To Timeline
Show all


With the opening of the Large Festival Hall, the year 1960 marked a milestone in the history of the Salzburg Festival. It was inaugurated on 26 July as a third venue in the Festival District with an official ceremony and a new production of Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier/The Knight of the Rose conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Ever since, the auditorium has been able to seat around 2,200 people. The stage with its portal width of 30 and total width of 100 metres was unparalleled in dimensions at the time.

The Large Festival Hall was planned mainly for performances of the great 19th-­century works of the operatic literature. Here, in the 1960s, Karajan performed Verdi’s Il ­trovatore (1962), Strauss’s Elektra (1964), Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (1965), but also Bizet’s Carmen (1966). In 1968, he ventured for the first time on a Mozart opera – Don Giovanni – in the Large Festival Hall.

The idea of a Large Festival Hall in place of the former archiepiscopal court stables first occurred as early as 1953; it was the brainchild of the architect Clemens Holzmeister together with the stage director Herbert Graf. At Holzmeister’s side Herbert von Karajan also contributed to the building’s concept. Between autumn 1956 and early summer 1960, the theatre building with the huge stage had been incorporated between the centuries-old façade of the court stables and the Mönchsberg. To make room, 55,000 cubic metres of rock had to be detonated. The building was mainly financed out of the Federal Government budget, which is why the Republic of Austria is the owner of the Large Festival Hall.

The other two venues were likewise adapted and extended in the 1960s. Already in 1960, Bernhard Paumgartner was lamenting the lack of an intimate theatre for Mozart in the Festival District, hence the ‘old’ Festival Hall was remodelled and re­opened in 1963 as the Small Festival Hall. In 1969/70, the Felsenreitschule/Summer Riding School was equipped with understage, orchestra pit, audience stands and weatherproof rolling roof.

In 1960, Heinrich Baron Puthon retired from his office as Festival President; Paumgartner was his successor. The new man in charge of the drama department was the Artistic Director of the Burgtheater, Ernst Haeusserman. Even though Karajan no longer held the function of sole Artistic Director and became a member of the Board of Directors in 1964, all major decisions were still made by him. With three fully functioning venues and a changed top management team, the Salzburg Festival started into the new decade. It did not seem to be affected by the already perceptible shock waves of social upheaval. However, concurrently with the student and civic protests following the 1968 movement, a youth initiative started in Salzburg as well: the Salzburg ‘Scene’.