Salzburg Festival: No fanning during pandemic season

Its 100th anniversary season is unfolding with an elaborate coronavirus protection plan

Classical music lovers must keep their fans folded and endure the heat at the 100th edition of Salzburg Festival, which has drawn up an elaborate health safety plan instead of cancelling the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's opera, concert and theatre spectacle in the town where Mozart was born is being seen as a test for other large cultural events across Europe. Hence, it is no surprise that the poster advertising this year’s Salzburg Festival bears a quotation from one of the festival’s founders, the poet and dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal: “Wo der Wille erwacht, dort ist schon fast etwas erreicht.”

Roughly translated: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

For its 100th anniversary season, Salzburg, bucking the coronavirus-prompted trend of canceling cultural events or presenting them only with onstage social distancing, is going ahead with performances featuring casts interacting closely and full orchestras in the pit.

Yet, a request that guests refrain from fanning themselves, made in German and English, has been added to the recording that audiences hear at the start of every performance in Salzburg.

Fanning "could spread infectious aerosols instead of allowing them to be sucked away by the air-conditioning system," Salzburg's managing director Lukas Crepaz told dpa.

But the measure is only the latest in a long list of precautions.

Only two-thirds of the seats are being filled in order to maintain social distancing, and there are no intermissions, to prevent guests from mingling. Furthermore, ticket-holders must wear masks when entering and leaving the venues, and they are asked to keep them on during performances, too.

Meanwhile, all artists are tested regularly for the novel coronavirus and must keep a journal to monitor their health.

While some among Salzburg's well-heeled audience failed to stay the recommended distance from one another at the festival's opening weekend last Saturday and Sunday, behaviour has since been "exemplary," Crepaz said.

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