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Festival guests in the Hofstallgasse in front of the Großes Festspielhaus | © Tourismus Salzburg / G. Breitegger
The Festival for Everyone
Countless myths are associated with the legendary Salzburg Festival. One of these is that you have to be rich, beautiful and even a celebrity in order to attend this iconic cultural happening. We visit Salzburg in the middle of July and discover that literally everyone can enjoy Salzburg’s world-famous festival. And do so without having to fork out bundles of cash.
A holiday during festival season
We have come to Salzburg for three days simply to go with the flow, live each day as it comes, and appreciate every single moment. Needless to say, we knew that the Salzburg Festival takes place here in the city of Mozart from mid-July until the end of August. That said – and like so many others – we were very much under the impression that the festival is an event reserved for the amusement of the “upper crust”, or at least something that appeals primarily to an older generation on the far side of 70. Which is why we are even more astonished when we discover that there are so many different ways to experience – and above all enjoy – Salzburg’s celebration of the arts.
Gripped by festival fever
On the way to Salzburg’s most important sightseeing attraction, Hohensalzburg Fortress, that’s when it happens. We circumnavigate Salzburg Cathedral, since the square directly in front is currently closed to the public due to an impending festival performance. The sky above its Baroque towers is already growing dark, as a bloodcurdling cry echoes down from the fortress: “Jeeeeedermaaaan!” An involuntary chill runs down our spines and we know: This is a stage play we simply have to see for ourselves!
Last-minute opportunity to see “Jedermann”
At the entrance to Cathedral Square, the friendly doorman gives us a hot tip: Jedermann (“Everyman”) is one of the events during the Salzburg Festival for which standing-room tickets are issued. If you show up on Franziskanergasse at the entrance to Cathedral Square one hour before the start of the performance, there is a very good chance you’ll be able to pick up a standing-room ticket for just 10 euros. Needless to say, a certain degree of stamina along with good weather are essential: If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the performance is relocated indoors to the Grosses Festspielhaus – where, unfortunately, they don’t have any standing room.
Toasting to life with “Death”
After deciding to go ahead and buy a couple of standing-room tickets for the next “Jedermann” performance, we are in urgent need of some sustenance. We postpone our visit to Hohensalzburg Fortress until the next day, taking a walk through St. Peter’s Cemetery, the oldest in the city, before winding up at “Triangel” restaurant on Wiener Philharmoniker Gasse. We’re in luck, they still have some space – and we’re even treated to a view of the festival halls. Just a little bit later and the performance at the Grosses Festspielhaus lets out. In their beautiful evening gowns and formal apparel, festival guests from every corner of the globe saunter past us, just as if we were perched next to the runway of an international fashion show. After a matter of minutes, two men ask if they can join us at our table and we get into a conversation. It turns out: They happen to be “Death” and “Good Companion” from the cast of Jedermann. Of course, we raise our glasses in a toast: to Salzburg, the festival, to Death and to life.
A peek behind the scenes: tour of the festival halls
After an evening spent in such pleasant company, we have well and truly caught festival fever. Our curiosity grows and we want to take a look behind the scenes. That’s precisely why guided tours of the festival halls are offered to the general public. We are quite astonished when, for the first time, we see the resplendent Faistauer Foyer, the gigantic backstage area of the Grosses Festspielhaus and the subterranean walkways through which musicians and artists scurry unseen up to the stage.
Last-minute tickets and free open-air shows
Afterwards, we pay a visit to the Salzburg Festival ticket office and learn they have remaining tickets for sale every day. The genuinely affable employees there also share other valuable information with us, including a number of inexpensive ways to revel in the festival atmosphere: That includes Siemens Fest>Spiel>Nächte, for example, one of the biggest cultural public viewing offers in all of Europe. Featuring an LED screen with an extraordinary sound system, the fortress as a backdrop, on one of the most beautiful plazas in the Salzburg historic district. We get lucky again! Today, they will be showing “Aida” – the immortal opera by Giuseppe Verdi – a performance from 2017 starring the glittering soprano Anna Netrebko. Like so many others, we make a beeline for Kapitelplatz and get ready to enjoy music, opera, the city, the stars and ourselves.
Last but not least: dress code
The following day, we show up on Franziskanergasse punctually one hour before Jedermann is scheduled to begin. Our luck holds and we are able to snap up two of those highly coveted standing-room tickets. Just to be sure, we had asked about the dress code beforehand. As we found out, the Salzburg Festival wouldn’t quite be the most acclaimed cultural festival in the world it is, if it didn’t also have a few requirements with respect to etiquette. Depending on the event, after sunset an appropriate men’s outfit would involve a tuxedo or suit. Women should also dress appropriate to the performance they are attending: for an opera, an evening gown is a must, whereas a stylish dress or suit will suffice for a concert or play. In the afternoon or at less glamorous venues, a more casual look is quite appropriate. However, street clothes such as T-shirts, tank tops and tennis shoes are pretty much always taboo. And visitors who opt for folkwear are always appropriately dressed, not just for performances of “Jedermann”. Lucky for us, then, that we happened to pack our lederhosen and a dirndl dress before we came! A few moments later and we hear that call again: “Jeeeeedermaaaann!”. But this time it feels as if we are being summoned personally.