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A musical marvel: How to do Salzburg’s six-week classical festival

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A musical marvel: Salzburg’s six-week classical festival is the best in the world – and here’s how to do it in style

  • The eyes of the operatic and theatrical world turn to Salzburg every summer
  • In July and August, the Austrian city hosts a series of classical performances 
  • Apply for tickets by January 7 and follow Deirdre Fernand’s indispensable guide 

The Salzburg Festival is to opera and theatre what Wimbledon is to tennis. So it’s fitting that tickets are allocated in a similar method: by lottery, with members enjoying priority before the public. Get your application in by January 7 (salzburgfestival.at) and you could be on your way to Austria. Winners will be notified by the end of March.

The brainchild of artists, including composer Richard Strauss and impresario Max Reinhardt, the festival was born in the aftermath of World War I, with the idea of peace and reconciliation. 

Attracting all the big hitters of the performing arts, it runs for six weeks, from July 18 to August 30, and celebrates its centenary next year.

The 11th century Hohensalzburg Fortress looms over Salzburg old town at sunset

The 11th century Hohensalzburg Fortress looms over Salzburg old town at sunset

Highlights 

Next year sees a special accent on Beethoven. To mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, virtuoso Igor Levit will perform all 32 piano sonatas. Opera lovers can expect Don Giovanni, Tosca, Electra, Boris Godunov and The Magic Flute. Despite allegations of past sexual misconduct, Placido Domingo is due to appear in Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers. Full schedule of events at salzburgfestival.at.

Good to know

The festival apart, Mozart and Maria von Trapp are the two local heroes who reel in visitors to Salzburg. The historic city centre is both the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus and the setting of the 1965 film The Sound of Music. More than 250,000 attend the festival, many in traditional dress of dirndl and lederhosen.

Who goes?

Soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Yusif Eyvazov are both performing at the festival

Soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Yusif Eyvazov are both performing at the festival

Easier to ask who doesn’t. Sir Simon Rattle, Cecilia Bartoli, Joseph Calleja and Anna Netrebko are regular performers. In the audience, expect to see the high and mighty, particularly German and Austrian politicians. King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Francesca von Habsburg, Bianca Jagger, Wolfgang Porsche, Theresa May, Angela Merkel and a slew of Euro-toffs set the tone.

 Where to stay and eat

Check into the central Hotel Bristol, where I stayed, and you’ll be able to walk everywhere. Plush corridors are lined with photos of divas and maestros. Rooms from £246 (bristol-salzburg.at) A budget alternative would be the Best Western Plus Amedia Art, with rooms from £134 (bestwestern.co.uk). It is modern, clean and has a generous breakfast buffet. Get a bus from outside the hotel and you’ll be in the city centre in just ten minutes.

You’ll find hearty food at Restaurant Triangel (triangel-salzburg.co.at), opposite the main auditorium, where the artistes often drop in after a performance. Order goulash (about £17) and a glass of Gruner Veltliner. Last summer I spotted the handsome Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez.

The food is exceptional at St Peter Stiftskulinarium (st-peter.at) and so it should be. They’ve been doing it since AD 803, claiming to be central Europe’s oldest restaurant. Expect traditional Salzburgerland dishes such as venison stew and pork with pumpkin in this former abbey.

Best view of the city

Deirdre recommends heading up to the Museum of Modern Art and seeing the views

Deirdre recommends heading up to the Museum of Modern Art and seeing the views 

Most tourists catch the funicular to the 11th century castle, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, for views of the city. But I recommend taking the dedicated lift up to the Museum of Modern Art (museumdermoderne.at), which is perched on the top of the Monchsberg mountain. Make time for a leisurely lunch at its restaurant, m32, to enjoy the panorama.

Don’t miss

The museum at No 9 Getreidegasse is Mozart’s birthplace. It would be criminal not to pay homage to the boy wonder. There’s plenty of memorabilia giving a flavour of his early life. Then move into the 20th century and reenact the Do-Re-Mi scene from The Sound Of Music on the steps in the Mirabell Gardens. Follow that with a visit to the Rock Riding School, where the Von Trapp family perform in a competition together before making their escape. (salzburg.info

Take a look

Even if you haven’t bagged tickets for the opera, go and look at the audience as it gathers outside the main auditorium. This is glamour of the highest order with rocks to rival those in the windows of Cartier, Graff or Tiffany. And it’s good to know that you can team diamonds with a dirndl. That’s so Salzburg. 

TRAVEL FACTS 

Return flights with BA (ba.com), from £163; Ryanair (ryanair.com) from £80. Buy a Salzburg Card at the airport (about £37 for 72 hours of unlimited travel on public transport and discounted admissions into attractions) and hop on the 10 bus that whisks you to the city centre in 20 minutes.  

Deirdre Fernand travelled with salzburgerland.com.

 

A musical marvel: How to do Salzburg’s six-week classical festival

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