Hot story: Salzburg bans fans

Hot story: Salzburg bans fans


norman lebrecht

August 07, 2020

The Salzburg Festival has prohibted the use of fans during performances, despite soaring temperatures.

“This would allow infectious aerosols, which should be sucked upwards into the air conditioning system, to circulate laterally, which we absolutely must avoid,’ an official said.

Audiences are reminded to put their masks back on during the applause.

That’s not cool.



  • CA says:

    The whole situation is just out of control anymore. It seems there will never be anything like normal performances ever again. It is just beyond pathetic for this industry.

    • Nik says:

      What is your point exactly?

    • Maria says:

      As a singer, I am quite prepared no such thing as normal in any country will happen for many years I suspect! I also have resigned myself to doing something else in life than sing and teach singing, and let others get on with it all who have the will to battle with all this stuff. Not sure fans are part of the old normal but they are certainly stupid and distracting, as people who wave their programmes, for anyone else in the audience and for those on stage or performing, as are mobile phones, and the whole experience – now being branded as the ‘new normal’ – is really only for the die-hards of opera – in this case, Salzburg. Will get even worse when the winter comes and people have the flu or bad colds. I hope we don’t get to this level of experience in Britain with masks on for applause and masks off for the rest, and no drinking at the bar, but some kind of logic and control that makes sense to the general public, and a bit less selfishness.

  • Gustavo says:

    Great one!

    Luckily the story is about ventilators and not the local fan club.

    Need to cool down now.

  • Derek says:

    The Mass in C minor by the Mozarteum Orchestra last night seemed to be very “normal” with chorus and orchestra close together as is usual.

    The same applied in Elektra days before with a large orchestra in the pit and singers in full voice whilst close together.

    It was encouraging to see, and I assume that testing and other precautions were taken.

  • Gustavo says:

    This will hopefully also stop people from using their programmes as fans which can be very disturbing and strongly signals lack of interest and self-control. The same is true for ladies searching their handbags for cough sweets while their bracelets chime.

    • Tamino says:

      Are we seeing a new shaming culture for causing horizontal air flows on the rise?
      Looking forward to the first litigation law suits in the US about damages from horizontal air flows.
      How hard is still legal?

  • Mvarc says:

    What’s unforgivable when people flutter fans, programmes, bits of paper or tickets in a pointless attempt to cool down is their utter selfishness, not caring that they are distracting others. They seem to think they’re at a bullfight in Spain!

    They’re the same people who lean forward to their seats not knowing – usually not caring! – that they’re obstructing they view of people behind them.

    Years ago in Pesaro I remember Marilyn Horne actually stopping a performance (it may have been a dress rehearsal) and asked people not to use fans as she found it very distracting.

    Two years ago at Bayreuth I twice had to ask neighbours to stop using their fans – both agreed: one (a man) next to me was very annoyed at my request, but the other (a young lady) directly in front of me, who had used her fan continuously during the first act, was very apologetic and stopped using it for the rest of the show. The lack of thought and respect for others is a sign of our times. Not so many years ago no one at Bayreuth would have dreamed of taking a fan out during a performance!

    • Gustavo says:

      And then of course there is the “muted” smart phone scrolling issue.

      It is also not acceptable when people start thumbing through and reading the programme during the performance.

      I think Europe has much to learn from Japan regarding concert manners.

  • José Bergher says:

    In the event “Salome” is performed, it would be advisable to cover with a mask the mouth and nose of Jochanaan’s kopf.

  • phf655 says:

    The problem isn’t with the audience members, it is with the facilities. As a resident of the USA, I am always astonished at the sauna-like conditions that are tolerated by audiences in Europe during the summer months. There are major venues such as the Staatsoper in Vienna and Munich, the Prinzregententheater in Munich, and the Bayreuth Festsipielhaus, which are used into the warm months and have no air-conditioning. Sometimes I wonder if these venues have any ability to circulate air artificially. Others such as the Grosses Festspiehaus in Salzburg and the Grosser Musikvereinsaal in Vienna are equipped with air-conditioning but the facilities managers don’t seem to know how to set the temperature. They forget that a theater is a lot warmer at the end of a performance than at the beginning because of the strong stage lighting and – pardon the expression – the presence of many bodies seated in close proximity.
    With the advent of climate change, and hot spells – such as the one going on now in Central Europe – there needs to be change in this area. On many occasions I have seen people passing out from the heat during performances – once the victim I saw was a chorus member.

    • Henry williams says:

      About time the venues have air conditioning. The Albert hall is the worse.

      • V. Lind says:

        Goodness me. Could it be…climate change? Until a few years ago I marvelled when back in the UK at food items that were stored in pantries rather than in fridges, as they would be over here, and to no deleterious effect. Rather the opposite, in fact. Not as true these days.

      • Brian says:

        Exactly. It always seems strange that given Austria’s wealth, theaters (and even some hotels) there don’t have air conditioning.

        More troubling though are the number of photos of I’ve seen of audience members strolling about without face masks on. Given the age of most classical music audiences, probably best not to tempt fate.

      • Bill says:

        The worst.

    • Lausitzer says:

      Bayreuth: There is a ventilation system which is not to be used during performances, if I recall correct because it is too noisy. And it is just that, a set of blowers, sucking in air from outdoors as it is. So on a hot day with, let’s say, 33 °C the temperature inside will initially be 33 °C and climb while the performance goes on. For other purposes such a venue would nowadays be considered unusable during midsummer.

    • SVM says:

      Funnily enough, most of us Europeans are perfectly able to cope without air conditioning in every room of every building. Even where an auditorium has air conditioning, it cannot run it on full power during a performance, because the noise of the air conditioning would constitute an unacceptable distraction. Also, air conditioning is a real guzzler of electricity, and thus is not good for the environment.

    • Tamino says:

      Major problem with retrofitting air condition into older building is noise. It‘s not acceptable to have any noise for classical music performances that have to allow a good pianissimo.
      Modern systems that are practically noise free are always decentralized systems with in sum very high surface areas for outlets, allowing slow air speeds and in consequence low noise. Typically those are in each seat.
      A very challenging or impossible undertaking for older venues.
      I rather sweat a little instead of „enjoying“ air conditioning that drowns out the pianissimo.

    • Edgar says:

      There are exceptions: the small stage of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, where a very effective system is in place, with vents allowing a gentle cooling air flow going up from the back of the seats. I attended performances there, in 1992-94. The system was put in place before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, i.e. under Communist Rule in what was, until 1989, still East Berlin. The same goes for Dresden’s Semperoper, which re-opened after extensive restoration in 1985.

      It would be a great site for opera house and concert hall directors to visit these houses and check out how they could install something similar in their venues.

      Except Bayreuth, because “in Bayreuth ist alles anders” (Christian Thielemann). There one risks to be carried away on a stretcher, or, worse, like Titurel, in a coffin.

  • SVM says:

    Fans should never be used during a performance, unless as a prop for an opera singer acting in character on stage. A little discomfort from the heat is a price worth paying for a performance free of the visual and noise distraction of fans.

  • Edgar says:

    In 1977, Karajan had all air conditioning shut off as soon as he entered the pit to conduct “Don Carlos”, because he found its noise disturbing. I did not attend, but happened to be outside the Grosses Festpielhaus (after having been lucky to get a last minute ticket for the young Krystian Zimerman’s Chopin recital in the Kleines Festpielhaus)to witness the audience come out drenched in perspiration. As it happened, a couple I knew told me later that they left as quickly as possible to their hotel outside town and cooled off in its outside swimming pool. Which is to say things can get quite hot in Salzburg, even without COVID-19…

  • Medi says:

    Everything works very well at Salzburg Festival, wonderful performances, great public, everybody happy and behaves. And we do NOT want more air condition – an ice box like the MET…