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Entrance area from the Festival houses in Salzburg: Faistauer-Foyer | © knaro.at
A tour of the festival halls
The venues used to stage the Salzburg Festival - the Haus für Mozart, Felsenreitschule arena and the large festival hall – are famous all over the world. Their venerable histories make them much more than mere stages, as they provide perfect backdrops for magnificent productions. Join our tour of the festival halls and take a peek behind the scenes – and back into the past.
A sparkling work of art and an old riding hall
At the moment all’s calm in the foyer of the Haus für Mozart, but during the festival the shouts and cheers of people from all over the world can be heard. Today we’re tagging onto a public group tour and our gaze is drawn towards a sparkling work of art. In the middle of the foyer, behind a 17-metre wall of golden slats, there’s the head of Mozart formed completely from precisely cut Swarovski crystals that sparkle like diamonds to create an impressive welcome for visitors to the Haus für Mozart. Inside this highly-renowned venue, where today works of the eponymous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are performed, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was place where the Austrian cavalry rehearsed. Back then it was the home of the winter riding school. In the first years of the Salzburg festival the old riding hall, now long since rebuilt and modernised, hosted the dancing and revelry of the famous stage play ‘Everyman’.
Venues with colourful histories and mystical flair
The Felsenreitschule, in which the arcades were hewn straight out of solid Mönchsberg rock, has seen so many thrilling events down the years. It’s a very special venue with its own unique atmosphere. As we stroll past rows of seats on the way to the stage and soak up the almost magical mood exuded by this splendid stage, the tour guide shares fascinating anecdotes dating back to the period in which the Felsenreitschule was established. One such fact is that up to 180 horses were trained here in the mid-17th century – both for battle and for entertainment. We lean back on the seats and imagine the scene as the rock walls formed a backdrop for riders and the horses to perform elegant and entertaining pirouettes for the enjoyment of the archbishop. The group moves on to the next room and we do our best to keep up. People are now bunched around the guide in the middle of the Karl-Böhm hall as he points toward the ceiling. The bombastic fresco – in a venue mainly used for intervals – is entitled the ‘Impaling the Turk’s Head’, and features the Turkish siege at the gates of Vienna. We follow the group across the hall to the exit, feeling relieved that this is very much a bygone age.
A magnificent stage for momentous occasions
The time has flown by and we’re already at the final stop – the large festival hall. We marvel at the stunning opera stage, one of the biggest of its kind in the world. This is where conductors like Herbert von Karajan and Riccardo Muti have woven magical musical tapestries with some of the world’s best orchestras. The voices of masterful singers such as Plácido Domingo and Anna Netrebko have often lured audiences into fascinating auditory worlds – and are still doing so today. The ultimate highlight of our tour of the festival halls is a look behind the scenes with our guide – revealing industrious activity around the opulent scenery and colourful props awaiting the crowds. And finally, we’re out on the hallowed boards that will soon host the actors of the Everyman play as it introduces spectators to the self-indulgent world of the bon vivant. We wait for a short while, respectfully soaking up the details. We imagine the moment as the curtains are raised on the festival season and guests are greeted with the words: Welcome to the Salzburg Festival!