The nearby open air festivals will keep you busy while Vienna is on vacation
Bathed in sunshine, white wine and world-class entertainment, the Austrian summer is practically tailor-made for the post-Woodstock era’s favorite pastime: the festival. Beyond the legendary Salzburger Festspiele (July 22–Aug 31, see On The Road), the country’s love for music old and new make the assortment one of the widest in Europe. Whether it’s lakeside extravagance in Bregenz, a bit of air guitar at Lovely Days, or partying on the midway at Frequency, the sojourns on offer reflect the varied tastes and restless energy of our time.
Running since 2001, FM4’s Frequency Festival has become Austria’s most notable mainstream pop and indie rock festival, booking household names from around the world alongside some fast- rising homegrown talent.
Held in St. Pölten’s idyllic Green Park, Frequency boasts a growing crowd of regulars and a sideshow of non-musical activities including a delectable food fest and a new focus on eco-friendly camping. Taking its cues from the millennial generation, Frequency’s biggest strength is the range of acts: This year’s crowds can rock out to Bilderbuch or Bloc Party, boogie to electro swing king Parov Stelar, get weird with South Africa’s indefatigable Die Antwoord, or even nurture their soft, velvety dark side with mind-expanding vibes from Massive Attack. Taking place over three full days in August, Frequency is the fulcrum of Austria’s festival calendar.
The Floating Opera
Austria’s centuries-old thirst for orchestral music, opera and theater lends a distinctly different shade to this country’s array of summer festivals. Founded in 1946, the Bregenzer Festspiele have become the stuff of legend, hosting dozens of operas, operettas, dramas, and orchestral concerts on Lake Constance on Austria’s western tip. The centerpiece is undoubtedly the floating Seebühne stage, jutting out into the water, where luscious operas come to life before a stunning backdrop. This year’s program features Puccini’s final opera Turandot, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Faccio’s Hamlet along with some searing modern works like the Austrian premiere of Miroslav Srnka’s chamber opera Make No Noise and the world premiere of Staatsoperette, a new adaptation of composer Otto Zykan’s controversial exploration of Austria’s chaotic First Republic, originally made for television and broadcast in 1977.
Besides the blissful setting, Bregenz is known for its bold sets, colorful costumes, and trailblazing dramaturgy. Staatsoperette even integrates puppetry from wunderkind Nikolaus Habjan. Few classical festivals are this nuanced, allowing space for such large-scale experimentation alongside the opportunity to hear Puccini’s beloved Nessun Dorma; handling both grandeur and meticulous detail with skill, care, and craftsmanship.
It’s Gonna Be A Lovely Day
Giving classic rock fans what they want, Lovely Days (actually just a single day, July 9) has, since 2006, presented some of the greatest bands of the 1960s and ’70s. Held this year at the baroque grounds of Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt some 60 km south of Vienna, it even features rafter seating and VIP stands for aging boomers. This year’s headliner Deep Purple has gone through many lineup changes in over five decades of performances but the group has lost none of its force. Additionally, Jethro Tull’s legendary flute-slinging front man Ian Anderson is set to deliver a solo performance, while blues rockers Ten Years After – best known for their unforgettable performance at Woodstock in 1969 – will be the opening act. Beside such giants of blues and progressive rock, glam rock hit factory The Sweet (Ballroom Blitz) will also be on hand.
Regular shuttles run between Vienna and the festival, so there’s no reason to miss out on the fuzzy glow of the golden age of rock.
The Festival Circuit
Graz’s own classical festival specializes in early music, set in the picturesque old town. Long the domain of the late conducting legend (and local son) Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Styriarte honors him this year with a special focus on Beethoven’s nine symphonies, played as authentically as possible.
Through Jul 24, Graz.
Known as the “Mecca of Operettas,” this year’s festival on the shores of Neusiedlersee will revive Paul Abraham’s rarely performed operetta Victoria and Her Hussar. It’s known for traditional productions with widespread appeal.
Jul 7-Aug 20, Mörbisch am See (map)
The neo-gothic Schloss Grafenegg near Krems hosts world-class orchestral talent, including the Cleveland and London Symphony Orchestras, in a family-friendly setting.
Through Sep 11, Schloss Grafenegg, (map)
Budapest isn’t far to travel for one of the world’s largest festivals. This year boasts an eclectic mix including Rihanna, Manu Chao, Muse and Sigur Rós alongside over 1,000 performances large and small.
Aug 10-16, Óbudai-sziget, Budapest (map)
International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
The town of Saalfelden comes to life with avantgarde strands of jazz and contemporary music. This year features an international lineup as well as their Almkonzerte, jams held up high on the mountainside.
Aug 25-28, Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer (map)