Vienna issues call for urgent replacements

Vienna issues call for urgent replacements


norman lebrecht

September 05, 2014

Both the ex-music director Franz Welser-Möst and the intendant Dominique Meyer have begun speaking guardedly about the breakdown at the top of the Vienna State Opera.

Franz told Die Presse: 


There are differences over the artistic direction which did not occur overnight. Dominique Meyer, as director, is the number one. He is a very decent human being with other opinions on artistic matters. That is his right. But then I must accept the consequences.

Es gibt Differenzen über die künstlerische Ausrichtung des Hauses, die nicht von heute auf morgen entstanden sind. Dominique Meyer ist als Direktor die Nummer eins. Er ist ein sehr netter Mensch und hat in künstlerischen Dingen andere Meinungen. Das steht ihm auch zu. Aber dann muss ich die Konsequenzen ziehen

Pressed about what these artistic differences might be, he added:

It is to do with singers and conductors, to do with the whole area that involves the artistic direction of the house… Believe me: This is a very painful decision for me. Especially after this singularly happy Rosenkavalier at Salzburg, It wont be easy for me to give up working with this orchestra (the Vienna Philharmonic).

Da geht es um Sänger und Dirigenten, da geht es um den ganzen Bereich, der die künstlerische Ausrichtung des Hauses ausmacht…. Glauben Sie mir: Das ist eine für mich sehr schmerzliche Entscheidung. Gerade nach diesem besonders glücklichen ‘Rosenkavalier’ in Salzburg fällt es mir nicht leicht, auf die weitere Zusammenarbeit mit diesem Orchester (die Wiener Philharmoniker stellen das Staatsopernorchester, Anm.) zu verzichten.

Dominique Meyer messaged:


I greatly admire Franz Welser-Möst as an artist and conductor.  My concern and my first task is to find as quickly as possible an adequate replacement for the performances he should be conducting at the Vienna State Opera in the 2014/2015 season: at least 34 performances, including two premieres, Rigoletto and Elektra .

Ich schätze Franz Welser-Möst als Künstler und Dirigenten sehr… Meine Sorge und erste Aufgabe ist es nun, so rasch wie möglich adäquaten Ersatz für die Aufführungen zu finden, die er 2014/2015 an der Wiener Staatsoper hätte dirigieren sollen: immerhin 34 Vorstellungen, darunter die zwei mit ihm geplanten Premieren von Rigoletto und Elektra.”


  • sdReader says:

    He really has left them in the lurch!

    That can’t be so amicable.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It would be a bit un-gentlemanly to publicly bang each other on the head with furniture. On that level one sorts-out one’s differences of opinion politely…. After all, in music life there are no objective, scientific standards for opinions, achievements, interpretations.

  • Emmanuel says:

    Unless my historical knowledge is failing me, Karajan and especially Abbado were boosted out largely because of the increasingly poor critical reception of their work as their tenures went on. FW-M has been getting reasonably good press overall. It takes big cohones to quit a post like that over a disagreement with the artistic director. If that facts bear the story out, he just rose in my estimation.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Karajan was eased out because of his prolonged absences. Abbado left on the eve of Mozart year because he could not get the artistic conditions he needed. Too many performances were semi-rehearsed.

  • Mark says:

    Luisi could cancel his Met engagements for Vienna. That would be poetic justice.

  • John Borstlap says:

    When you read the comments under the Presse article, you realize the truth of Karajan’s quip that in Vienna there are 1,5 million experts on opera.

    The difficulty of such an institution is to combine the requirements of excellent productions with covering the expenses and filling the hall. It’s a myth that the Vienna Opera merely offers entertainment for Asian tourists… the Viennese consider ‘their’ opera as an invaluable part of their identity. The mix of repertoire which is presented there, is attractive in every respect and the hall is big enough to house, next to the Viennese, a couple of curious Chinese.

    I would be much interested to see a conducting powerhouse taking-over the post, like Thielemann or Jaap van Zweden (the latter having achieved a spectacular success with the Chicago Symphony in this summer’s ‘Power to Truth’ festival, electrifying sold-out halls with difficult repertoire). Electricity belongs to Vienna’s climate.

  • SC says:

    I’ve been in and around Vienna (and Salzburg) these last few weeks. The local chatter a couple of weeks ago was, “Meyer’s a nice man but he’s keeping costs down by underinvesting in top singers, top conductors”. One might fit that to FWM’s comments today and have a guess at what the row was about.

  • Milka says:

    How about Domingo ? If he is good enough for the Met he certainly is good enough for Vienna –

    • Anonymus says:

      What is that supposed to mean? Are you maybe confusing artistic integrity with the ability to pay the highest fees in the business?

  • Jonathan Cable says:

    W-M’s comment, “Das steht ihm auch zu,” doesn’t mean “that is his standpoint,” but rather, “that is his prerogative” or “it is his right to do so.”
    Just for clarification purposes.

  • Robert Kenchington says:

    All the conductors that resigned did so because they came up against the old, old Viennese mantra: ‘We’ve always done it this way’ – a phrase that covers up for sloppy approximation, cost-cutting production values, limited rehearsal time and play safe repertoire. These factors were behind Karajan’s departure to set up his own opera house in Salzburg and no doubt contributed to the successive resignations of Maazel and Abbado – both sticklers for high standards. I suspect the underlying culture of parochial amateurism that seems to haunt the Vienna State Opera even today has once again claimed another well-meaning maestro.

  • Galen Johnson says:

    Richard Strauss, too, was outmaneuvered and effectively dismissed from his own tenure at the Staatsoper, in 1924. He said, “People are treacherous everywhere, but in Vienna they’re so nice about it.”

  • SC says:

    Galen, any chance of a source for that great Strauss quote? Just had a quick flick through the letters but can’t see it.