The curtain goes up on a muted Salzburg Festival

AFP
One of the world's most prestigious summer music festivals opened in Austria this weekend – with strict anti-coronavirus measures in place.
AFP
The curtain goes up on a muted Salzburg Festival
AFP

People sit in Hofstallgasse street in front of the Felsenreitschule theater venue of the Salzburg Festival prior to the performance of “Elektra” that opened the festival on Saturday. The Salzburg Festival of music and drama will take place from August 1 to 30, with special measures in place to meet the threat of the coronavirus.

While many theaters, opera houses and concert halls across the globe remain closed, one of the world’s most prestigious summer music festivals opened in Austria this weekend — with strict anti-coronavirus measures in place.

Organizers of the annual Salzburg Festival had originally planned a glittering array of 200 events for its star-studded 100th edition.

However, they were forced to shelve many of the concerts, operas and theater performances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this year and drew up a much slimmed-down program instead.

The month-long festival kicked off on Saturday with a performance of Richard Strauss’s blood-curdling opera “Elektra” in a brand-new staging by Poland’s Krzysztof Warlikowski.

The curtain also rose on a new production of the “Everyman” play, written by one of the festival’s original founders Hugo von Hofmannsthal and staged every year since.

But a thunderstorm forced that performance indoors — it is traditionally held on Salzburg’s Cathedral Square. And local media reports suggested that the audience, all obliged to wear face masks, found it hard to keep safety distances until seated.

Organizers are imposing strict safety measures on the 110 shows that are still going ahead.

All 80,000 festival tickets on sale — down from the usual 230,000 — are personalized to enable contact-tracing.

Spectators have to wear face masks until they are seated, and there are no intermissions or catering.

Artists unable to keep a distance of at least 1 meter from their colleagues, such as those in an orchestra, have to undergo regular coronavirus tests.

Austria has so far escaped the brunt of the pandemic, recording some 21,000 new coronavirus cases and around 700 deaths. But new infections have risen again in recent weeks.

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