Salzburg Festival: Taking up an idea promoted by the Stiftung Mozarteum (Mozarteum Foundation) at the end of the 19th century to regularly hold a Mozart Festival (W. A. Mozart) in Salzburg, F. Gehmacher and H. Damisch founded the society "Salzburger Festspielhaus-Gemeinde" (Festival Theatre Committee) in 1917, with the aim of raising the funds needed for the construction of a Festspielhaus (Festival Theatre). In the same year the director and theatre manager, M. Reinhardt, wrote a "Denkschrift zur Errichtung eines Festspielhauses in Hellbrunn" (memorandum on the establishment of a festival hall in Hellbrunn). After the performances of H. v. Hofmannsthal's "Jedermann" at the Domplatz in 1920, by which Reinhardt realised his idea of an open-air festival in Salzburg for the first time, the Salzburg Festival quickly gained international renown due to the contributions of stage designer A. Roller, composer R. Strauss and conductor F. Schalk, and in spite of the economic difficulties and uncertainties of the 1920s and in the absence of financial support by the state. After recurring financial difficulties, which were especially aggravated by the conversion of the court stables (dating from 1607) into a Festival Hall, the Salzburg Festival was guaranteed financial support by the city of Salzburg, the province of Salzburg and the Federal government.
Although M. Reinhardt directed performances of important plays ("Das Salzburger grosse Welttheater", "Ein treuer Diener seines Herrn", "Faust"), opera and concerts became even more important. In addition to works of Mozart, the Vienna classics and Italian opera buffa, contemporary music also became part of the Festival programme through the performance of operas of R. Strauss.
In the 1930s the musical repertory was expanded: an opera by R. Wagner ("Tristan und Isolde") was performed for the first time in 1933, an opera by G. Verdi ("Falstaff") in 1935. When the National Socialist Party came to power in Germany, the Salzburg Festival assumed an additional role side by side with its artistic and social significance: by recruiting artists persecuted by the Hitler regime, it played a significant role in the field of cultural policy.
However, this role was greatly reduced during the years 1938-1944. The majority of the artists who had played leading roles in the years before went into exile (M. Reinhardt, B. Walter, the directors L. Wallerstein and M. Wallmann), while others voluntarily refrained from performing under the new National Socialist regime (Hans Thimig, E. Kleiber, A. Toscanini). Nevertheless the organisers managed to keep the programmatic tradition of the Salzburg Festival alive with artists like C. Krauss, W. Furtwaengler and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
With the support of the US occupation force after 1945 the Salzburg Festival became once again a symbol of the cosmopolitan cultural identity of Austria. Under the influence of the post-war Board of Directors, which included the composer G. v. Einem and the stage director O. F. Schuh, the Salzburg Festival became as independent as it had been before the war (resumption of "Jedermann") and also increasingly included contemporary music and drama in its programme: between 1947 and 1961 an opera from the 20th century was performed almost every summer, many of them were world premieres or first performances in the German speaking countries. In the 1960s contemporary music became very important, especially with international ballet guest performances. After the death of W. Furtwaengler, an internationally famous conductor who was a permanent guest at the Salzburg Festival in the years after the Second World War, H. v. Karajan, who was born in Salzburg, became art director (1956-1960); then, from 1964-1988, a member of the Board of Directors of the Salzburg Festival. He had a strong influence on the opera and concert programme, on the reconstruction of the Grosse Festspielhaus (opened in 1960), and on the selection of the conductors, singers, directors and stage designers; he impressed his stamp on the Salzburg Festival for more than 30 years: an international audience saw performances reaching the highest musical standards with the best artists especially chosen for specific roles. In addition to the Salzburg Festival, Karajan established the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1967, a privately run festival originally dominated by the works of R. Wagner, but later co-operating closely with the Salzburg Festival. After Karajan's death in 1989 Sir G. Solti continued the Easter Performances, while C. Abbado has been in charge since 1994.
Even after 1945, drama continued to play a subordinate role in the Festival, although the performances of "Jedermann" at the Domplatz with Austrian film stars like C. Juergens, M. Schell and K. M. Brandauer in the leading role are still among the most popular performances of the Festival. Along with the principal works of world literature and dramas by Austrian playwrights, premieres of plays by T. Bernhard and P. Handke were staged in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1950 a festival fund was established by law; the deficits were covered by the Federal government (40 %) and by the city and the province of Salzburg (20 % each), as well as the Fremdenverkehrsfoerderungsfonds (Tourism Promotion Fund). In deliberate contrast to the Karajan era, the new Board of Directors has opted for staging more works of the 20th century (appointment of G. Mortier as artistic director) and seeks to promote modern trends by engaging innovative directors and stage designers. The number of events rose from 85 to 197 between 1977 and 1998, the number of visitors from 147,000 to 238,000; over the same period, the box office takings increased from ATS 71 million to ATS 294 million, which makes the Salzburg Festival the biggest music and theatre festival in the world. In 1999, 72 % of the operating costs was met by the Festival organisation itself (e.g. by contracts with sponsors). The Salzburg Festival is considered one of the largest music and theatre festivals worldwide.
Literature#J. Kaut, Die Salzburger Festspiele 1920-81, 1982; S. Gallup, A History of the Salzburg Festival, 1987; M. P. Steinberg, The Meaning of the Salzburg Festival. Austria as Theatre and Ideology 1890-1938, 1990; E. Fuhrich and G. Prossnitz, Die Salzburger Festspiele Ihre Geschichte in Daten, Zeitzeugnissen und Bildern, Vol. 1: 1920-1945, 1990; Vol. 3: Verzeichnis der Werke und Kuenstler 1920-1990, 1991.