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For 18 months, as the pandemic has pulled down the curtain on live performances, most of the world’s great orchestras and opera singers have played in empty seats, if any.
But in the past four weeks, the Salzburg Festival’s concerts — one of the most respected classical music events in the world — have been crowded, because Austria has placed performing arts at the highest level of return to normal. cutting edge.
The festival’s Covid safety strategy has been shared with more than 50 organizations around the world-including the Bayreuth Music Festival and the San Francisco Opera House-as an example of how to safely organize cultural events. Even the Austrian football club has been in contact with the organizers.
As the music returned to Salzburg, the elegant Baroque square in the city’s old town was filled with concert audiences. In the bar, people who want to order champagne are three or four stories deep. The eager audience poured into the great holiday home. The music is back.
Don JuanThe protagonist of this opera is not keen on maintaining social distancing. Although there is no need for an actor, there are still a large number of actors on stage, as if to show what vaccine and confidence can achieve. It has a choir of 150 women, representing Don Juan’s past temptations.
As COVID-19 cases ease, large indoor gatherings are usually one of the last events the government allows to reopen. But Austria has a deep national commitment to art and has accepted their return.
“There is no doubt that art and culture are important assets of Austria’s economy and society,” Andrea Mayer, State Secretary for Art and Culture, told the Financial Times. “Austria is a country of artists.”
Meyer said that the industry has 120,000 employees and contributed 7.2 billion euros to the economy in 2019. Last year, the government increased art spending by 70%.
“Art and culture have the ability to make a huge contribution to the recovery of society… We need their intellectual stimulation, inspiration, as well as happiness, imagination and critical reflection,” Meyer said.
Despite optimism, Austria is still not out of trouble. With the prevalence of the Delta variant, the number of coronavirus cases is on the rise. The number of new cases per day in June was only slightly higher than 60, and now there are about 900 new cases of infection per day. Approximately 55% of the population has been fully vaccinated, but the rate of new injections has dropped significantly.
Nonetheless, many in the country’s classical music scene believe that the bold steps taken this summer will prove to Austria and the outside world that life can safely return to music-music can help society revitalize.
“Now it is a huge challenge for all of us to get rid of the psychological crisis mode we are in. We are all still on such a high level of alertness, but we must find a point where we can return to normal,” Salzburg Music Said Lukas Crepaz, co-director of the festival.
“Performances like this are an important part of it-of course, we pay great attention to safety… Society and humanity cannot stay in crisis mode forever.”
The Salzburg Festival is already an outsider.it Last summer continued Also, despite the reduced capacity and limited plans.
This year, it is unclear whether the festival will run at full capacity before early summer. The last third of the tickets went on sale on June 7. That day and the following days were the two biggest sales days in the 101-year history of the box office.
Krepaz said that the organizers’ confidence comes from tracking data and science about how the virus spreads. The early stage of the festival focused on aerosol transmission and commissioned its own research, which was later sent to the Austrian government. Last year, there was no infection during the holiday season.
Crepaz said that this year, all people attending the festival need to be vaccinated or tested negative within 72 hours, so the venue is safer. FPP2 masks must be worn during the performance, but there are no seat restrictions.
Despite the threat of restrictions on public life in the fall, most people in the Austrian music scene hope that supporting art will continue to be Austria’s top priority.
“The situation is extremely difficult now. The fourth wave is coming, and it’s terrible,” said Daniel Froschauer, principal violinist and chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. However, he added that it is important for cultural life to continue.
“Our role is to show politicians what can be done.” He believes that Austria can set an international example. “We are not world leaders in football, but Austria has the Philharmonic Orchestra, and we do. We can be a role model.”
Froschauer said he was “shocked” by how many other governments in the world have caused art losses, many of which mistakenly view culture as a social luxury.
He said: “The soul is not a luxury. The soul is the source of life and needs nourishment.” “Some things cannot be expressed in words. This is too important.”