(A. J. Goldman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/2; via Pam Green.)
SALZBURG, Austria — The Salzburg Festival may nowadays be synonymous with classical music, but this venerable summertime event, founded nearly 100 years ago, has drama in its DNA. For the first festival, in 1920, two if its founders, the director Max Reinhardt and the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, joined forces for a legendary production of “Jedermann” (“Everyman”), Hofmannsthal’s 1911 drama based on a medieval mystery play.
Staging “Jedermann” has become one of Salzburg’s enduring traditions. For nearly a century, the work, subtitled “The Play About the Death of the Rich Man,” has been preaching (in rhyming couplets) against avarice and exhorting the festival’s well-heeled audiences to do a charitable deed.
The highly allegorical drama centers on the prosperous and dissolute character of Jedermann, whose callousness and appetites have offended heaven. When Death pays an unexpected visit, Jedermann scrambles to find a companion for his journey to the afterlife. Deserted by his friends and lover and confronted by the paucity of his good deeds, he turns to faith in God, accepts the will of heaven and dies happy.
Over the decades, many of Austria’s leading actors have been attracted to the virtuoso title role, including Maximilian Schell, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Peter Simonischek. Since 2017, Salzburg’s Jedermann has been the stage and screen star Tobias Moretti. From the first moment, Mr. Moretti makes the wealthy man despicable, although not entirely without charm. After Death (a melancholy and intense Peter Lohmeyer, skeletal and tattooed) pays his visit, Mr. Moretti registers the panic and terror of a man who realizes too late that he has lived the wrong life. The psychological transformation from sinner to penitent is an extremely tricky one to pull off, but Mr. Moretti’s performance has the dramatic and psychological scope required to make it convincing.
Photo: Panorama Tours