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It is practically impossible to imagine the Salzburg Festival without its “Jedermann”. Hofmannsthal’s “play about the death of a rich man” has never failed to captivate audiences – especially when performed in the perfect setting right outside Salzburg Cathedral.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Jedermann” is based on the tradition of medieval mystery plays, especially that of “Everyman”, an English mystery play dating back to the 16th century. The stage play “Jedermann” was first performed on 1 December 1911 at Berlin’s Schuhmann Circus, under the direction of Max Reinhardt. It was also he who produced its premiere at the Salzburg Festival on 22 August 1920 – marking the birth of the Festival itself. Except for a few years’ hiatus, “Jedermann” has been performed annually at the Salzburg Festival ever since – the undisputed highlight of Festival season.
Hofmannsthal’s morality play tells a virtually universal story: God sends Death in order to summon the rich bon vivant Jedermann. In his hour of greatest need, he is abandoned by his friends, his money and his lover. Only after he has repented for his transgressions and committed himself to Christianity, may he stand armed with his faith and his good deeds before the divine judgment seat.
Traditionally, “Jedermann” is performed outdoors, on Cathedral Square in front of the cathedral entrance. A place seemingly predestined as the stage and backdrop for this religious play. When the cathedral façade is cast in the evening light, the monumental statues of the saints automatically become a powerful part of the set itself. An iconic atmosphere indeed, with which the Grosses Festspielhaus – which serves as a stand-in should the weather not cooperate, and despite its better acoustics – simply can’t quite compare.
The cast of “Jedermann” has always read like a “Who’s Who” of the German-speaking theater world. Enthralling the public in the title role have been such stage greats as Klaus Maria Brandauer, Maximilian Schell and, the longest-serving Jedermann of them all, Peter Simonischek. “Paramour” has been performed by the likes of Christiane Hörbiger, Senta Berger and Veronica Ferres.
Until 2001, the original directorial concept of Max Reinhardt appeared to be practically chiseled in stone. Only Leopold Lindtberg dared to shake it up a bit. In the more recent modernizations of the play, Christian Stückl is one of those who has played a decisive role. In 2003, he even introduced evening performances under artificial lighting. One innovation, begun in 2013, is the Jedermann procession from the Festspielhaus to Cathedral Square before the actual performance.
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