We are not anymore where we used to be but not yet at a new place. We have to leave the established patterns behind and invent new ones. This is a long transition. We need a change. But what needs to be changed and how can we envision the ‘new’?

Theatre stages are potential ground for this new to emerge. They give shape to possible futures, host fiction and speculation as prominent guests. In Vienna during spring 2022, the Wiener Festwochen will open up a space in which artists explore uncharted terrain. As every year, the festival produces and presents new artistic creations. Supporting international and contemporary creation is at the heart of its missions, as is sharing it as widely as possible with a curious audience. The festival’s programme doesn’t start from a particular discipline – it is the crossing of artistic languages that is sought – nor from a theme that already presupposes what is emerging: let’s be surprised by the not-yet-formulated. The Wiener Festwochen think of the arts in terms of an intersection; it is one of the specificities of the festival, giving pride of place to the music and the many ways of staging it.

At the centre of this year’s festival, there is the human voice. A series of choirs will be heard. Collective bodies will sing songs about end and renewal, about cycles of life and death. They sing requiems and satires. They embody new forms of community and togetherness. Romeo Castellucci’s exceptional staging of Mozart’s last composition is haunted by extinction. But the end may bring a new beginning and the outstanding performativity of the singers brings continual (re)invention. In François Chaignaud and Geoffroy Jourdain’s t u m u l u s, the interlaced vocal polyphony of a dancing choir forms what they describe as a space of solidarity. Visual artist Ulla von Brandenburg collaborates with the Arnold Schoenberg Choir. She invites the audience to a synaesthetic experience, making the vocal pieces of the brilliant Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg resonate in the architecture of the Jugendstiltheater at Steinhof. We are particularly looking forward to a new creation by Philippe Parreno, a major figure in the art scene of the past twenty years. Presented as a world premiere in Vienna, Phantasmagoria uses the human voice as medium and main actor. With new music by Marko Nikodijevic performed by the Ensemble intercontemporain, it promises to be a special kind of séance that demonstrates the continuity of life … through a talking orchestra!

With the world closing down and social spaces shrinking, we need visionary projects. Susanne Kennedy’s staging of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach tackles a key work of the musical repertoire of the 20th century to envision a land inhabited by a human species to come. The outstanding Spanish company El Conde de Torrefiel will also be among our central guests. In their fabulous performances, a lucid dissection of everyday appearances generates fascinating sketches of humankind’s future. Other text-based forms of theatre unmask contemporary (identity) politics and social inequalities. Satoko Ichihara, Buhle Ngaba, Christiane Jatahy and many more present theatrical works that expose the damage caused by supremacy and simplification. The festival reconsiders a diverse repertoire, and not the most obvious one, through a contemporary lens. Christopher Rüping is a much talked-about protagonist of theatre in Germany whose work hasn’t been presented in Vienna yet. His unique take on Der Ring des Nibelungen is another highlight of this year’s edition of the festival.

Music permeates our entire programme. A new museum (ÖMSUBM – Austrian Museum for Black Entertainment and Black Music) that will open during the Wiener Festwochen shines a light on Black entertainers as part of the popular music industry in Austria and Germany. Wonderful instruments conceived by the Lebanese visual artist Tarek Atoui will be played by Vienna-based musicians in a series of concerts all over the city. This project will also comprise several open workshops that question the acts of playing and hearing. Musical mastermind Iannis Xenakis, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year, keeps inspiring us. Emmanuelle Huynh is staging his phenomenal Kraanerg (1968), performed live by Klangforum Wien. Furthermore, the pioneering dimension of Xenakis’s music, his spatial conception of sound, his excursions into the extremes of noise, will be celebrated on the last festival day.

The artistic projects of the Wiener Festwochen generate encounters. They take place in theatres, bars, woods or along the Danube. They may rebuild a common space where works of art are the central fireplace that (re)unites us. Let’s give shape together to a striking and ambitious festival. A festival that takes risks, that is forward-looking, generous and open.

Herzlich willkommen!

Christophe Slagmuylder
and the Wiener Festwochen team

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The Wiener Festwochen would like to thank their main sponsors.