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FRIDAY, OCT 23 2020 - THURSDAY, DEC 31 2020

One hundred years ago, in August 1920, "Jedermann" (Everyman), Hugo von Hofmannsthal's "Play on the Dying of the Rich Man,” was performed for the first time, on the cathedral square in Salzburg.

The stage had been built from the boards of the wooden barracks at the nearby village of Grödig which had formed the largest POW camp on Austrian soil during WWI. Max Reinhardt, one of the most famous theater directors of his times, employed the architecture and the special conditions of the place for dramatic effects: shouts calling out “Jedermann” resounded from the towers of the surrounding churches and the Hohensalzburg Fortress high above the city, while cathedral bells rang at decisive moments.

With the founding of the Salzburg Festival, its Jewish founders, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Max Reinhardt, courageously set an example in a greatly shrunken Austria, suffering from the consequences of World War I, amidst vociferous nationalist tendencies, anti-Semitic insults, inflation and economic hardship.

This special online program presented on the occasion of the Centennial of the Salzburg Festival is a cooperation of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, based on a recorded live performance at the Austrian Cultural Forum Berlin in September 2020.

The one-hour program features a welcoming message from ACFNY Director Michael Haider and an introduction by Michael Lahr von Leitis in which he traces the origins of the Salzburg Festival idea. In this reading, Gregorij H. von Leitis brings the beginnings of the Salzburg Festival to life by presenting selected texts by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Harry Graf Kessler, Karl Kraus, Max Reinhardt, Joseph Roth, Bertha Zuckerkandl, Stefan Zweig and others.

Watch the video on the ACFNY YouTube Channel below.


Michael Lahr von Leitis studied philosophy in Munich and Paris. He is author and editor of the book "The Erwin Piscator Award", and a co-author of the volume of essays "Bilder des Menschen" ("Images of Man"). In the Karl Jaspers Yearbook 2019/20 he published an essay on “Erwin Piscator and the Bauhaus.” As a specialist in Erwin Piscator, the founder of the political and epic theater, he curated the exhibit “Erwin Piscator: Political Theater in Exile”, which so far has been seen in Bernried, New York, Catania, Salzburg, Munich, and Vienna. In December of 2019 his book “Erwin Piscator’s Legacy Lives On. Conversations about Theater, Music and Politics” was published.

As the program director of Elysium, he has unearthed numerous works by artists who had to flee their home country under the pressure of the Nazi regime, or who were murdered. Many of these compositions were performed for the first time in concerts in Europe and the U.S. He gives introductory lectures for all Elysium programs. At the same time, he lectures regularly on questions of general social and political significance. Michael Lahr von Leitis is a fellow researcher at the exil.arte Centre of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna / Austria.

Inspired by Erwin Piscator’s idea of a socially relevant theater, Gregorij H. von Leitis, Artistic Director of Elysium, has been working for 50 years as director and educator at various theaters in Europe and in the US. In 1985 he received the New York Theater Club Prize for this direction of Brecht's "The Jewish Wife". In 2003, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit by German President Johannes Rau. In 2016 the Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer bestowed the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art on him. In 1985, Gregorij von Leitis founded the Erwin Piscator Award Society, which annually confers the Erwin Piscator Award. In 1989, he created the program "Theater for the Homeless" with his with the Elysium Theater Company. Since 1997, Gregorij von Leitis' work has emphasized staging the works of artists who were persecuted and silenced by the Nazis. He directed Ullmann's opera "The Emperor of Atlantis" in New York, the Italian premiere of Krenek's opera "What Price Confidence?", and the world premiere of Egon Lustgarten’s opera "Dante in Exile". One of Viktor Ullmann’s last works from the concentration camp Theresienstadt, "The Lay of Love and Death of the Cornet Christoph Rilke," von Leitis has performed internationally more than 50 times.

Image Credit: Lothar Lenzen


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