Salzburg Festival running deficit despite bumper sales

- 8 May 2014

Salzburger FestspieleThe future of the Salzburg Festival has been called into question following claims by its president Helga Rabl-Stadler that it needs a substantial increase in state funding if it is to survive.

Speaking to the Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper, Rabl-Stadler said ‘I cannot stay silent any longer… We need substantially more funding. What is at stake here is the future of the Salzburg Festival’.

Her comments follow the announcement of a €1.6m (£1.3m) loss from the 2013 season despite it selling a record number of tickets and achieving historically high levels of sponsorship.

Last year’s programme saw 280 performances of opera, concerts and plays over 45 days in 14 venues around the city of Mozart’s birth. More than 286,000 tickets were sold during the season &#8210 93% of capacity &#8210 generating revenue of €29.1m (£23.9m), equivalent to 46% of all income.

More than €12m (£9.8m) was raised through sponsorship. Taken together with €2.7m (£2.2m) contributed by the festival’s Association of Friends, 2013 marked the first year in the 93-year-old annual event’s history in which private donations were higher than public support.

Public funding of €13.5m (£11m) accounted for 17% to total revenues, with sponsorship generating another 18%. The federal government was the largest single benefactor, contributing €5.4m (£4.4m), with a similar amount pledged by the provincial and city authorities.

Left-right: Alexander Pereira, Helga Rabl-Stadler, Sven-Eric Bechtolf © Salzburger Festspiele / Andreas Kolarik

Left-right: Alexander Pereira, Helga Rabl-Stadler, Sven-Eric Bechtolf
© Salzburger Festspiele / Andreas Kolarik

Rabl-Stadler warned that one consequence of last year’s deficit would be a substantial reduction in the budget for this year’s festival, which will fall from €65 million (£53.3m) to ‘well below’ €60m (£49.2m). She also warned that the prospect of commissioning fewer new productions made ‘neither economic nor artistic sense’.

Although the 2014 programme is expected to break even, early calculations for 2015 currently suggest the festival is likely to lose €3m (£2.5m).

The call for greater state support highlights the dwindling value of government funding for the festival, which peaked at €13.5m (£11m) in 1998 and has remained at that figure for the past 16 years. Both federal and state authorities have suggested that additional funding is unlikely before 2016.

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