Breaking: Salzburg confirms a severely reduced festival

Breaking: Salzburg confirms a severely reduced festival


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2020

It has just been announced that the 2020 Salzburg Festival will take place from 1 to 30 August, in a modified, shortened format due to coronavirus containment measures. There will be 90 performances, mostly small-scale, over 30 days.

No details have been given. Opera is unlikely.

Markus Hinterhäuser, the artistic director of the music festival said: ‘It pains me to be forced to cancel so many artists’ appearances for
this year, as we had developed special programme constellations with many of them. Still, I am glad to have the opportunity to send a vibrant and powerful signal for the arts with this new Festival programme.’ You can read the full press release below. It says very little at all and appears to have been issued to settle internal political conflicts in the Austrian Government. The Salzburg governor reprtedly threatened to withdrawn his party from the coalition if he could not have a festival.

The 2020 Salzburg Festival will take place from 1 to 30 August, but in a modified and shortened form, due to coronavirus containment measures.

This decision was made by the Salzburg Festival’s Supervisory Board in its special meeting on Monday afternoon.

The Festival directorate of Helga Rabl-Stadler, Markus Hinterhäuser and Lukas Crepaz as well as Bettina Hering, director of drama, and Florian Wiegand, director of concerts, presented a draft programme covering 30 days as well as the outline of a security concept for all performance venues.

Half an hour before the meeting of the Supervisory Board, Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober and Undersecretary of State for Culture Andrea Mayer presented the decree determining important parameters for all presenters in Austria. This gives the Salzburg Festival concrete indications of how to proceed.

Landeshauptmann Wilfried Haslauer commented: “It is a great relief that this decree has provided greater clarity for all presenters of cultural events. This enables us to present the Festival, which is the artistic and economic motor of our region, after all. Fortunately, it also gives the many smaller initiatives which constitute the cultural diversity of our State a chance.”

The decree and the decision of the Supervisory Board have enabled the Festival directorate to announce the decision on the presentation of the Festival, originally scheduled for 30 May, at this earlier point in time.

The summer of 2020 will not see the implementation of the centenary programme announced with such joy and received with such empathy by the audience throughout the world this past autumn. However, it will be possible to implement a programme which is artistically meaningful and economically justifiable. Instead of 200 events over 44 days at 16 performance venues, there will be approximately 90 performances over 30 days at a maximum of 6 venues.

All the productions of the anniversary programme which cannot be shown in 2020 will be postponed to 2021. The centenary programme is to begin with the opening of the State Exhibition at the end of July 2020 and end with the closing of the Festival on 31 August 2021.

Of course, the centenary of the founding play Jedermann will be celebrated on 22 August 2020. The details of the modified programme will be presented by Artistic Director Markus Hinterhäuser at the beginning of June.

After the cancellation of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival and the refunding this necessitated, the Ticket Office of the Festival now faces an even greater challenge. At the beginning of this year, the Festival was proud to celebrate a new record in ticket sales. 180,000 tickets with a total value of 24.5 million Euros have already been sold.

The modified programme will feature completely different dates and a significantly reduced number of performances, which now forces the Festival to reverse and refund its entire ticket sales. When assigning new tickets, those in possession of tickets for the original programme will have priority. All customers will be informed personally and in detail on the procedure during the coming days.

Markus Hinterhäuser: “It pains me to be forced to cancel so many artists’ appearances for this year, as we had developed special programme constellations with many of them. Still, I am glad to have the opportunity to send a vibrant and powerful signal for the arts with this new Festival programme.”


  • Brian L says:

    Way to soon to allow this to happen… 90 performances in 30 days? Is everybody mad out there in the mountains?
    Although I understand the frustration and the difficulty in which many artists and many people are today, the chance that something even worse will follow will be now increasing for sure.
    The virus is real and has made many victims, especially to those countries saying it is not a threat and not acting when they should have (like the UK, USA or Italy…)
    Austria managed to deal incredibly well overall, due to the measures they took… but now they seem not to care about the victims they will most probably have on their conscience. Who will be responsible for all these victims?
    Opera audiences are mostly old (over 60-65-70 years old), the average age at the Salzburg Festival might be even higher… why risk it?
    If smaller and less financially supported Festivals made the right decision to cancel, why can’t they?
    Also… I am sure they have cancelled category B and C and D artists (who are now struggling the most) and kept their A singers (who are not struggling) – and this for audiences of a couple of hundred people… shameful really!

    • Olassus says:

      Salzburg is not in the mountains.

      • Olassus says:

        It is built on a peat bog several kilometers wide and is flat except for two famous hills in the middle of town. Its elevation is 400 meters, or about 100 m *below* Munich, which is also flat. It is of course near the mountains. Verbier and Aspen are “in the mountains,” but not Salzburg.

      • Gus says:

        Close enough.

        Have you never seen “The Sound of Music — Climb every mountain…..”?

    • Tamino says:

      Please keep your hysteria to yourself. Countries like Austria and Germany have taken serious measures, and they can’t even show any excess mortality there. The mortality statistics in Germany or Austria are like nothing really is happening.
      So while everyone is cautious, a certain reconnection with reality is certainly the sense of the day.
      Enough with the madness, even though understandable, considering there were some hotspots of actual virus mayhem, like some parts of Lombardia or New York.
      Meanwhile in Germany and Austria cancer patients and scheduled organ transplant receivers are dying, who’s operations were postponed, because hospitals had orders to postpone all operations and reserve ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
      Enough with the madness. We need some normality.
      All the best to the Salzburger Festspiele.

      • George says:


      • Xeum11 says:

        To boot, people that age are perhaps old enough to decide what’s best for themselves, having had 2 months of relentless focus on only Covid as a health issue for the past three months.

    • Get a Grip on Reality says:

      Your hysteria is why the performing arts world is nearing collapse. If the world follows your advice then it should do the same with the flu and other diseases. Austria has dealt with Covid-19 well and can do whatever it wants for its people. The UK and USA, among others, are destroying their performing arts institutions and worse yet the institutions themselves are allowing themselves to be destroyed. Salzburg is leading the way but first follows the government. The fact that the government is being sensible allows the Salzburg Festival to create a festival.

      What is lacking in the world is creativity and we should all say “hats off” to the Austrians for trying something. The artists and people attending will know the risks just as they risk walking out of their front doors every day.

      The world existed before Covid-19 and will afterwards. The questions is what world will exist when the hysteria dies down? I’ll take the Austrian world.

    • RagnarDanneskjoeld says:

      May I assume you are a D artist yourself?
      As for responsibility: if you don’t want to go to Salzburg, then just don’t.

  • MezzoLover says:

    “The Salzburg governor reportedly threatened to withdrawn his party from the coalition if he could not have a festival.”

    Sounds cynical, but sadly it is totally conceivable.

    Wilfried Haslauer’s ÖVP had to form a coalition government with the Greens and NEOS after failing to win a majority of the 36 Landtag seats in the 2018 state election. its withdrawal from that coalition, with the traditional centre-left SPÖ steadily losing support and the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) still in disarray after the so-called Ibiza affair, will spell political disaster not only for the state of Salzburg, but at the national level.

    So it’s money and power trumping everything else, after all.

    • erich says:

      absolutely right. Haslauer is one of the most mendacious and self-seeking politicians in Austria and is only desperate not to lose the voters amongst the hoteliers and restaurateurs – and to hell with the danger to the public. I would love to know how they will manage the nuts and bolts of getting the public in and out of the venues, not to mention the sanitary arrangements. And will they be operating ‘track and trace’ if it is discovered that someone attending a performance has been infected? It’s too early and they will probably live to regret it.

  • It’s the power which seduces. says:


  • Xeum11 says:

    I wish I had reread my previous comment but in spite of the silly repetition I think everyone got my meaning 😉