Gerard Mortier on cancer, opera and Wikipedia

Gerard Mortier on cancer, opera and Wikipedia


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2013

About to undergo his second round of chemotherapy, the ever-combative opera chief has given a frank account of his illness, his future and his place in the world. The interview, with a Belgian magazine, De Theaterkrant, is in Flemish/Dutch. Sample quotes:

gerard mortier


– If  I were a family man , I would respond differently to this disease . Now it’s mainly my spiritual children I’m concerned for, opera people like Serge Dorny , Bernard Foccroulle Viktor Schoner…

– The lack of musical knowledge in many opera houses is shocking. Not just directors, also conductors. Look at Herbert von Karajan coaching a singer who sings Wotan: every word he knew by heart.

–  Many directors have no place to be in an opera house. They know nothing about music but come along with a nice idea for starters . Set the Wagner Ring in a ski resort: not so difficult . But what next?

– Too many directors belong to the Wikipedia generation….

Go tell ’em, Gerard!


  • A very moving and frank interview by a man who has changed the contours of opera. Like him or dislike him, there is no denying his influence. I wish him much wisdom and strength in the months to come. He is a great example to many of us.

  • And for those of us who aren’t on Fæcebook?

  • Hasbeen says:

    A great man with a lasting legacy. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  • Fred says:

    First of all let me wish Mr Mortier all the best in his struggle with this terrible disease.

    On the other hand this disease is no excuse of getting away with some statements above and in the article. Let’s take for instance the statement that many opera directors etc don’t know about opera…….Typical Mortier always turning things (read manipulating) to serve his OWN course. His own what he calls ‘spiritual children’ didn’t/don’t know anything about the genre. At the outstart Dorny knew what mortier taught him but not much more. He was familiar with the symphonic genre but not at all with opera or its singers. That’s why as a Mortier clone and if he stays faithful to the mortier creed he will get into trouble sooner or later with Thieleman in Dresden. Bernard Foucroulle, a nice man, a great musician (organist) on top of that but he didn’t know a thing about opera or vocal artists. Foucroulle made it thanks to Pappano and his artistic director Bern Loebe. These two “made” Foucroulle. Mortier yes, he has a good background thanks to the then wonderful Flemish education system and 100% he knows opera and its singers.At the outstart of his opera going life he LOVED Gigli, operetta and Puccini. But he developped in something of his own, and his development (as a theatre director) I did/do not like at all. The Hollywood actor he ridicules did a splendid job at Rosenkavalier in Antwerp and i’m but too sure that if mortier could have hired him in his good days he would certainly have done so. Mortier’s character doesn’t make room for other one’s successes. I could write pages about him, his policies, his choices etc but i don’t have the time but the record should always be put straight. I for one really think he’s partly responsible for the decline in popularity of opera. He drove them away while his predecessors still draw audiences from the working class. Listen I admire the man of what he achieved for himself, I have respect for his knowledge but as a ‘opinionst’ no, as a theatre director only partly. His first seasons at the Munt/Monnaie didn’t display any of the craziness we were to be seen later.Deep in himself he knows but too well he remained the patissier’s son from the Muide in his hometown Gent, his craving to be loved by the ‘happy few mainly of the left’ has drawn him into a caricature. It could have been different. Yes, he could have led the Met or La Scala that he didn’t he onlyhas to blame himself for.

    Of course the people who interview him are in awe because they themselves have no idea at all.

    Love to spend an evening or two with Gerard to discuss it all and he may even accept it coz there’s genuine charm and goodwill in the guy. Therefore i say no to what he now stands for but i say yes to conquering that horrible cancer.

    For the record AGAIN : the magazine is a FLEMISH magazine (not a Belgian one, there are NO Belgian magazines) and the language spoken in both Flanders and The Netherlands is DUTCH.

    Flemish defines other things but that’s another story.

    • Berto says:

      To Fred : too much details ! You sound like “the first wife”(*) of Mortier : jealous and mean. Don’t panic : if what you say is true you’ll be famous… one day ?

      (*) Never had any wife !

  • sofie says:

    Dear Fredje .Jeezus , what a comment !!! Somebody who is pissed/ frustrated on Mortier . Any way someone who doesn’t has the courage to take off his /her mask.

    • Fred says:

      if that’s all what you and ‘berto’ have to say, pretty meagre. I’m not jealous, i’m not pissed or frustrated or whatever. I came up with a few put-the-record-straight- motions. You both clearly belong to the Mortier ‘followers’ with a religious snatch to it. The fact that you don’t have anything else to say, says it all. The fact that both of you posted your comments at one minute between yourselves (probably Berto = Sofie) explains a lot to to people who can read…who’s wearing the mask here?