Austria, reopening mid-May, could save Salzburg Festival

Austria, reopening mid-May, could save Salzburg Festival


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2020

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has just announced a series of phased measures to resume normality.

Small shops will be allowed to reopen from April 14.

Hairdressers may resume from May 1.

Restaurants and cafés are being scheduled for mid-May.

Kurz, who has been praised for keeping Covid-19 cases down to 12,000 cases by rigid isolation, is now under pressure from the hospitality industry to save their summer peak.

He’s taking a calculated, phased risk.



  • erich says:

    It would be Absolutely irresponsible. Would they really expect the public – and nota bene a goodly number who fly in and out and are not the youngest – to be herded together in halls which would be breeding grounds for the virus? Bayreuth took the right decision. I suspect the Salzburger’s are waiting for the authorities to cancel – like Easter – so that they don’t have to reimburse the tickets.

    • Tamino says:

      You seem to overreact.
      As soon as the hospitals realistically can cope with the situation, society MUST open up. Otherwise the damages far outweigh the benefits.
      Maybe very old people should stay home a bit longer.

      • Monsoon says:

        Have you been paying attention to what’s been happening?

        COVID-19 is extremely contagious — that’s why everything is closed and only a handful of people are allowed into a supermarket at a time. As soon as we start allowing large public gatherings before there is a vaccine, infection rates will quickly spike and we’ll be right back to where we are.

        And the consequences aren’t sick people, but dead people.

        • Mick the Knife says:

          Look at Austria’s numbers. They appear to be over it, for the most part.

        • Tamino says:

          I have been paying better attention than you apparently. You seem to know more than all experts. Please contact the authorities and share your knowledge.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Monsoon. We will definitely not wait for a vaccine before reopening. At best a vaccine will likely take 18 months, and there is no guarantee that we will have one for considerably longer. Ultimately, we are going to have to live with the virus.

          Yes, infection rates will increase when we start opening up. But so long as the increase is manageable we will accept it. The aim will be to have enough people that have had it and consequently recovered, that the virus won’t spread rapidly and uncontrollably and overwhelm the health care system.

    • Julien says:

      Tickets for the Easter festival have of course been refunded, you are writing nonsense.
      As for the summer festival, I very much hope that the situation will be good enough to allow it to be maintained. Nobody can know that yet.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Opening up will be taken in stages. It may take longer for international travel to recover than anything else.

    • david hilton says:

      There is no difference whether the authorities order Salzburg to cancel or whether they decide to do so themselves. In BOTH cases they have to reimburse tickets purchased for performances they do not mount. When you book an opera ticket there, or anywhere, you do not accept the risk that if the show does not go on you might not be able to be reimbursed. This isn’t airplane travel. There is no “force majeure” provision making operagoers liable to foot the bill for cancelled performances. Opera goers would not purchase tickets if that kind of risk of non-fulfillment came with the purchase. I had tickets to La Fenice last November when the floods caused the closure of the theatre and the cancellation of many performances. My reimbursement showed up in my credit card statement in a matter of days. It will be the same for Salzburg tickets, if they have to cancel, whether or not the government orders the closure.

  • Aus Wien says:

    It may save the Salzburger Festspiele, but it won’t save all the concert halls and opera houses that will have to remain closed until the end of June, until the end of the season. No Muti at the Staatsoper for a new Cosi, no Beethoven cycle for Nelsons and the Philharmoniker, no sonata cycle for Barenboim at the Musikverein. Tremendous loses- both artistically and financially.

  • Gustavo says:

    Absolutely right not to lose your sense of proportion within a human population that has become increasingly older over the last decades thanks to medical (artificial) progress.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      And not forgetting a large younger cohort of smokers and substance-abusers.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Fewer and fewer young people smoke (or drink, for that matter). The older cohort did more of both, and still do.

    • psq says:

      Yes, what a pity that there had not been World Wars in the last 100 years or more that could have had a large segment of the population slaughtered so that there would not have been so many that could grow old. Let’s bring back the WWs! This sense of proportion is completely skewered by these non-events. While we are at it, let’s damn the medical progress and public hygiene that have enabled life expectancy to improve from below 40 to above 80.

  • Guillermo Garcia Calvo says:

    “Veranstaltungen werden bis Ende Juni nicht mehr stattfinden dürfen.”

    All performances until end of Juni are cancelled.

  • Kman says:

    Upcoming headline: Austria receives second wave of COVID-19

    • Saxon Broken says:

      This is the problem for any country that has restricted the number of COVID-19 cases to a low number. If they don’t seal the border completely North Korea style, then people from elsewhere will just bring the virus into the country.

      Ultimately, the solution will end up being enough people are immune so that the virus can’t spread. Immunity will either come from: (a) a vaccine; (b) large number of people having had it and recovered. Unfortunately, a vaccine is a long way off.

  • John Holmes says:

    ==no sonata cycle for Barenboim at the Musikverein.

    So, it’s not all bad then

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Yes, one of the upsides is that we are spared an entire year of wall-to-wall Beethoven (much as I adore his music).

  • Brian says:

    Purely speculating, but would they really try to fill the 2000-seat Grosses Festspielhaus with international visitors this summer? I can’t see it. Maybe an outdoor concert venue with well-spaced seats and small ensembles, if properly planned.

    But you’re still talking about a crowded city center full of narrow streets and busy restaurants and beer gardens. We’ll see.

    • Hornbill says:

      It might be that they have already sold a lot of those seats. Whether the audience will turn up is another matter. And those who choose not to go would then get into the messy business of refunds (or not) on returned tickets, admin charges and so on.

  • Mind the Gap says:

    No mention of what Bartoli intends to do to save the festival?

  • Festival Goer says:

    This is not going to happen. These major festivals depend on patrons coming from abroad, not just the European Union. Because countries’ outbreaks of the virus are happening at different times, there will probably be travel restrictions into the summer.

    Even if the restrictions end just before the festival and nationalities not requiring a visa could travel immediately, nationalities like Russians who require a visa would probably not get those visas in time. (Consulates are also expected to have an enormous backlog of applications once borders open again, so waits for visas will be even longer.)

    • Hornbill says:

      They’ve already sold quite a lot of tickets to patrons, subscribers and the like. According to the festival website some performances are sold out already. Of course if the festival goes ahead people who’ve bought tickets might be unwilling or unable to attend, in which case they will get into negotiating refunds, insurance claims and so on.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I find it unlikely that international travel will have returned to normal in the time frame, allowing the Salzburg Festival to go ahead as planned.

      The London Proms is more viable because they could do it with London orchestras and London concert goers. It would also be easier to restrict the number of tickets on sale, should they want to.

  • Michael Wilkinson says:

    News has not quite filtered through to the State Opera website, which as at 16.40 U.K. time on 6th April is still offering tickets from 14th April for all performances. Of course, making the necessary correction is likely to be slower when staff are trying to work from home, so they can be forgiven.

  • Corona in Wien says:

    Kurz very clearly stated in the press conference that all events are cancelled at least until end of June, potentially longer. Also he mentioned that free travel will only fully resume once a vaccine is available (which will be next year according to most doctors). Also we will start to wear masks whenever out in public.

    Official event cancellations have been coming in since the press conference this morning including Wiener Festwochen and Nova Rock. Salzburg sure is going to follow.

    There is no way we are going back to fully normal after having endured so much during the lock down. We will have measures in place for social distancing for a long time and we will be lucky if season 20/21 can start somehow in September. But fully packed concert halls? no way… probably with lots of empty seats in between patrons and face masks being worn…

    • Saxon Broken says:

      There is *no guarantee* that a vaccine will be available next year. That is the earliest we could realistically have a vaccine, but it might take a lot longer.

  • V.Lind says:

    The whole thing is a farce. This is far from over.

  • Dejan says:

    Volksoper Wien website reflects the decision of the Austrian government, cancels the rest of the season. A bit strange that the Wiener Staatsoper is so slow.

  • Dalledu Alletre says:

    The top Chinese virus official has insisted today that only the tightest control works, and China has past experience from SARS and other outbreaks when less-tight measures didn’t work. So I’m not sure I have the highest confidence in the Austrian chancellor’s approach to this.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Its too late for that. The virus has escaped out into the world and will swirl around forever now. Even if Europe and North America manage to eliminate it, the virus will get reimported from some other part of the world through international trade and travel.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Not very wise.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The problem for Austrians (and many Europeans) is that their rates of smoking have seriously compromised the national health and this is becoming evident through Coronovirus victims. Now the British PM, a former smoker, is in intensive care.

    Give up the smoking; it’s a ticking time bomb.

    • V.Lind says:

      And thank you, Doctor Sue. What is it like to live in a world entirely circumscribed by your ideological preferences? Toxic?

    • Bviolinistic says:

      Of the six people I personally know who have contracted the virus, none are smokers. I really don’t think it’s relevant.

      • Nik says:

        Of course, anyone can contract the virus. The question is what are the risk factors that cause some people to develop critical symptoms and others only a light illness.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Smoking is a risk factor, but only one of them. Its a good idea to give up, but not being a smoker won’t miraculously save you from the virus.

          • Nik says:

            Giving up now will not make any difference. It takes ten years for the damage from smoking to heal.

  • Pedro says:

    They can cancel the Summer Festival up to May 31, as rehearsals must begin the next day. I have tickets for three operas and six concerts and it would be a good sign that all the performances of the 100th Festival could take place. I’m not willing to go, though, if the Coronavirus is still active in Austria and around the world as performers and attendees are expected from everywhere and contamination would be easy in those conditions.

    • Hornbill says:

      So if the festival goes ahead but you’re not willing to go what will you do? Offer your tickets for a refund which you will probably only get if the Box Office can sell them to soneone else? How likely is that?

      • Pedro says:

        I am quite sure the box office will deal properly with the problem as they always did in the last 41 years ( I first went to Salzburg in August 1978. ) Anyway, It’s better to loose some money than to loose your health. That said, it would be a pity to go away from D.Giovanni, Elektra, Don Pasquale, Muti, Barenboim, Levit, Argerich, Thielemann and Garanča.

  • Michael Wilkinson says:

    Another day (7th April), and still no change on the Staatsoper website.