The Dream of a Fairytale Temple
Artistic Interventions vis-à-vis Festival Theatres Never Built
Numerous plans for a festival theatre were mooted over the last 130 years and went unrealized. For the centenary of the Salzburg Festival, four of these unbuilt architectural designs were made visible in public spaces. Three of these artistic projects can be experienced and explored until the end of August 2021: Esther Stocker’s Three-Part Wrinkle Sculpture, conceived for the Mönchsberg; Werner Feiersinger’s Panel, 2019/20, an installation for the Kapuzinerberg; and Isa Rosenberger’s Portal Frame, created for the Mirabellgarten. The projects document how the festival theatres would have made their mark on the city or its surrounding countryside.
(Concept: Norbert Mayr)
Portal Frame for the Mirabell Gardens, 2019/20
The design for an artistic intervention on Rosenhügel inside Mirabellgarten recurs to Clemens Holzmeister’s considerations on the unity of stage and auditorium and on overcoming the limits between nature and architecture. The point of departure are the three large backstage portals of Holzmeister’s design for the festival theatre in Mirabellgarten (1950):
If one wishes to have “an almost immeasurably large stage volume, one opens the three backstage portals and enters a theatrical space as only the Medici in Florence had in the Boboli Gardens!” This area, behind which the gardens stretch out, offers “nearly unlimited possibilities. The Castle Hohensalzburg seems to hover above it all.“ (Joseph Gregor on Clemens Holzmeister’s project)
The outlines of these three large backstage portals are abstracted and marked by a portal frame inside Mirabellgarten, constructed of gold-varnished steel: the view of the Mirabellgarten and Castle Hohensalzburg is thus framed – quoting Holzmeister’s design – and the city itself becomes an (open air) stage. Visitors to the Mirabellgarten thus become protagonists of the “world theatre” and the city becomes a “stage space”.
The goal is to replicate the original dimensions of the large backstage portals by means of the steel frame: about 7.5 m height (from the ground) and 19.5 m total breadth.
This “portal frame“ will also be combined with an “audio play” available for downloading on the Salzburg Festival website as an audio file. The audio play (lasting 3 to 5 minutes) will begin with the laying of the cornerstone for the Festspielhaus in Mirabellgarten, an event Holzmeister called “tragicomic”. During the further course of the audio play, the three portals “speak” about different viewpoints and perspectives on the past, present and future of the Festival and the city as a “stage space” in a fictitious dialogue. The text of the audio play is based on original quotes by Clemens Holzmeister and on interviews with experts on architectural history and (contemporary) history of the city and the Festival.
Podcast (in German only)
Radio Play Isa Rosenberger 2020
Radio Play Isa Rosenberger 202029. July 2020.
Three-Part Wrinkle Sculpture for the Mönchsberg, 2019/20
The artwork for the festival theatre location on Mönchsberg is a three-part sculpture showing wrinkled resp. crumpled sheets. These sheets quote original excerpts from the manifesto The Mozart-Festspielhaus in Salzburg, published in 1890 by the Action Committee, and show the original design of the festival theatre planned by Fellner & Helmer in 1890. Today this Festspielhaus is considered a first vision, which was to be followed by a series of additional festival theatre plans.
The work conveys in a very direct manner how great ideas are born – and how they are discarded as well. The overall sculpture plays with the design and is closely interwoven with the place. The natural surroundings are in direct contrast with the cultural notion, thereby offering a “stage” for the intervention.
The three sculptures stand for the description of a cultural process of the past, a process which, however, was not completed. They can also be interpreted as a visualization of the manifestation and discarding of ideas, and how their random resurfacing generates an echo.
For example, a quote from the manifesto of the Action Committee for the Mozart-Festspielhaus, which also calls the building a “temple of art”, reads: “It should be a magnet for art lovers from the entire educated world, and its design should be a first-rate specialty. Its meaning shall be as important as the name Mozart is international.”
People’s interest for the idea of the festival theatre on Mönchsberg is to be aroused in passing. An abandoned idea becomes an object of art, and the three-part sculpture transforms the vision, bringing it into the centenary year of 2020.
Panel, 2019/20, An Intervention for the Kapuzinerberg
The point of departure for the intervention is the plaster model of a festival theatre created by Otto Reitter and held today by the Salzburg Museum, which shows the penultimate state of the project in 1942. That year, Adolf Hitler had decided upon viewing the projected “Gauanlage” complex on Salzburg’s Kapuzinerberg that a new placement for the Festspielhaus would have to be chosen. Thus, it was to find its place across from the “Gauhaus” designed by architect Otto Strohmayr, at the south-eastern edge of the massive building complex. Otto Reitter aligned the building’s axis towards the Castle Hohensalzburg, heightening the presence of the Nazi dictatorship within the cityscape.
The artistic intervention by Werner Feiersinger on a small clearing within the beech grove on Kapuzinerberg is memorable, yet extremely reduced at the same time. A model based on the historical 1942 plaster cast is slightly enlarged, cast in bronze and coated in white and placed upon a panel of white-lacquered sheet steel measuring approximately 2 x 6 metres which is elevated from the ground. This creates a stage-like situation.
The museum-like “exhibition piece” is transported into nature, proportions are shifted and the beech grove offers a maximum contrast to the artificial and minimalist object.
This entails a reversal: in relation to the space of the panel, the Festspielhaus model is very small. This reverses the intended monumental concept of Otto Reitter, who meant to embed an oversized building into the Kapuzinerberg landscape as a gesture demonstrating power.
Positioned as a miniature at one edge of the large panel, the cast of the Festspielhaus model thus testifies to the megalomania of the Nazi regime and demonstrates the current topicality of these issues.
The intervention is intended as a surprise for the visitors, arousing curiosity and a willingness to engage with the history of the place. The object enables various approaches and allows for diverse appropriations and interpretations. The viewer invariably relates to it, entering into this artificial situation.