is a community of our times. An audience which confronts the great questions of a complex world – on the other hand, the artists must reflect upon the meaning of art’.” She describes him as a crusader. “He wanted everyone to be passionate about his programme, intellectuals and ordinary citizens alike. Together, we lived for the conviction that no festival in the world can be pushed through against the wishes of the local population. Mortier was tireless in his efforts to get the citizens of Salzburg to consider and support the Festival as their own Festival.”

She added that she was particularly pleased when Mortier recently gave an interview looking back with affection: “The Salzburg Festival was the greatest enrichment of my life, not just because of the encounters with so many outstanding artists, but also with the creative powers, the composers and writers. There is no other cultural institution in the world offering the same chance. Salzburg gave me incredible joy.”