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Torch dance at the Residenzplatz in Salzburg | © Wolfgang R. Fürst
Festival opening celebrations: Dream with us!
The celebration marking the opening of the festival is a colourful blend of theatre, music, art – and a large portion of joie de vivre. We lure you into the world of the imagination and promise two magical days of reverie and enjoyment!
The whole city is a stage
The sun is still high in the sky as we sit down in a cosy corner of a restaurant garden in the heart of the old town of Salzburg. This is where we intend to wait for the celebration marking the opening of the Salzburg Festival to begin. Myriad laughing voices can be heard over at the Residenz fountain as children try to catch drops of water with their hands, letting them sparkle and splash in the basin beneath. Midsummer in Salzburg heralds the beginning of the festival season. The opening weekend is an especially good time to sense the intense creative power and magic that surround this world-famous festival. The whole of the town is steeped in music, there are dancers and performers on every street corner, final public rehearsals provide a peek behind the scenes, and famous artistic directors are interviewed about each day’s work. This all enables the Salzburg Festival to spread its impressive veil of magic across the entire city.
A celebration of diversity
Soon the bell tower clock says the time has come. It’s 5 pm and at almost the same time the welcome salute of the local guard whipcracks across Residenzplatz square. The marksmen are traditionally positioned up in Fortress Hohensalzburg, Mönchsberg Hill and on Kapuzinerberg Hill, and release a series of loud salvos into the summer sky to announce to the whole city: ‘The Festival has now begun!’ Now, there’s no stopping us. We’re itching to become part of this colourful celebration of diversity. We can’t wait to join the other guests who’ve come from all over the world to celebrate the opening of the Salzburg Festival. Around 80 events are held at 30 different places, offering free admission and revealing the worlds of thespianism, music and the power of imagination. In the early evening we drift pleasantly around the old town, on the way treating ourselves to quick dance at the verdant ‘hedge theatre’ at Mirabellplatz square accompanied by a small folk music group. A little later we are thrilled by real groups of actual traditional ‘whip-crackers’ parading down Kaigasse lane with magnificently dressed Noriker horses, the cracking sounds reverberating down the narrow road.
Fiery images and torchlight dancing
The sun slowly disappears behind the mountains, the moonlight embraces the old town with a silvery hue and we wander back slowly to Residenzplatz square in anticipation of one of the top features of the opening ceremony – the torchlit dance. Just after 10 pm a fanfare is played from the New Residence bell tower, and from the arcades of the cathedral, to let us know the dance about to begin. Not long after, around 100 couples from a variety of traditional dancing groups appear from the shadows from all over the town, region and province of Salzburg – and spread out across the entire square. They move and dance light-footedly around the square to the sounds of the Stadtmusik Salzburg orchestra. All together their burning torches in the night air depict various figures and drive out the darkness like diminutive, fiery portraits. Entranced, our eyes are glued to the spellbinding dance spectacle. At 11 pm the torchlight dance is over and the spectators all seem to wake from a wonderful dream – as do we. The gentle chimes of the Salzburg Glockenspiels mark the end of today’s programme, and with a satisfied grin on our faces we head off home. At 11 am tomorrow the curtains will be raised on the second day of the opening celebrations – and the dream will continue.