Meanwhile, Next Door In Austria

The title of today’s post references the fact yesterday’s post was about cultural funding in Germany. I hadn’t planned it this way, but I wanted to draw attention to the lengths various venues in Austria went to this summer in order to perform in front of live audiences.

According to a piece on Vox, the Salzburg Festival in Vienna went ahead with their centiennial anniversary festival with audiences subject to the following conditions:

Among the rules: Audience members were asked to wear masks and social distance at one meter. Seating capacities were reduced, and every second seat in every concert hall was locked so people couldn’t get around the restrictions. There were no intermissions at performances, or refreshments available.

Simply buying a ticket meant agreeing to engage in contact tracing, if it came to that: Tickets were personalized with names, and audience members had to show an ID when they entered any venue. ..

In the end, the festival attracted more than 76,000 visitors — a little more than a quarter of last year’s — from 39 countries during August. According to the festival’s final report on the event, “not a single positive case has been reported to the authorities.” And of the 3,600 coronavirus tests carried out on the 1,400 people involved in festival preparation, just one came back positive in early July.

What was more interesting to me was the process the Vienna State Opera used to determine the testing schedule for their employees. Encouraged by the success of the Salzburg Festival, they planned to reopen last month and implemented a system of color-coded lanyards to indicate which employees were most at risk for exposure to the Covid virus.

Singers and people working directly with the singers are part of the red group and are tested every week (since they can’t always wear masks or keep distance onstage). Administrators are part of the orange group and are tested every four weeks. The yellow and white groups — people who don’t have close contact with artists, such as delivery people — are only tested if there’s a known exposure. And everyone wears colored lanyards to denote their risk, while groups are instructed to stay apart.

Read the whole article because there are interviews with individual artists about how they are impacted. The tl;dnr version is – artists are risking their health for even less pay than before

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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