Salzburg Festival forges ahead with full program for 2021

The Salzburg Festival in Austria is forging ahead with a full program for 2021 after becoming one of the few classical music organizations to manage a limited program last summer.

The world's top summer festival, coming off its 100th anniversary last summer, said Thursday it will present Puccini's "Tosca" with soprano Anna Netrekbo, Mozart’s "Don Giovanni" with conductor Teodor Currentzis leading his MusicAeterna and Luigi Nono’s "Intolleranza," all postponed from the 100th anniversary festival last summer because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Additional operas include Handel's "Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Truth)," Morton Feldman's "Neither" and Berlioz's "La damnation de Faust."

Planning has been impacted by the pandemic, and while artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser hopes 100% of capacity can be sold, he cannot be certain.

"We have to be very cautious about how much and what we can do," he said.

Returning among the 200 scheduled performances are two stagings that did make appearances last summer: Mozart’s "Cosi fan Tutte," which was limited to about 1,000 of 2,300 seats in the Grosses Festspielhaus, and Richard Strauss’ "Elektra" in the Felsenreitschule, which held roughly 700. "Cosi," directed by Christof Loy, was put together in a few weeks and presented on a spare stage.

There also will be the traditional concert offerings, which will include Riccardo Muti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic of Beethoven's "Missa solemnis" and Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Britten's "War Requiem."

Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s "Jedermann (Everyman)," which opened the first festival in 1920, heads the plays.

Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler said a 2020 deficit was avoided with the assistance of an additional 2 million euros ($2.4 million) from the Austrian government.

It is too early to determine whether attendance patterns will revert to normal next summer.

"We are not sure if our very dear customers from Japan and so on will come," she said. "We do not know what the pandemic does at this time. We are optimistic because of the vaccine. And second, we do not know if people will want to spend money to travel. But people living in the neighbourhood, from Germany, Switzerland, northern Italy, they use the opportunity to get tickets, which they do not get if everybody comes."

Limits on seating caused a drop from 210 projected performances to 110 and attendance to fall from 230,000 to 70,000. While more money was gained from sponsors than originally envisioned and many customers declined refunds and chose to apply their money against future tickets, festival finances have become more strained.

"The difficult years will be from 2022 onwards, because we have nothing saved from the year before," she said.

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