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1920 – 1937

The early years

Toward the end of the First World War the idea arose of establishing a festival in Salzburg, a princely baroque town far removed from the everyday bustle of the big cities. Director Max Reinhardt, whose had begun his career as an actor at Salzburg Stadttheater, submitted a memorandum to this effect in Vienna in 1917. The poet and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal in turn published an outline of the festival’s philosophy in 1919. These two artists were then joined by composer Richard Strauss, scenic designer Alfred Roller, and Franz Schalk, conductor and director of the Vienna Hofoper. Working in concert against all opposition, these five men founded the Salzburg Festival even before there were any prospects of obtaining funds for a festival theatre. The Festival was born on 22 August 1920 when Hofmannsthal’s morality play Jedermann ("Everyman"), in Reinhardt’s production, was performed on the steps of Cathedral Square. When the production was revived the following year a series of concerts was added, and the first opera was heard in 1922. The Felsenreitschule (Summer Riding School) was made available as a venue in 1926, and a festival theatre was built in 1925-7 to provide professional working conditions and permit an expansion of the repertoire. Salzburg soon became a meeting place for the best directors, conductors, actors and singers of the age. Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Clemens Krauss and Fritz Busch; Lothar Wallerstein, Clemens Holzmeister and Rudolf Hartmann; Alexander Moissi, Werner Krauss and Helene Thimig; Lotte Lehmann, Richard Mayr, Viorica Ursuleac, Helge Rosvaenge and Richard Tauber: all these names are inseparably linked with the Festival’s early years.

Details of the several years: 

1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937