Salzburg Festival: Peter Handke – Zdeněk Adamec

‘In times of the pandemic, the existential question in Jedermann – What happens when death appears in life? – has taken on even greater meaningfulness in the year of its 100th anniversary. Everywoman by Ursina Lardi and Milo Rau continues this line of questioning in our present times: is redemption possible?

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Peter Handke, photo SF/ Ruth Walz

The world premiere of Peter Handke’s Zdeněk Adamec, in which a group of people create the fictitious biography of the young man who has sent a drastic message by self-immolation, combines these two poles while also questioning the function of the collective. The 2020 Festival build a historical bridge and also examine our present through artistic means,’ says Bettina Hering, Director of Drama.


Bettina Hering. photo SF/Wildbild

The cornerstone play of the 1920 Salzburg Festival is not only a central part of the Festival’s DNA, but also a unique phenomenon on the German-language theatre scene. After years on the programme, the series of more than 700 Jedermann performances has featured an incomparable cosmos of actors. This year’s revival of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann will see 14 performances as part of the 2020 Salzburg Festival and premieres on 1 August. In the production by Michael Sturminger and his team, Caroline Peters, who has won multiple awards and performed at the Salzburg Festival during the past two years as well, takes on the role of the Paramour, appearing opposite Tobias Moretti’s Jedermann. Pauline Knof (The Debtor’s Wife) and Gustav Peter Wöhler (The Fat Cousin) join the ensemble for the first time.
The world premiere Zdeněk Adamec: Eine Szene by Peter Handke, the 2019 Nobel laureate for literature, takes place on 2 August at Salzburg’s Landestheater: in his work, Peter Handke focuses on the historical 2003 case of the 18-year-old Czech Zdeněk Adamec, who burned himself on Wenceslas Square in Prague in protest against the state of the world, which he found intolerable. In the play, an undefined group of people meets, and a conversation ensues.


Zdeněk Adamec

The story of Zdeněk Adamec runs like a red thread through the questions and answers, suspicions, doubts and information which cannot be categorized clearly. This temporary community brings the young man back to life through its narrative means. Most recently, Peter Handke’s play Immer noch Sturm was directed by Dimiter Gotscheff in a 2011 production at the Salzburg Festival.


Friederike Heller

The world premiere of Zdeněk Adamec will be staged by Friederike Heller. She was elected Young Director of the Year in 2005 for her production of Peter Handke’s Untertagblues at the Burgtheater in Vienna; at the Salzburg Festival she presented her production of Die Unvernünftigen sterben aus as part of the Young Directors Project in 2006. The cast includes Christian Friedel, Luisa-Céline Gaffron, André Kaczmarczyk, Eva Löbau, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Sophie Semin and Hanns Zischler.


Sophie Semin and Peter Handke, photo SF/Ruth Walz

For their world premiere Everywoman, the authors Ursina Lardi and Milo Rau proceed from a classic piece of world literature: Everyman, a medieval morality play from the late 15th century in which the title character, faced by death, goes about taking stock of his life, and which was the most important model for Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann. – What remains, what counts at the end of our life? Death has become foreign to us, our society has repressed it, since we can neither give it meaning nor overcome it. Death has become a product of art which we encounter in films and in the theatre in various guises – a continuous reproduction of its repression, while we are surrounded by it every second. We even provoke it by destroying the foundations of life further every day. Confronted with death, Everywoman takes stock. Can there be a righteous life within a wrong one? What can the arts achieve in a world without god or future? Can there be redemption yet?


Milo Rau, photo Bea Borgers

The Swiss director, author and essayist Milo Rau became the youngest-ever winner of the renowned European ITI Theatre Prize in 2016. His play Five Easy Pieces was the first international production to be awarded the Special Jury Prize from the Belgian Prix de la Critique Théâtre et Danse and was subsequently invited to Berlin’s Theatertreffen in 2017. Rau has created over 50 plays, films and actions that have been shown at several international stages and festivals. He has been working together closely with the actress Ursina Lardi for many years. The world premiere is a co-production with the Schaubühne Berlin. The premiere takes place on 19 August at the Szene Salzburg.


Ursina Lardi, photo Franziska Sinn

Senta Berger, Sunnyi Melles and Caroline Peters will appear in a reading entitled Die Rückkehr, featuring texts by the multi-talented Austrian writer, stage director and theatre director Ernst Lothar, who was a member of the Salzburg Festival’s directorate from 1952 to 1959 and also directed Jedermann during this period.


Ernst Lothar ans Maria Schell in Salzburg

The anniversary of the first performance of Jedermann 100 years ago will be celebrated on 22 August with a city-wide reading by the Jedermann actors Klaus Maria Brandauer, Peter Simonischek, Tobias Moretti, Cornelius Obonya and Philipp Hochmair.


Tobias Moretti, photo Christian Hartmann

The Festival founder Max Reinhardt directed four films throughout his life. The Salzburg Festival will screen all four under the title Theatre at the Cinema: Das Mirakel, Die Insel der Seligen and Venezianische Nacht will be shown at Das Kino and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Felsenreitschule.


Max Reinhardt

Discussing the Century

From its very beginning, the Salzburg Festival had an extraordinary mission: to generate meaning in a time of crisis. Four events entitled Discussing the Century reflect 100 years of Festival history and 100 years of European cultural history, confronting us with highlights and abysses, paths and detours through this turbulent century, and the role the arts played within it. Alexander Kluge & Georg Baselitz, Navid Kermani, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and Elisabeth Orth are the featured speakers at these matinees.

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Jedermann  1920

100 Years of Jedermann 22 August 2020

The first performance of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann, directed by Max Reinhardt on Salzburg’s Cathedral Square on 22 August 1920, is considered the moment in which the Salzburg Festival was born. 100 years later, this special birthday is celebrated with readings all over town by the Jedermann performers Klaus Maria Brandauer, Peter Simonischek, Tobias Moretti, Cornelius Obonya and Philipp Hochmair, the gala performance of Jedermann on Cathedral Square, a Jedermann streaming event on Kapitelplatz, a literary speech by Elisabeth Orth, who takes us back in time to the era of the Festival’s founding, and a screening of Max Reinhardt’s famous film A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Felsenreitschule.


Veronica Ferres and Peter Simonischek (Jedermann), SF / Hermann, Clärchen and Matthias Baus

Zum Fest – Centenary events

State Exhibition: The Salzburg Festival Centenary, Salzburg Museum in cooperation with the Salzburg Festival, Neue Residenz, Mozartplatz 1, from 25 July to 31 October 2021.

For more than a year, the Neue Residenz will offer a forum to discover the rich history of the Salzburg Festival and its artists: the Salzburg Festival brings its archive to life and presents visitors with artistic interventions, staged stories, film screenings and much more. The exhibition opens on 25 July 2020. (From Press Materials).

Marijan Zlobec


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