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SALZBURG, Austria, Aug 20, (AP): People fill the cobblestone streets of the city where Mozart was born, rushing to 213 performances over six weeks. While many classical music institutions struggle to regain audience, the Salzburg Festival is on track to draw people from over 75 nations to opera, concerts and drama. “We played through the pandemic,” said Kristina Hammer, who took over as the festival’s president in 2022. “That made us not only a spotlight in Europe for culture, but we didn’t lose our customers.” There are 179 performances over 43 days through Aug. 31 at 15 venues plus 34 youth performances. Highlights included new stagings of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro,”Verdi’s ‘Macbeth” and “Falstaff” and Bohuslav Martinu’s rarely seen “The Greek Passion” along with Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” held over from this year’s Whitsun Festival.
Artists in a program of unmatched depth include pianists Igor Levit, Pierre- Laurent Aimard, Evgeny Kissin and Daniil Trifonov, and the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics headline concerts along with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “There are these hidden threads,” artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser said, drawing parallels between “Macbeth” and the Ukraine war, “Greek Passion” and the migrant crisis and “Figaro” with class struggle. “What I can do is to give the audience the kind of navigation system without being didactic.”
Director Max Reinhardt, composer Richard Strauss and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal founded the festival to promote peace following World War I, an idea they are said to have formed at Reinhardt’s nearby Schloss Leopoldskron. Herbert von Karajan dominated as artistic director from 1956-88. Gerard Mortier overhauled programming from 1991-2001 and was followed by Peter Ruzicka and Jürgen Flimm. Hinterhäuser, a pianist. ran the festival for a year in 2011 before Alexander Pereira began, then took over in 2016 and has a contract running until September 2026. Productions open after six-toseven weeks of rehearsal, oneto- three more than the repertory house norm. Ticket prices for the most high-profile events run from 5-465 euros ($5.50-$513). Venues are spread across both sides of the Salzach River in a city of about 150,000 crammed with restaurants, hotels and luxury boutiques, with the three largest halls carved into the Mönchsberg mountain.