Dresden wars: Thielemann hits back at ‘barking dog’ Dorny

Dresden wars: Thielemann hits back at ‘barking dog’ Dorny


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2014

The music director of the Semper Oper was accused by the sacked general director, Serge Dorny, of making unreasonable demands.

Here‘s Christian Thielemann’s reply:

(And here’s an update from his press conference).



‘Herr Dorny hat einen Vertrag unterschrieben, der von seinem Anwalt ausgehandelt wurde, und damit müsst’s eigentlich gut sein. (…) Wie es dazu kam, dass er plötzlich meint, seine Befugnisse und Kompetenzen genügen ihm nicht mehr, ist mir ein Rätsel.’

‘Mr. Dorny signed a contract that was negotiated by his lawyer, and that’s the end of it. … How did it come about that suddenly his powers and authority were no longer enough for him. That is beyond me.’

And, more colourfully:

‘Getroffene Hunde bellen eben. Aber davon lassen wir uns nicht provozieren.’

A beaten dog barks. But let’s not get provoked by that.




  • suzanne says:

    This translation isn’t good, Norman. The quotes translate better as “Mr. Dorny signed a contract that was negotiated by his lawyer, so everything should have been fine….” and “A dog that’s been hurt barks. But we won’t be provoked by that.”

  • Andreas W. says:

    24.02.2014, 13:07 Uhr

    Einladung zur Pressekonferenz

    Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

    auf diesem Wege laden wir Sie zur kurzfristig anberaumten Pressekonferenz am

    Dienstag, den 25. Februar 2014, um 14 Uhr

    in die Semperoper Dresden (Oberes Rundfoyer)

    ein. Auf dem Podium sitzen:

    Sabine von Schorlemer (Sächsische Staatsministerin für Wissenschaft und Kunst)

    Wolfgang Rothe (Kaufmännischer Geschäftsführer der Semperoper)

    Christian Thielemann (Chefdirigent der Sächsischen Staatskapelle Dresden)

    Jan Nast (Orchesterdirektor der Sächsischen Staatskapelle Dresden)

    Henrik Woll (Orchestervorstand der Sächsischen Staatskapelle Dresden)

    Well, there are a lot of representatives of the Staatskapelle to do the talking.

    “Getroffene Hunde bellen eben”, absolutely right, Herr Thielemann.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Yes that’s quite strange isn’t it? Why would a press conference in the Semperoper include representatives of the Staatskapelle Dresden? What do they have to do with everything?

      • Andreas W. says:

        Less and less it seems.

        But why nobody from the Ballet but instead three Staatskapelle representatives?

        Are we exactly witnessing the coup d’etat?

        The Staatskapelle is taking over the Semperoper, any future Intendant only from “Chefdirigents Gnaden”?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          The orchestra there has had a special status for a long time, for several centuries. So that would hardly be a new development.

          • Wanderer says:

            Really? What special status of the “Hofkapelle” would that be? I don’t think that is the case. But then the orchestra was not the object of a media darling chief conductor either in the past, a chief conductor who needs the orchestra elsewhere (e.g. Salzburg) and a national media that wants to promote Thielemann with HIS orchestra, not the Staatskapelle itself. (ZDF and Unitel)

            The Staatskapelle made a Faustian pact with Mephistopheles…

            Let’s be real. Thielemann wants to use the orchestra outside and inside of the Semperoper primarily for his personal profiling, he considers the orchestra his personal orchestra. He always says “we”, but there is no such “we”, it is in reality “ME and MY orchestra”.

          • sdReader says:

            That’s right. The relationship between the bodies in Dresden has evolved over centuries. How stupid of an outsider to come in and try to operate like some CEO.

          • opera buffo says:

            But was there ever a chief conductor who had more power than the intendant and in fact more power or political weight than the superior Saxon state authority in the past in Dresden? I don’t see it.

            And how is the deteriorating quality of the opera to be improved, if no Intendant can decide with sufficient authorities anymore and is told to be inferior to the chief conductor’s personal plans? That’s a catch 22, impossible to improve anything.

            Opera director Eytan Pessen has been driven away. Now Dorny. Where will all this end? Is the Staatskapelle playing divide and conquer, encouraged by the political weight of its chief conductor?

            Take the tourists visiting the building, not the program, away, and you end up with a facade and the most beautiful brewery in the world…

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Wanderer – yes, really. The orchestra has enjoyed a stellar reputation far beyond the borders of Saxony for literally centuries. Vivaldi and Albinoni wrote concerti for it. Rousseau described it as having “the best balance and forming the most perfect ensemble in Europe”. It says in one of Beethoven’s conversation books that “the Hofkapelle in Dresden is generally considered the best in Europe” (don’t remember if he wrote that himself or if someone wrote it in for him, but in any case, it reflects the high reputation of the orchestra in that period, too). Wagner called it “die sächsische Wunderharfe” (“the Saxonian magic harp”). Strauss had several of his most important operas premiered in Dresden, and one of the main reasons for that was the orchestra, for which he also wrote his Alpensinfonie, and he dedicated the work to the orchestra as well.

            So it has enjoyed a very special status far exceeding that of being merely a competent pit band for a very, very long time.

            There is nothing “Faustian” about the association of the orchestra with Thielemann. A principal conductor with a strong artistic personality and public profile with connections to media and festivals is good for any orchestra, no matter if one likes his particular musical style or not. And of course he wants a great orchestra for his projects. Any conductor wants that. Duh!

            So both orchestra and conductor benefit from the partnership. And that’s the way it should be.

          • sdReader says:

            @ Wanderer,

            What’s wrong with that sense of ownership? Better to have it than not. Better results, surely.

          • Wanderer says:

            @ Michael Schaffer & sdReader:

            I’m well aware of the merits of Staatskapelle over the centuries. It’s also clear that the power struggle between Orchestra and Opera in many aspects is nothing new.

            What is new in the history of that orchestra is that never before was a conductor alone so powerful and the orchestra so subordinate to his powers. And on top of that now the superior “Dienstherr”, the state government, appears to act based on Thielemann’s influence, while it actually has the duty to control and moderate the ever self centered artist.

            ZDF and Unitel are interested in Thielemann, not in the Staatskapelle. They would produce him with any good orchestra, as long as he is in the party.

            The orchestra has made a Faustian pact as far as they are using his powers now to gain territory in the eternal internal power fight in the opera. But the artistic proliferation so closely tied to only one artist – one who is known for drama – has risks. If Thielemann leaves, for whatever reason, they will find themselves in a deep hole. Nothing should supersede the traditionally strong quality and brand name of the orchestra itself, which again is indivisible to the opera house as a whole.

            I’m afraid at the moment the orchestra is becoming less Staatskapelle Dresden and more Staatskapelle Thielemann.

            In the past the orchestra’s chief conductors never did outshine the orchestra’s glory itself. Even Sinopoli, Blomstedt, Kempe etc. were names that operated on eye level with the orchestra and are remembered as partners of the famous institution the orchestra is, not the other way around.

  • Paul Thomason says:

    You persist in misidentifying Thielemann. He is not music director of the Semperoper, but Principal Conductor of the Staatskapelle.