Now it’s official: Michael Maertens is Salzburg’s new Jedermann in 2023, Valerie Pachner plays his lover, the paramour. In Austria, this news is almost as significant as someone proclaiming from the bell tower of Salzburg Cathedral: “Habemus papam.” Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s “Play of the Rich Man’s Death”, which has been performed annually in front of this cathedral since 1920, is the indestructible centerpiece and hit of the Salzburg Festival. The ancestral gallery of “Everyman” resembles a who’s who not only of Austrian acting; this role has always been played by the best in the German-language theater of their time.
“I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it makes me a bit proud,” says Hamburg-born Michael Maertens, born in 1963, who hadn’t reckoned with this role anymore, “because at 59 I’m very old Everyone.” Maertens, celebrated as a virtuoso of the art of acting, has been a member of the ensemble at the Vienna Burgtheater since 2009 and is therefore Austrian. The darling of the public with outstanding comedic talent even has the title of “Chamber Actor” – along with Heinz Reincke and Boy Gobert as the first Hamburger ever. And he has appeared again and again at the Salzburg Festival since 1993, where he had previously admired Klaus Maria Brandauer as Jedermann and Gert Voss.
Maertens plays the “Jedermann” season by Lars Eidinger, who only played in Salzburg for two summers and, together with Verena Altenberger, interpreted the relationship between the title hero and his playmate in a refreshingly new and contemporary way. Valerie Pachner, the new paramour, is known like her predecessor in Austrian and above all through film roles, so she played in Terrence Malick’s 2019 Cannes acclaimed work “A Hidden Life”. In the new “Jedermann” she will at the same time – which has never happened before – take over death. Casting coup, which Maertens welcomes: “There are many opportunities for us to play together.”
In Bettina Hering’s last year as acting director, the “Jedermann” director is again – or: still – Michael Sturminger, with whom she competed in 2017 (then with Tobias Moretti in the title role). In 2023 there will be an almost completely new cast. Cornelia Froboess will play Jedermann’s mother, Helmfried von Lüttichau the good fellow, Sarah Viktoria Frick the double role of devil/god. Also there is the famous musician and singer Anja Plaschg, known as soap & skin, she plays the faith. Michael Maertens is looking forward to and about this “illustrious round”. He believes that with the “Jedermann” one can actually “tell something of today” and “touch people and make them think”. Actually, says Maertens, “I want to continue where Lars Eidinger listened. I admire him very much and find a spectacular actor.”
And how funny is this “Everyman” when an ironist and comedian like Maertens plays him? “I do believe that there is a certain amount of comedy in this man’s desperation, in this deep fear of dying,” says Maertens. “People are always funny when they fail, when they fall and run into the door, so I see a few opportunities there for me.” He compares the role to “Richard II.”, his biggest hit with director Claus Peymann. The two figures are similar: “They are two people at the zenith of their careers, who then fall rapidly and get into despair, but also into self-reflection.” Peymann says that he is very happy for “Michi” Maertens and might even come to see “Jedermann” at last. It would be the first time: “Because it always gave me a little chills.”