The biggest event on the calendar—as it has been since it was first organized by composer Richard Strauss, producer Max Reinhardt, and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal in 1920—is the world-famous Salzburger Festspiele. The main summer festival is usually scheduled for the middle of July through the end of August. In addition, the festival presents two other major annual events: the Easter Festival (early April), and the Pentecost Baroque Festival (late May).
The most star-studded events—featuring the top opera stars and conductors such as Franz Welser-Möst and Nikolaus Harnoncourt—have tickets ranging from €55 to €420; for these glamorous events, first-nighters still pull out all the stops—summer furs, Dior dresses, and white ties stud the more expensive sections of the theaters. Other performances run from €10 to €220, with lesser prices for events outside the main festival halls, the Grosses Festspielhaus (Great Festival Hall) and the Haus für Mozart
(House for Mozart), located shoulder to shoulder on the grand promenade of Hofstallgasse. This street, one of the most festive settings for a music festival, is especially dazzling at night, thanks to the floodlighted Fortress Hohensalzburg, which hovers on its hilltop above the theater promenade. Behind the court stables first constructed by Wolf-Dietrich in 1607, the Festspielhäser (festival halls) are modern constructions—the Grosses Haus was built in 1960 with 2,200 seats—but are actually "prehistoric," being dug out of the bedrock of the Mönchsberg mountain. There are glittering concerts and operas performed at many other theaters in the city. You can catch Mozart concertos in the 18th-century splendor of two magnificent state rooms in which the composer himself once conducted: the Rittersaal of the Residenz and the Marble Hall of the Mirabell Palace. Delightful Mozart productions are offered by the Salzburger Marionetten Theater. In addition, many important concerts are offered in the two auditoriums of the Mozarteum.
Since you must order your tickets as early as possible, make your decisions as soon as the program comes out (usually in the middle of November). Many major performances are sold out two or three months in advance, as hordes descend on the city to enjoy staged opera spectacles, symphony concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic and other great orchestras, recitals, church oratorios, and special evenings at the Mozarteum year after year.
Tickets to the Summer, Easter and Whitsun Festivals can be purchased directly at the box office (across the street from the Great Festival Hall against the Mönchsberg), at your hotel, or, most conveniently, on the festival website.