Tradition in Transformation
The Salzburg Easter Festival was founded in 1967 by Herbert von Karajan. It lasts for ten days from the Saturday before Palm Sunday to Easter Monday itself, offering a high-quality programme of opera, orchestral and choral concerts, chamber music and additional events. Since 2013, Christian Thielemann has been the Artistic Director of the Festival, and the Staatskapelle Dresden its orchestra in residence.
A Unique Constellation
From 1967 to 2012, the Berliner Philharmoniker and its respective chief conductors were at the heart of the Easter Festival. Herbert von Karajan established the Salzburg Easter Festival as the only place in the world where the Berliner Philharmoniker accompanied a scenic opera production from the pit. From the very start, international guests streamed to Salzburg in order to experience this exclusive constellation with the Berliner Philharmoniker, along with the orchestral and choral concerts.
Sir Georg Solti – Claudio Abbado – Sir Simon Rattle
After Herbert von Karajan’s death in 1989 and an “interregnum” of two years, Sir Georg Solti assumed the artistic direction of the Festival in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, Claudio Abbado was appointed Artistic Director of the Salzburg Easter Festival, five years after having been appointed as Herbert von Karajan’s successor as Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Abbado founded the chamber music series Kontrapunkte at the Festival, where members of the Berliner Philharmoniker and renowned soloists could be heard as chamber musicians. Sir Simon Rattle was appointed Claudio Abbado’s successor at the orchestra and the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2003, and he was the Festival’s Artistic Director until and including 2012.
A New Beginning in 2013 with Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden
Since 2013, the Salzburg Easter Festival has been on a new artistic footing: Christian Thielemann has been the Festival’s Artistic Director and the Staatskapelle Dresden, of which he is the Chief Conductor, is the new orchestra in residence. With Christian Thielemann as Artistic Director, the Easter Festival has enjoyed a brilliant renaissance at the highest artistic level while at the same time continuing the tradition whereby an exceptional, leading artistic personality is at the heart of the Festival, along with the orchestra that he conducts. There is a very special sense of having come full circle, not least because Christian Thielemann began his career as Herbert von Karajan’s musical assistant.
The Association of Patrons as Financial Guarantors
Herbert von Karajan also developed a quite specific system of patronage: members of the Association of Patrons are given preference when ordering tickets. By joining the Association, one is given a purchase option on a subscription and also ensures that one’s regular places are reserved. Many of the approx. 2,000 Patrons have been members since the very beginning, or have passed on this tradition to members of subsequent generations.
Right from the start, this financing model enabled Karajan to hold the Easter Festival without recourse to any public monies. Today, the Festival still attains an exceptional self-financing ratio of 88%. Besides ticket sales, the abovementioned donations from Patrons and sponsoring monies are also of special significance.
Two Subscriptions and Additional Events
Two subscriptions are offered, with four events each. Both are grouped around the two weekends of Holy Week. A subscription covers an opera performance, an orchestral concert and a choral concert, in each case conducted by the Artistic Director of the Festival, plus one orchestral concert conducted by a renowned guest.
Besides these subscription events, the programme also features chamber music concerts, children’s concerts, introductory talks and other additional events. Since 2013, the Concert for Salzburg has also been on the programme, and it has already become well established and very popular. It is explicitly intended for the people of the region, and ticket prices are kept low. Since 2017, a chamber opera has been complementing the programme as the second musical theater production, focussing on a composition of the 20th or 21st century.