Cultural summer in Austria: special live moments – culture

The tenor Jonas Kaufmann has probably never been cheered and applauded so frenetically because it failed to hit a high note. “You can see that it is live. It just happens in real life,” the singer explained his mistake. Yes, real and live cultural events like this evening with Viennese songs in the “Theater im Park” were possible again this summer. And because of the experience of the pandemic, combined with the feeling that this is something special. Moments of happiness!

It is only thanks to the coronavirus that in this previously closed piece of garden in the lee of Belvedere Palace you can listen to artists under huge trees, such as Campino, who does a funny mixture of reading, live football commentary and Toten-Hosen-Songs to the best, and actors like the Monty Python known John Cleese. Even in the first summer of the pandemic, cabaret artist Michael Niavarani and the bustling cabaret organizer Georg Hoanzl stomped the open-air stage out of the ground to give cabaret artists a chance to perform at all – in the open air.

And the east of Austria was blessed with a lot of sunshine this year – very different from the west and Bavaria too. Other outdoor stages also benefited from this, such as the Wolkenturm in Grafenegg, Lower Austria, where the Munich Philharmonic will be guests this weekend.

The “Jedermann” as a lifelong dream that came true

The Südbahnhotel, which is otherwise closed and has not been used for years, is also only open for the Semmering cultural summer. The visitors immerse themselves in a world in which time seems to have stood still. The Südbahnhotel is a former grand hotel on the Semmering Pass that has existed since 1882, which, like other hotels there, is waiting for one of the investors to revive it – as SZ correspondent Cathrin Kahlweit in described her page-three report “Stilles Örtchen” (SZ Plus). The doors of the hotel only open for a short time in summer, when Corinna Harfouch as Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Elektra” is carried away with morbid charm and Cornelius Obonya lets Stefan Zweig’s “Schachnovelle” experience anew with his bewitching voice.

Obonya played “Jedermann” in Salzburg for four summers from 2013 to 2016. A role in the play by Hofmannsthal, which he says has “an enormous status history” in the entire German-speaking area. For Lars Eidinger, too, “a lifelong dream came true”. (Read here with SZ Plus the story “Fits eh” about how this year’s Jedermann deals with the traditional costume cult in Salzburg.)

And maybe he even benefited from the fact that this year, due to the frequent rain, ten of the 14 performances, as usual, took place not on Domplatz but in the Great Festival Hall. Because there the stage berserk could really develop. It is good that at least Lars Eidinger will stay with the Salzburg Festival next year if Helga Rabl-Stadler disappears as president after 26 years (read the portrait here with SZ Plus “The art of being there for everyone”). Who will next year, instead of Rabl-Stadler, admonish the visitors with their own caring severity before each performance, just to turn off the cell phone and to adhere to the corona distance rules?

Compared to Bayreuth, Chancellor Merkel has some catching up to do in Salzburg

Maybe they won’t even be necessary anymore. In Salzburg you sat next to each other as always – albeit with an FFP2 mask – while in Bayreuth, where there was a break at all last year due to Corona, only every second place was allowed to be occupied.

Because of the masks, the boos and hurrays could be heard a little more muffled. They held each other in balance at the last of the three performances of the concert “Walküre”, which Hermann Nitsch accompanied with his action art. Live and real the colors flowed to the tones, not all music critics were enthusiastic. But it was again one of those touching moments when the 83 year old Nitsch, supported by “Wotan” Tomasz Konieczny, stepped onto the stage at the end.

The question discussed every summer among those interested in culture, Salzburg or Bayreuth, was clearly answered by Nitsch in the SZ: “The Salzburg Festival is a profane dilution. Bayreuth is more religious.”

Angela Merkel is also a convinced “Wagnerian”, as 19 visits to the Green Hill since 2000 prove. On Tuesday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz paid the German Chancellor a farewell visit – and also brought a gift. In Berlin he gave her a season ticket for the Salzburg Festival. Compared to Bayreuth, the Chancellor has to catch up: she only attended performances on the Salzach 13 times in the same period.

Under what conditions will the next cultural summer take place? Will this feeling of specialness, will these moments of happiness, to be able to experience something real and live, last?

This column will also appear in September 3, 2021 Austria newsletterwhich bundles the SZ’s reporting on Austria. Register here for free.


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