The Salzburg Festival of Music and Drama has firmly established itself as one of the most prestigious annual world musical events. Originally established in 1877 but then completely revitalised after World War I by such luminaries as Richard Strauss and Max Reinhardt, this mammoth 5 weeks festival has become, for many, the highlight of the summer.
As the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg has always naturally focussed on the great composer’s works but the Festival itself takes great pride from its dedicated commitment to our entire classical heritage. Consequently, each summer – from the end of July and continuing throughout August – about 170 different performances take place in front of about a quarter of a million spectators. The area at the foot of the Mönchsberg district – a hilly, wooded area covered by a picturesque park with great panoramic views over the city – becomes Festival District for the whole of the five weeks, housing some highly impressive venues.
The imposing, 2177 seat Festival Hall, inaugurated by von Karajan in 1960, is the location of many operas and headline concerts. The House for Mozart, part of the Festival Hall complex, seats almost 1500 and was opened as recently as 2006. The open-air Rocky Riding School (Felsenreitschule) is by far the oldest theatre used by the Festival. Constructed more than 300 years ago, and with a superb 700 square metre fresco in the foyer, and seating more than 1500 people, the Riding School is a breathtaking place to be enthralled by quality operatic or theatrical performances.
As well as these main venues, the wonderful setting of Cathedral Square is frequently adopted by the Festival – especially for the famous and traditional ‘Everyman’ performances. The Landestheater, the Large Hall of the Mozarteum and the University Church also host various productions.
The traditional Salzburg Festival has in recent years been joined by its ‘young cousin’, the Salzburg Whitsun Festival (Pfingstfestspiele) which offers music lovers a long weekend of both operas and works taken from the baroque orchestral repertoire.
Salzburg is a wonderfully preserved city, with internationally recognised baroque architecture at its heart, but also, having three universities, it has a lively, exciting atmosphere of its own. It certainly is a wonderful setting to host such an esteemed event as the Salzburg Festival of Music and Drama.
The city is also, perhaps a little belatedly and reluctantly, beginning to market its connections with the von Trapp family and film of The Sound of Music and there are opportunities to take tours of locations used.
Flying to Salzburg has become more common during recent years because low cost airlines such as easyJet, RyanAir, Jet2.com all now have scheduled flights to the modern W.A.Mozart Airport, which is connected directly to the city centre by, amongst other things, the line 2 trolleybus. As well as being accessible by plane, there are extremely good rail connections with the city and, once you have arrived, there is a splendid bus and trolleybus system to get you around.
In the city itself, there are many fine hotels – there is a Best Western opposite the Mirabell Palace and a Radisson as well as some wonderful old hotels in and around the centre. There are also many smaller hostels as well as four good camp sites around the city. Information about all of these can be taken from the Salzburg Tourist Board website.
There is an official Salzburg Festival website where you can receive all the latest details about the performances scheduled for the next Festival. Those wishing to purchase tickets are advised to make their applications before the January of the year in which they wish to attend – precise details are given on the site – and there are various subscription possibilities available.