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JOHN VAN HASSELT / CORBIS
CASHNG IN: Souvenirs, such as Mozart Kugel praline chocolates, with motif.
Music / Salzburg
The Austrian city is making hay while the sun shines from its most famous son
By PETER GUMBEL
Saturday, Jan. 07, 2006
Austria's weekly newsmagazine Profil recently ran an illustration on its cover of an agonized-looking Mozart squashed beneath his father's leather britches and spewing out gold coins. The message in the headline: Mozart has been "brutally marketed for 200 years." And this year, during the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth, the accompanying article concluded, "the threat of total marketing looms." Nowhere is that commercial exploitation more evident than in Salzburg, the quaint Austrian city where Mozart was born, which hopes to cash in on the anniversary with an incongruous mix of kitsch and high culture. "Salzburg without Mozart is hardly imaginable. Without Mozart, I really couldn't say how this city would be," says Heinz Schaden, Salzburg's mayor.
An all-star lineup of musicians will be performing in town this year, including conductors Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Riccardo Muti and Simon Rattle. And for the first time, the annual Salzburg Festival in July and August will be staging every single one of Mozart's 22 operas. Festival organizers expect a huge run on tickets. Herbert Brugger, managing director of the tourism board, says the town began its marketing push three years ago and has since staged press conferences in Japan, in the U.S. and throughout much of Europe to stir up excitement. Tourism is already a big cash cow for the city, which hosted 6.9 million visitors in 2004. Quite how many more will come this year isn't clear, although Brugger expects a 10% jump in total visitors.
Salzburg stores are stuffed with Mozart souvenirs — from musical boxes and T shirts to the famous Mozart Kugel chocolates. Josef and Marina Reiter, who own a souvenir shop on the motorway that connects Salzburg to Munich, are looking forward to a roaring 2006. "We are expecting the Mozart year to be great for business," says Marina Reiter. "Everyone wants to take a little bit of Mozart home with them." Not all the products being touted are conventional ones. One dairy firm, Alpenmilch Salzburg, is marketing a special Mozart-year yogurt-and-milk drink flavored with marzipan, chocolate and nougat cream, the same ingredients as Mozart Kugel candy. Not everyone approves. Gérard Mortier, the current director of the Paris Opera who headed the Salzburg festival for a decade in the 1990s, says he worries that the Mozart anniversary year "won't yield much. To the contrary, I fear it might turn Mozart into an event. Instead of really delving into Mozart's depth, it will just make him more superficial."
Mortier is also critical of the Salzburg festival's plans. "What interest could there be in playing Mozart's 22 operas? None. The interest is not to play the Mozart catalog but to make out of, say, [the opera] Don Giovanni, everything that that work could be," he tells Time. Salzburg officials aren't fazed by such criticism. The tourism office's Brugger points out that Mozart has long since become a global brand, exploited by some for much more than his music. And for this Mozart anniversary year, money doesn't just talk in Salzburg — it sings.