Faust VR

In the fall of 2023, the theater world celebrates one of the most famous German-speaking people in theater of the 20th century, Max Reinhardt. The Salzburg Festival commemorates the theatrical magician by recreating one of his most famous projects: the acclaimed production of Faust at the famous venue Felsenreitschule in Salzburg. The Ars Electronica Futurelab helps to bring Reinhardt’s work back to life with a virtual reality application: a unique experience, thanks to an elaborate digital reconstruction of the famous stage set and dramaturgy designed by the Salzburg Festival.

The Felsenreitschule was carved into the hill Mönchsberg 330 years ago, based on a design by the Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and commissioned by Archbishop Johann Ernst Thun. Reinhardt’s Faust production stunned audiences in the summer of 1933, with a “Faust town” showcased in and around the many arcades of the Felsenreitschule by architect and set designer Clemens Holzmeister – generating the effect of a stage with multiple levels.

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With the Ars Electronica Futurelab project, visitors to the exhibition The Enchanting Reality of Theatre enter a reconstruction of Fauststadt in the Felsenreitschule using VR glasses, directly on stage. They take on unique positions there: between spectators and actors, they travel through the city designed by Clemens Holzmeister along a ten-minute interpretation of the play. Margarethe Lasinger from the Salzburg Festival has developed a dramaturgy for this purpose that leads visitors to formative elements of the play, at key positions in the virtual stage design of more than 100 years ago.

The reconstruction of the city is being carried out based on plans, recordings and other records from the archives of the Salzburg Festival Fund. A large number of photos are being deskewed in perspective and partly improved with AI support, so the original photos are used as textures on the manually created geometry. In this way, attention to detail to the stage design of the time and the technical limitations of VR glasses are reconciled.

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Interested in similar projects? The following Ars Electronica Futurelab projects are related to the ideas and concepts presented here. An overview of all our productions, cooperations and projects can be found in our project archive.