Mozart's town lures the avant-garde and classical

In an effort to attract younger people, an annual music festival in Mozart's town of Salzburg now also features avant-garde theater productions, very different from the classical performances it is known for.

Every year since 1920, a music festival in Mozart’s city attracts some of the world’s most accomplished classical performers. More recently, in an effort to attract younger audiences, on the 10th anniversary of the Young Directors Project, five groups from around the world descended on this luxuriously quaint Austrian town to première their avant-garde theater productions. The program was staged as a competition with this year’s prize set at €10,000 (roughly $14,500).

Among the competitors was the Scandinavian/Austrian performance troupe SIGNA, named after its creator, Signa Köstler. Their play, “Das ehemalige Haus” (“The Former House”), put audience members into the midst of the action.

“It’s nice to have rooms where the audience is so close,” Ms. Köstler says.

The play is about a criminal gang that smuggles Eastern European women into Austria in order to sell them as illegal prostitutes. Visitors followed a mythological creature through a decrepit house as characters rose from the dead to tell their stories.

This year’s winner was “Symphony of a Missing Room,” an interactive performance from London in which audience members donned wireless headphones and were led by actors on an unusual “personal journey” through Salzburg’s Museum of Modern Art.

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