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, it is possible to see and experience four of these unbuilt architectural projects: on the Mönchsberg, in the park of Schloss Hellbrunn, on the Kapuzinerberg and in the Mirabell Gardens. The projects document how the festival theatres would have made their mark on the city or its surrounding countryside.

Concept: Norbert Mayr

Commissioned by the Salzburg Festival

· Esther Stocker (Vienna), Three-Part Wrinkle Sculpture for Mönchsberg
Intervention regarding the Mozart-Festspielhaus project on Mönchsberg,1890 (Atelier Fellner & Helmer, Vienna)

· Maria Flöckner & Hermann Schnöll, Norbert Mayr (Salzburg)
Intervention in Hellbrunn regarding the Festspielhaus project in the Schlosspark, 1922 (Architect Hans Poelzig, Berlin)

· Werner Feiersinger (Vienna), Panel, 2019–20
Intervention regarding the Festspielhaus project on Kapuzinerberg,1942/43 (Architect Otto Reitter, Salzburg)

· Isa Rosenberger (Vienna), Portal Frame for Mirabellgarten
Intervention regarding the Festspielhaus project in Mirabellgarten,1950/51 (Architect Clemens Holzmeister, Ankara)

The historical Festspielhaus projects reflect both the visions of individual persons and the differing expectations of their times and societies. The four festival theatre designs selected for this project – beginning with that of 1890 – refer to outstanding locations on the city’s mountains (Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg) or elevations (Hellbrunn, Rosenhügel in Mirabellgarten), but treat these contexts in very different manners.

The Mozart-Festspielhaus on the green plateau of the inner-city Mönchsberg was planned in 1890 with the notion of replicating the advantages of the Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus in Bayreuth while avoiding its disadvantages.

As early as 1917, the impresario Max Reinhardt waxed enthusiastic about the Hellbrunn palace park as a construction site “far from the daily bustle of the city” marked by “natural and artistic beauty”. There, Hans Poelzig planned a Festspielhaus between 1920 and 1922.
In the early 1940s, the Nazi regime wanted to inscribe its claim to totalitarian power upon the cityscape, with a freestanding Festspielhaus as part of a comprehensive architectural plan to build up Kapuzinerberg.

In 1950 Clemens Holzmeister chose the Rosenhügel in the Neustadt district for a Festspielhaus project which was to integrate the Mirabellgarten and the view of the Salzburg castle by including a glass wall in his stage plans.

Four artistic projects – three of which were selected in a competition between invited parties – react to these four festival theatre designs with temporary interventions within the public space. They will be freely accessible from August to December 2020.


On the occasion of the Salzburg Festival’s 90-year anniversary, a small intervention was staged in the area of the 1922 Festspielhaus project in Hellbrunn: together with stage designer Regina Öschlberger, the curator of the exhibition on the Poelzig-Festspielhaus at the Monatsschlössel at the time, Norbert Mayr, implemented a discreet “footprint” on the lawn of the park.

Thanks to his research into architectural history, the exact construction site for the Mozart-Festspielhaus on Mönchsberg (1890) could be determined. Early in 2019, the Salzburg Festival invited Norbert Mayr to implement the anniversary project Der Traum von einem Feentempel (Dreaming of a Fairies’ Temple) exploring festival theatres never built within the public space, as part of the Festival’s centenary.

Building on the experiences of 2010 in Hellbrunn, the idea was to develop a new intervention together with the architectural team of Maria Flöckner and Herrmann Schnöll (Salzburg), making the 1922 Festspielhaus discernible all the way to the rhinoceros enclosure at the zoo.

A Competition for Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg, Mirabellgarten

In order to include as broad a spectrum of artistic approaches as possible, three curators and experts on art, architecture and landscape architecture/urbanism (Hildegard Fraueneder, Roman Höllbacher, Michael Obrist) nominated nine participants resp. teams who were invited to take part in a competition.

Manuel Gorkiewicz and Katharina Heistinger (Vienna)
Stijn Nagels (Salzburg)
Esther Stocker (Vienna)

Karl Peyrer-Heimstätt and Flora Peyrer-Heimstätt (Vienna)
Werner Feiersinger (Vienna)
Michael Meier and Christoph Franz (Zurich)

Maruša Sagadin (Vienna)
Sonia Leimer and Marina Faust (Vienna)
Isa Rosenberger (Vienna)

In August the nominated artists received comprehensive materials on the three Festspielhaus projects (plans, sources on history and architectural history, etc.) and their exact locations. In addition, the building footprints and stage areas were marked within the area in question (architect: Stefan Linsinger).
The competition held by the Salzburg Festival Fund by invitation began with a survey of the sites with a colloquium and question-and-answer session on 29 August 2019.
The artistic works were to be developed especially for the places in question and refer both to the place (Festspielhaus project and current state) and content (political and social context); their placements were to reveal a logical concept and their aesthetic quality convince the jury.
On 22 October 2019 the artistic designs were presented to the jury.


Katharina Blaas-Pratscher, Curator for Art in Public Spaces and Chairwoman of the Jury
Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival
Martin Hochleitner, Director of the Salzburg Museum
Oliver Gachowetz, Landscape Architect
Norbert Mayr, Architectural Historian, Project Leader

Since the construction sites of the festival theatres on Mönchsberg and at Kapuzinerberg are no longer entirely publicly owned today, not only the public authorities in question, but also the current owners enriched the discourse as external consultants; for example, the Hotel Schloss Mönchstein permitted the work of art to the erected temporarily on its grounds.

With the exception of the Rosenhügel location, where the bomb-damaged Kurhaus (sanatorium) stood, the festival theatre plans selected for this project had appropriated exposed natural spaces or cultural landscapes. In developing their works, participants of the competition had to deal with several cultural landscapes under nature or landscape preservations orders, and also had to evaluate the festival theatre projects in their respective political and social contexts.

After the presentation of the designs, the jury discussed them in detail, emphasizing the intense study of the complex theme as well as the high artistic quality of the projects. The jury also agreed that each of the designs elaborated could be realized at the three locations in question. During the subsequent vote, three concepts were chosen unanimously and recommended for implementation.

Esther Stocker (Vienna), Three-Part Wrinkle Sculpture for Mönchsberg
Intervention regarding the Mozart-Festspielhaus project on Mönchsberg,1890 (Atelier Fellner & Helmer, Vienna)
“With her three-part sculpture, Esther Stocker stages the space, shifts perception and makes it a new experience for visitors. The ‘crumpled design ideas‘ speak about order and disorder, systems and the destruction of systems. In addition, the sculptures use text from the year 1890, thereby creating a direct connection with the planned festival theatre.” (Jury statement)

Werner Feiersinger (Vienna), Panel, 2019–20
Intervention regarding the Festspielhaus project on Kapuzinerberg,1942/43 (Architect Otto Reitter, Salzburg)
“Inspired by the plasticity of the model at the Salzburg Museum, Werner Feiersinger transforms it into a partial object of his remarkable artistic concept. In an aesthetic setting typical for this artist, he creates a work of art which points to the planned historical design through an apparently trivializing, playful copy of the model, irritating the viewer. By positioning his work near a popular viewpoint and making it available to visitors, the object becomes a place for communication.” (Jury statement)

Isa Rosenberger (Vienna), Portal Frame for Mirabellgarten
Intervention regarding the Festspielhaus project at Mirabellgarten,1950/51 (Architect Clemens Holzmeister, Ankara)
“With her design, Isa Rosenberger adds a very reduced signal to the highly designed Mirabellgarten, creating a major counterpoint in these surroundings. The height of the object, which visualizes Holzmeister’s design, is reminiscent of the historical concept to be implemented here and alters the viewer’s notion of the city and park as well as the perception of the space. With the planned object, Rosenberger creates a serviceable stage, making new viewpoints and perspectives a concrete experience for the visitors.” (Jury statement)

In its meeting on 16 December 2019, the Arts Council of the City of Salzburg supported the “temporary erection of the artworks in the suggested places” – Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg and Mirabellgarten – and expressed its appreciation for the quality of the works.

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Mönchsberg, Schlosspark Hellbrunn, Kapuzinerberg, Mirabell gardens


August to December 2020

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Booklet with Map
Isa Rosenberger

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.

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Mirabell Gardens

Feentempel Mirabellgarten Isa Rosenberger
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Radio Play - German Only

29. July 2020
Radio Play Isa Rosenberger 2020

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  • Radio Play Isa Rosenberger 2020
    29. July 2020.
Esther Stocker

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.

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Esther Stocker
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Feentempel Mönchsberg Mayr Stocker Lasinger Rabl-Stadler
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Maria Flöckner & Hermann Schnöll, Norbert Mayr

Intervention in Response to Hans Poelzig's Project for a Festival Theatre in the Park of Schloss Hellbrunn, 2019/20

As early as 1917, the theatre impresario and Festival co-founder Max Reinhardt dreamed of a place “beyond the daily grind of the city”, but easily reachable by tram, in his Manifesto on the Erection of a Festival Theatre in Hellbrunn.

Starting in 1920, the German architect Hans Poelzig created designs for a sweeping festival theatre ensemble consisting of two houses seating 800 resp. 2000 persons. With terraces accessible from the outside, Poelzig finally turned the design for the larger theatre into a rigid, mighty building dominated by the conical pyramid of the auditorium and with a generally more objective air. The cornerstone for this building was ceremoniously laid in 1922.

The architects’ team of Maria Flöckner and Hermann Schnöll joins Norbert Mayr in creating an intervention which toys with set pieces of construction, emphasizing the dimensions of the Poelzig project, which was to extend over 160 metres. Inside the Hellbrunn park, the space will be staked and can be crossed on a marked axis. It will also be indicated in the neighbouring zoo. So-called “ushers” alongside the axis offer orientation, and individual areas, such as the stage or auditorium, will be conjured up before the visitor’s inner eye.

From the park lane, the building’s axis leads to the stage opening, where it crosses with the iron curtain. Its imprint corresponds with a massive pile of boards which is about 40 cm high and 24 metres long. This pile, located under a free-standing row of trees at the end of the park’s meadow, invites visitors to linger.

Visitors can take elements framing this “footprint” with them as souvenirs. On special occasions, selected gaps will be closed by replacing the survey poles, which measure about 1 m in height and are white-washed. Approximately 210 “takeaways” will be printed with fragments of the historical context of the projects, both texts and images, and one single letter: the letters from all the poles result in a project-specific quotation. In his speech before the Festival Theatre Association in Salzburg, Poelzig emphasized: “Whoever enters this Festival Theatre square must have time, he must forget all haste, and the design of the compound must force him to acquiesce to this forgetting and delving into seeing and listening alone, with all imaginable force.”

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Hellbrunn Mayr Flöckner Schnöll
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Werner Feiersinger

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.

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Marco Riebler
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