Hugo von Hofmannsthal
The annual performances of “Jedermann” are a constant reminder of one of the co-founders of the Salzburg Festival: Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The writer made immense contributions to the Festival, and not only through his mystery play.
Earlier Salzburg Connection
Austrian poet, essayist and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal was born in Vienna on 1 February 1987. He had a Salzburg connection even in his younger years: He would spend his summer holidays in Fusch (Zell am See) and in the Salzkammergut. Salzburg City served as a meeting place with his friends and acquaintances.
Role in the founding of the Salzburg Festival
The idea of creating a festival for theater and music was sparked within Hofmannsthal’s circle of friends. Which makes Hofmannsthal, along with director Max Reinhardt, writer Hermann Bahr and composer Richard Strauss, one of the founding fathers of the Salzburg Festival. In 1919, he published his vision in broad terms: The Festival in Salzburg would help overcome Austria’s identity crisis after the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Habsburg empire.
The Festival Classic “Jedermann”
It was also Hofmannsthal’s idea to perform a play in front of Salzburg Cathedral. Actually, this honor was bestowed upon “Jedermann” quite by chance. Originally, a different mystery play had been intended for the purpose: However, Hofmannsthal’s "Das Salzburger Grosse Welttheater" had not yet been completed by the time the first Festival opened in 1920. And so it was that “Jedermann” – with just a few years interruption – became a permanent annual highlight of the Salzburg Festival.
A key Festival force until the very end
A performance of “Das Salzburger Grosse Welttheater” did eventually have a role to play, opening the new Festspielhaus in 1925. Hofmannsthal continued working to develop the Salzburg Festival until his death. He passed away on 15 July 1929 in Rodaun near Vienna. The City of Salzburg honored him by naming a street after him: Hugo-von-Hofmannsthal-Strasse in the Parsch section of town.