The Wiener Festwochen were established in 1951. Emerging as a »demonstration of Austria's will to survive«, it was to prove to the world that a city marked by the ravages of war and its aftermath was able to engage in cultural activities. Undoubtedly, the Wiener Festwochen today serve a different function and fulfill different tasks.
Vienna has become an undisputed cultural metropolis, and the Wiener Festwochen have evolved into an innovative event based on international co-operation. Yet this is precisely why the Wiener Festwochen cannot tolerate stagnation. Proven approaches may lose their significance in the face of a changing co-ordinate system of international relationships and traditions. Thus it is an objective of the festival to search for new aspects, to inspire discussions of current artistic production and thus to provide an answer to - not only artistic - developments.
As is well known, there is no dearth of European art festivals, and this is a good thing. Yet sceptical voices are gradually making themselves heard. The internationalisation of culture is linked to a loss of identity, the monotonous glamour of time-tested professionalism is viewed as an outcome of the arbitrary interchangeability of a culture which, instead of producing, merely reproduces itself, thereby losing its contact with the place in which it is created.
These are serious words of criticism, but they do not apply to the Wiener Festwochen. On the contrary: since its establishment, the festival has been integrated into the cultural calendar of the city, and this is as true today as it ever was before - perhaps even more so.
A city in which Burgtheater and State Opera, Akademietheater and Volkstheater, Volksoper and Raimundtheater, Theater in der Josefstadt and Theater an der Wien, the Ronacher and more than 30 further medium-sized and small theatres try to attract audiences on
over 300 days a year, where a wealth of museums and galleries, Musikverein and Konzerthaus open their doors to the public, the Wiener Festwochen are faced with the question of how to present art and culture in a manner that will interest and fascinate visitors even in May and June, i.e. at the very end of an eventful season.
Today the Wiener Festwochen are a firmly established high-point of the cultural calendar of Vienna: a metropolitan festival that sets particular accents, enters into a dialogue with artistic creations of other cities of Europe and the world at large and presents spectacular productions while at the same time upholding and showcasing Viennese creativity.
The primary guidelines of programme conception aim at offering the local public as well as an international audience homogeneous additions or interesting alternatives to round-the-year programmes. Special Festival productions, joint productions as well as guest performances for which regular operating funds simply do not suffice are presented. All programme items have one common feature: the love of risk, the commitment to a type of art that may also trigger a productive scandal. The Wiener Festwochen offer an additional opportunity for innovative impulses by the Viennese scene, important encounters with cultural productions from abroad, a universal discussion of art and culture and above all involves all Viennese citizens into its cultural events. The Wiener Festwochen are not only a reflection of the city's infatuation with art but also provide an opportunity to open the door to other worlds and cultures.
However, the Wiener Festwochen are not only a place of cultural events but also take committed positions at a time that calls for commitment, for reasonable approaches, and they aim at contributing to shape the future as a forum of human co-existence, guided by a spirit of true enlightenment.