Our History

Cultural delights and summer resort – this congenial combination has a good and long Austrian tradition. For generations, townsfolk and suburbanites have been drawn to the Salzkammergut every year, as the days got hotter and the freshness of the mountains and lakes became more and more alluring. The fact that the summer visitors didn’t want to do without the familiar cultural delights during their stay, lead the theatre director Joseph M. Kotzky, from Salzburg, in the late 19th century to build the town theatre in Gmunden at his own expense. The opening performance took place in 1872. The town theatre Gmunden went to great lengths to offer a diverse programme every year, especially in the period from July to September. To encourage the international and demanding health-resort visitors, who would often stay in Gmunden for many weeks, to visit the theatre, well-known and liked actors, mostly from Viennese theatres were hired for guest performances each season.

The idea of the Gmunden Festival was revived in 1987 due to an initiative of Christine Zemann, the town council of that time and later club president. The Co-founder and first artistic director was the opera singer Johannes Jokel, followed by Prof. Wilfried Tachezi. The Gmundner Festival Club was founded in 1993. Its first chairmen were Dr. Bernhard Wolfram and Dr. Harald Diemer. From 1998 to 2007, as first female president, Gerda Eder supported the Salzkammergut Festival with great dedication. She was followed by Martin Aistleitner as president. Today CEO Andreas Murray is president and Dr. Johanna Mitterbauer is chairwoman of the Gmundner Festival Club. Gerda Eder and Christine Zemann are the first and second honorary presidents.

In 1997 Jutta Skokan took on the management and from 1999 also the artistic direction of the festival. Under her creative and competent directorship, the idea of the multi strand festival, and the extension of the “Festival Gmunden” to the holiday region Salzkammergut, was further developed and implemented.

Since 2014, the festival offers its visitors an attractive cultural scene during Easter time with the spring festival BEST OF NEST. In 2015, BLÄTTERRAUSCHEN, a festival programme in autumn, was first presented. SCHNEEGESTÖBER finally forms the fourth column in the annual circle, which offers the audience a fantastic opportunity to experience unique encounters with music and literature, amidst an extraordinary countryside.

Every year since 2007, a literacy celebration within the festival is held over several days. Up to now it has been dedicated to Peter Handke, Christoph Ransmayr, Friederike  Mayröcker, Ernst Jandl, Josef Winkler, Robert Menasse, Gerhard Rühm, Peter Rosei, André Heller and this year Barbara Frischmuth.

In 2012 the Salzkammergut Festival Gmunden created the Franz-Josef-Altenburg-Price award, as recognition for excellent artistic personalities and sponsors of the Gmunden Festival. So far it has been awarded to Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa, Martin Schwab, Christoph Ransmayr, Anna Lang and Chris Pichler.

Dr. Manfred Asamer (Asamer Beteiligungs und Management GmbH), Michael Lammer (imagedesign Lammer e. U.), Mag. Hannes Moser (Greiner Holding AG), DI DDr. h.c. Peter Mitterbauer (Miba AG), Dr. Franz Gasselsberger (Oberbank AG), DI Gerhard Wölfel (BMW Group Werk Steyr), Gerald Reiter (Mevisto GmbH), Rudolf Roitner (SSI Schäfer Shop GmbH), Daniell Porsche (PDP VV OG Verwaltungsgesellschaft) and Mag. Dr. Franz Sattlecker (Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur und Betriebsges.m.b.H) were awarded as important business partners.

Ernst Molden was awarded the Salzkammergut Festival Gmunden ring of honour in 2015.

Keynote speakers of the Salzkammergut Festival Gmunden were among others, Peter Sloterdijk, Bassam Tibi, Franziska Augstein, Roger M. Buergel, Roger Willemsen, Elisabeth Schweeger, Franz WelserMöst, Ulla UnseldBerkéwicz, Anton Zeilinger, Ilija Trojanow, Carl Djerassi, Robert Pfaller, Theresia Walser and Konrad Paul Liessmann.

Overall, more than 5000 artists performed in about 1500 events.  

The next events