‘The Drama is Over’ at the Salzburg Easter Festival

‘The Drama is Over’ at the Salzburg Easter Festival

Salzburg, Austria, has been home to classical-music intrigues since Mozart, its most famous native son, bristled under the employ of its prince-archbishop. The city’s latest battle — which has been raging in the German-language press — has been over control of the Salzburg Easter Festival, which was founded in 1967 by the conductor Herbert von Karajan.

The fight has pitted two strong-willed artistic leaders against one another: Christian Thielemann, the principal conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden and the Easter Festival’s artistic director since 2013; and the man tapped last November as his successor, Nikolaus Bachler, who is nearing the end of his tenure as general manager of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

The battle — over the Dresden orchestra’s role at the festival and the division of power during the transition between Mr. Thielemann and Mr. Bachler — burst into the open last month when an exasperated letter that Mr. Thielemann wrote to festival officials was published in the local newspaper, the Salzburger Nachrichten. Matters were finally resolved on Tuesday, when festival officials announced that Mr. Thielemann and the Staatskapelle would indeed depart after the 2022 festival, their 10th.

“The drama is over,” Mr. Bachler said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Bachler said that he planned to reinvent the festival, which was originally conceived as a vehicle for the Berlin Philharmonic, and more recently served as one for the Staatskapelle. His idea is to bring different leading orchestras and conductors each year to explore repertoire in which they specialize. Mr. Bachler also plans to reconfigure the 10-day event to make it more immersive, with offerings from morning until late at night.

In his letter to festival officials, Mr. Thielemann, who is also the music director of the Bayreuth Wagner Festival, wrote that he had hoped to conduct Wagner’s “Lohengrin” in Salzburg in 2022, and Strauss’s “Elektra” there in 2023. The festival officials split the difference, announcing that Mr. Thielemann would conduct “Lohengrin” as his farewell in 2022. (A spokeswoman for the Staatskapelle said that neither the orchestra nor Mr. Thielemann had any comment.)

Mr. Bachler will take over the festival’s business operations in 2020 — when he will overlap with Mr. Thielemann — and become artistic director in 2022. He has a close rapport with the conductor Kirill Petrenko, the music director of the Bavarian State Opera, who became chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic last month. He said that he hoped to lure the Berliners — who have played at Baden-Baden’s Easter Festival since leaving Salzburg — back, as one of the rotating guest orchestras he hopes to attract.

“That,’’ Mr. Bachler said, “is my big wish.”

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