Elsa Dreisig, Bertrand Dermoncourt, Marianne Crebassa, Heinrich Spängler, Helga Rabl-Stadler and Lea Desandre. Photo: SF/Marco Borrelli

(SF, 21 August 2020) In France, a subsidiary association of the Friends of the Salzburg Festival is about to be founded, in time for the 100-year anniversary of the Salzburg Festival. “Les Amis Français du Festival de Salzbourg” is the fifth subsidiary of its kind, joining sister associations in Germany (since 1986), the USA (since 2005), Switzerland (since 2012) and Russia (since 2014).

The Association of Friends of the Salzburg Festival was founded in 1961 at the initiative of Prof. Bernhard Paumgartner, President of the Festival at the time. By founding an association, he aimed to create close ties between Festival guests from all over the world and the town of Salzburg and its festival, building a core of regular attendees who would fill the 2,200 seats that had been added when the Großes Festspielhaus was completed in 1960.

Over the course of decades, the Association of Friends grew into one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to funding culture. Its membership currently includes approximately 6,600 patrons, NXG patrons (Next Generation, for members under 45), members, subscribers and Young Friends. The financial impact of these memberships is enormous: “The Association of Friends is the largest private donor to the Salzburg Festival – without trying to exert any influence, we are simply there when we are needed,” explains Heinrich Spängler, who has been President of the Association of Friends since 1999.

With its annual programming contribution, the Association of Friends contributes approximately 5 percent to the overall budget of the Salzburg Festival, supplementing it with additional project funding as needed. Thus, the Festival Opening Party of the Salzburg Festival, the initiative “Festival Ticket = Bus Ticket”, and many programme presentations abroad are underwritten by the Friends’ budget. However, it is not just financial aid which contributes to the Festival’s success, but also immaterial help. Supporting the mission of the Salzburg Festival in word and deed is the declared goal of the Association, as manifested in its bylaws. “The Association of Friends is one of the most important pillars of the Salzburg Festival, ensuring its survival especially in difficult times,” says Heinrich Spängler, President of the “Friends”, “and this year, we managed to live up to this responsibility without reservations. We are all the more pleased that the French association now enables us to reach an even broader circle of patrons.”

On behalf of the Salzburg Festival, Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler expressed her gratitude that the network of “Friends” is growing ever more international: “Except during the times of coronavirus, we welcome guests from 80 countries, including 35 non-European ones. The fact that the Association of Friends takes care of these guests throughout the year earns the Salzburg Festival plenty of affection and approval.”

“Cultural Europe needs the incomparable Salzburg Festival more than ever, as it is a symbol of artistic, poetic, spiritual, moral and political values. This association will add a French note to its donor base, uniting the numerous French regular customers and attracting new ones; it will also support performances by French artists and creators of art and promote the presence of French repertoire in Salzburg,” said Bertrand Dermoncourt, director of the French radio station Radio Classique in Paris and co-founder of the Amis Français du Festival de Salzbourg.

The members of a high-profile Honorary Committee, the Comité d‘honneur of the French Association of “Friends”, will be announced at a later date.