From Mozart to the Second Modern Age: Peter Ruzicka’s era as artistic director of the Salzburg Festival
Peter Ruzicka based his dramatic concept for the programme of the Salzburg Festival on five pillars. He paid tribute to Salzburg’s most important son with exemplary new productions and the first complete performance cycle of Mozart’s 22 operas; works by Richard Strauss were performed in honour of one of the Salzburg Festival’s founding fathers. Austrian composers such as Korngold, Zemlinsky and Schreker, who were forced into exile during the Nazi years or whose works were banned, were presented to the festival public for the first time. Ruzicka also wanted audiences to see what are commonly regarded as familiar 19th century works in a new light and in so doing investigate the aestheticism of a “Second Modern Age”. Ruzicka also insisted that there should be more world premieres during the Salzburg Festival: he presented two new operas by Hans Werner Henze and a new piece of music-theatre by Chaya Czernowin. In addition the concert programme included 43 world premieres and 27 first performances in Austria.
In economic terms the years from 2002 to 2006 were extremely successful as the Salzburg Festival achieved the highest revenue and number of visitors since the era of Herbert von Karajan. The meteoric rise of soprano Anna Netrebko began in Salzburg; stars such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Thomas Hampson, Michael Schade, Diana Damrau and René Pape appeared in Salzburg summer after summer and their performances could have been sold several times over. Nevertheless Peter Ruzicka had to come to terms with severe setbacks: in April 2001, even before he had taken up office, the devastating news came of the death of his most important colleague, conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli. In the following years Carlos Kleiber and Marcello Viotti, who had similarly played a major role in the artistic planning of the festival, also died.
Cooperation with the director of drama Jürgen Flimm continued until 2004; in the last two summer seasons, 2005 and 2006, Martin Kusej was responsible for planning the drama programme. Both succeeded in giving a new accentuation to the most traditional section of the festival.
A major highlight was the opening of the Haus für Mozart on 23 July 2006, the new venue on the site of the former Kleines Festspielhaus. Peter Ruzicka overcame the difficult legal battles concerning the building; festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler was successful in acquiring the necessary sponsors to finance the project, and Gerbert Schwaighofer, business director of the festival, coordinated and managed the re-building project with great expertise.
Details of the several years: