In a matter of mere weeks, the city of Salzburg will erupt with activity as the annual Salzburg Festival commences on July 18. The streets will bustle with visitors from more than 70 countries, restaurants and coffee shops will buzz with conversations in different languages, and the various venues for the Festival performances will fill to capacity.
As the Festival launches its six-week run, attendees will be treated to a unique presentation, a concert series entitled “Overture Spirituelle – Christianity and Islam.” For the first time, an evolving exploration of Islamic ritual and religion will take place at the Salzburg Festival, largely employing orchestral pieces written in the Christian tradition.
The progressive series of performances, readings and discussions will include renditions of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Bal-Kan’s Honey and Blood, and Handel’s Israel in Egypt among many others. Of the 22 individual performances in the series, eight will take place at the Kollegienkirche, the site of Susan Swartz’s current exhibition, A Personal Path.
This is a delightful confluence of events, the coming together of these two themed artistic presentations. The musical series will bring people into the Collegiate Church to hear masterpieces and to reflect on the history and sacred practices of Islam. Susan’s exhibition will surround the listeners – bearing witness to the complementary nature of the visual and performing arts.
A Personal Path was always meant to comment on the connection between spirituality and artistic expression. That a portion of the Salzburg Festival is devoted to raising the profile of discussion about religion and spirituality is a poignant reminder of the intimate relationship between human faith and creativity.
Salzburg has historically been a seat of the Roman Catholic Church, this celebration of Islamic religion along with Christianity pays tribute to the eloquent words of Sufi master Muzaffer Efendi, “Religion is like a river flowing through many countries. Each country calls this river by a different name, possibly even claiming it for itself. Actually, however, the river is independent of countries and also springs from one source.” The unification of individuals of different faiths through the power of music and art is extraordinary.
Prof. Dr. Walter Smerling summed this notion up beautifully in the catalog for A Personal Path when he said, “Particularly in a church one finds oneself as a believer, a seeker or as a mere observer in a maelstrom of emotional states. And particularly in a church these themes lend themselves more easily to discussion and reflection. And if by virtue of its emotive force, art is capable of rendering such issues experiential and describable, then where better to stage this aesthetic presentation than in the Collegiate Church?”