Opus 2018

"Silent Night" In Salzburg’s Large ‘Festspielhaus’


Looking Back to the Year 1818
In 2018, the 200th anniversary of the composition of Stille Nacht, known to the English-speaking world as Silent Night, the Salzburg Advent Festival at the Großes Festspielhaus hearkens back to the genesis of this famous carol. The advent story of Mary and Joseph becomes a real-life experience in the social and cultural context of Oberndorf in the year 1818. In 1803 Salzburg lost its independence as the theological and worldly seat of the Prince-Archbishops, sinking into meaninglessness. The Rupertiwinkel fell to Bavaria, the rest of the territory to the House of Hapsburg. The small village of Oberndorf was cut off from its administration in the city of Laufen by the new border. The impoverished Salzach River watermen from “Austrian Laufen”, however, refused to be discouraged. With their traditional watermen’s troupe, they first performed a play for advent. They had no idea that after their performance for Holy Night, a very special carol would be heard for the first time. A song which would grow dear to the hearts of all peoples of the world as a song of peace…

Ein Blick zurück in das Jahr 1818
Im Jubiläumsjahr 200 Jahre „Stille Nacht“ besinnt sich das Salzburger Adventsingen im Großen Festspielhaus besonders auf die Entstehungsgeschichte dieses Liedes. Die adventliche Geschichte von Maria und Josef wird in einem soziokulturellen Kontext von Oberndorf im Jahr 1818 erlebbar.Salzburg verliert 1803 als geistliches und weltliches Fürsterzbistum seine Selbständigkeit und versinkt in Bedeutungslosigkeit. Der Rupertiwinkel wird Bayern zugesprochen, der Rest den Habsburgern. Das kleine Oberndorf ist von seiner Stadt Laufen durch die neue Landesgrenze abgeschnitten. Die verarmten Schöffleute aus „Österreichisch-Laufen“ lassen sich dennoch nicht entmutigen. Mit ihrem traditionsreichen Schiffertheater bringen sie erstmals ein adventliches Spiel zur Aufführung. Sie ahnen nicht, dass nach ihrer Darbietung zur Heiligen Nacht erstmals ein ganz besonderes Lied ertönen wird. Ein Lied, welches im Laufe der Zeit allen Völkern der Welt als Friedenslied ans Herz wächst…

Grateful Reverence to Mohr and Gruber
The 2018 Salzburg Advent Festival describes the genesis of the song within the historical context of its time. It is a grateful reverence to Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber for their song, which became a gift to all of us. Over 150 singers, musicians, soloists, actresses and actors are involved. Hearing the Salzburg Shepherd Children and their refreshing innocence is a very special experience. Familiar songs and airs that have come down to us through generations of families in the Alpine region are combined with new compositions for the characteristic experience that is the Salzburg Advent Festival.

Initiatives in Salzburg
Three great, terrible wars shook Europe during the past two centuries – wars which left nothing as it was before: the French Wars (Coalition Wars) in which Napoleon’s troops and others swept through Europe, World War I with over 17 million dead, and World War II with about 70 million dead. The unspeakable suffering and the horrors are incomprehensible to this day. In Salzburg, the great longing for peace and the ever-resurgent hope for better times following these devastating wars gave rise to three delicate seedlings of peace, which grew into unique, internationally renowned cultural ambassadors for peace.

The Salzburg Song for Peace
After the Napoleonic wars, Joseph Mohr (who wrote the text in 1816) and Franz Xaver Gruber (who added the melody in 1818) created the simple pastoral Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht! (Silent Night! Holy Night!) 200 years ago. Today, the song is sung in more than 300 languages all over the world. It is not a great composition, no, it is a simple folk song, created by an adjunct priest and an organist, but it became the most widely sung song of peace for the peoples of this world: a synonym for the Christian message of peace and the human longing for tranquillity, security and inner peace.

The Salzburg Festival
Max Reinhardt and Hugo von Hofmannsthal responded to World War I by founding the Salzburg Festival as a peace project. Thus, the reconciling and compelling force of the arts turns Salzburg into a cultural world event every summer. Even in 1919 Max Reinhardt had the thought of opening the Salzburg Festival with an annual Christmas play. Max Mell had even written a script for it. For various reasons, however, this idea could not be realized.

The Salzburg Advent Festival
In 1945, after World War II, the world lay in ruins once again, and everywhere the slogan “No more war!” was heard. Within this infinite wish for peace, Tobi Reiser and Karl Heinrich Waggerl and their idea of the Salzburg Advent Festival formed the third peace project in Salzburg. The message of “Peace on earth, good will to men (Luke 2,14)” has remained part of the credo of this traditional event. As a subtle effort to strengthen inner values, the Salzburg Advent Festival at the Großes Festspielhaus enjoys a popularity similar to that of Jedermann on Cathedral Square. Many of the visitors from Austria and abroad are convinced that their Christmas would not be complete without the Salzburg Advent Festival.

Silent Night – Salzburg Advent Festival – Salzburg Festival
At the 2018 Salzburg Advent Festival, all three initiatives unite in a special relationship. The Salzburg Advent Festival takes place on the world-famous stage of the Salzburg Festival at the Großes Festspielhaus, focusing on the genesis of Silent Night.

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