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Salzburg Festival will go on this year but in shortened form


The Salzburg Festival will be one of classical music’s few offerings in the summer of the coronavirus pandemic, staging a reduced 100th anniversary celebration with capacities limited to about 50%.

Europe’s top festival announced Tuesday it will present 90 performances, down from 212 originally intended.

Venues will be cut from 16 to seven and intermissions eliminated to reduce audience interaction. The only operas will be a Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” in the Grosses Festspielhaus, limited to about 1,000 of its 2,300 seats, and Richard Strauss’ “Elektra” in the Felsenreitschule, which will hold roughly 700.

Originally set to run from July 18 to Aug. 30, the festival will now start Aug. 1. Nearly every other major summer festival in Europe and the U.S. has been cancelled.

“It would have been much easier not to play, but we were founded as a sign of hope so we want to play,” festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler said in a telephone interview.

The festival had sold 180,000 of 230,000 tickets to people in 80 nations but now is limiting seats to about 70,000. Only those who already bought tickets can still attend and there will be a limit of two per person. Names of purchasers will be printed on tickets and records kept to enable contact tracing.

There are two active cases of COVID-19 in the Salzburg province, according to the Austrian government’s dashboard.

“We do not know how many people will come, how many people will say, `Thank you. We love you but we don’t come here because it’s impossible, because of health reasons or I bake bread' or something,? Rabl-Stadler said. “So it’s like walking in a fog.”

Every other seat will be left open. People in the audience must wear masks when entering, but will be allowed to remove them during the performance.

Artists and backstage staff will be tested regularly. Backstage staff will be pared down and wear masks. Christof Loy’s staging of “Cosi fan Tutte” will have cuts.

“It will be a super-modest set, super-modest costumes, a very-reduced rehearsal time,” artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser said. “A different `Cosi fan Tutte' in corona times, if I might say. This is my little surprise.”

There will be 14 performances of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Jedermann (Everyman)” on the Domplatz in front of the cathedral, including one on Aug. 22 to mark the 100th anniversary of the day that play inaugurated the festival. Capacity in the square will be limited to 1,250 rather than 2,300.

Rabl-Stadler said the festival will be short about 15 million euros ($17 million) in revenue, 8 million euros due to lost performances and the rest because of lower capacity. The festival usually generates 75% of revenue from tickets, sponsors and donations,

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and “Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute),” Puccini’s “Tosca,” Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and Luigi Nono’s “Intolleranza” have been postponed to 2021 and Mussorgsky's “Boris Godunov” to 2022.

“We celebrate our 100th anniversary for two years,” she said.

Ronald Blum, The Associated Press

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