How to break up an agency – in German

Every few weeks, I hear of another break-up or bust-out in the troubled classical music industry. Usually, it’s a young agent leaving home with his or her artists, leaving the agency owner reaching for his lawyers, or the bottle.

Some remain permanently aggrieved. I know one man who, 20 years later, cannot hear the names of his defectors without turning puce.

So some weeks ago, when I heard that one of the larger Vienna agencies was splitting up, I expected the usual spitting of teeth and issuing of writs. Not a bit of it. What’s happened is that an agent called Helga Machreich-Unterzaucher, who looks after some of the best singers in the world, decided after giving birth to her second child that it was time to move on.

She discussed the matter with her employers, Raab & Böhm, and a valuation was quickly agreed. Helga raised the cash and left the old firm last month with all of her artists and kisses all round. Everyone, it appears, behaved like perfect English gentlemen – in German. Why can’t English agents do the same?

Here’s a select list of Helga’s headliners. How many can you name?

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