Due to the corona pandemic, the board of directors and the festival management have to cancel all concerts and events of the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy planned for summer 2020. it is the first time in the 64-year history of the festival that a complete season is cancelled.
On 29 April, the Federal Council prohibited the staging of major events with more than 1000 visitors until the end of August 2020. "Due to this government requirement, the concerts in the festival tent in Gstaad will not be able to take place, but the other concerts in the picturesque churches of the Saanenland and Pays-d'Enhaut will also be affected by the consequences of the pandemic," the festival communicates. There would still be restrictions due to hygiene measures and travel restrictions, and a risk of infection could not be accepted under any circumstances.
In the opinion of the board of directors and the festival management, an unrestricted enjoyment of the concert in summer 2020 cannot be guaranteed. "The entire festival team had hoped until the very end to be able to share these magical moments with all those who yearn for a summer with Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy.” Now, however, they took note of the decision of the Federal Council and bear the consequences.
Only church concerts not an option
To perform only the church concerts was not an option, says artistic director Christoph Müller. There had been a long discussion on this topic. After it had become clear on the one hand that the ban on gatherings of more than five people would apply until the beginning of June and that the decision on how to deal with it in the future would not be made until 27 May, time was running out. "And on the other hand, the festival lives financially from the large tent concerts," emphasises Müller.
Another main factor playing into the discussion is the risk of infections, says Müller. "If an infection were to occur, it would be fatal for the festival." It has been proven that the virus is transmitted during such events. "If there were to be infections, we could be accused of wanting to see the festival through at all costs, and of placing economic efficiency above the health of the audience. And last but not least, it would be frustrating to have to play in front of a small audience. It doesn't suit the mood of the festival."
One more factor that led to the cancellation all concerts and events are the travel restrictions, restrictions and conditions in the different countries. "It is not at all clear how and when the border closures will be eased," says Müller.
Keeping financial losses to a minimum
The board of directors and the festival management are now faced with the great challenge of minimising the impending financial loss for the Gstaad Menuhin Festival & Academy in 2020, so that from 2021 onwards they can once again be there for concert visitors and partners. There is great confidence in the far-reaching tradition of the festival and in the sympathy of many long-standing concert visitors, friends and partners.
One hopes to get off lightly in terms of finances, Müller specifies. "On the one hand, we are talking with the public authorities, with the municipality and the canton," he explains. "We are submitting an application to the canton within the framework of the support programmes for cultural institutions, where the aim is to obtain partial compensation for the loss. And talks are underway with the municipality to receive the entire municipal contribution for 2020 – despite the cancellation of the event. But public funds would only cover 70 to a maximum of 80 percent of the costs. "Then there is still a large amount missing," says Müller. That is why talks are also being held with private sponsors and patrons.
Christoph Müller is confident about the future. "We hope very much and actually also assume that concerts can take place again soon." There are efforts by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), together with the Swiss association of concert organisers and orchestras, to work out measures to ensure that concerts can be held in compliance with security measures. "There will be a way," says Müller.
Tickets already booked will be refunded. Ticket holders will be contacted directly by the festival office within the next few days. Further information and a refund form are available on the homepage.
Motto postponed to 2022
Müller has raised much anticipation with the 2020 programme announced under the title them Vienna. In order to keep this anticipation alive, the festival management has decided to move the to the summer of 2022 to allow for a new edition of the planned concerts and productions. "Discussions with musicians are already underway and one can be confident that this will succeed", says the announcement.
Digital platform still available free of charge
As the festival management further communicates, the digital platform, which has been online since June 2017, will continue to be available free of charge throughout the year and will be filled with new, exclusive and unique content.
Meanwhile, the festival management will examine the possibilities of musical exchange formats in analogue and digital formats for the coming summer and will work to implement existing ideas.
Based on AvS/Anita Moser