‘Vienna has lost its venom,’ wails public voice

‘Vienna has lost its venom,’ wails public voice


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2014

One of the city’s most-read commentators, Edwin Baumgartner, is bemoaning the lack of public outrage at the walkout of the opera’s music director, the resignation of another conductor and the lack of an understudy when Roberto Alagna fell sick in the middle of an opera.

Any other time, he laments, the mob would have been out on the opera forecourt baying for the blood of Director Dominique Meyer.

But Meyer, he complains, has tranquilised the media and its attendant mob with his Gallic charm. Vienna, he sighs, is no longer Vienna.

Read here and below.


Wien ist nicht mehr Wien. Wäre Wien noch Wien, würden Staatsopern-Stehplatz und Presse einmütig nach der Demission des Staatsopern-Direktors rufen.

Kleinigkeiten wie undiplomatische Aussprüche, einige unkluge Engagements und eine als unglücklich empfundene Werkauswahl hatten in der Vergangenheit Direktoren um die Publikums- und Kritikergunst gebracht. Keinem dieser Direktoren ist ein Generalmusikdirektor aus künstlerischen Gründen davongelaufen, keinem ein weiterer wichtiger Dirigent mit einer ähnlichen Begründung. Kaum eine Direktion verpflichtete dermaßen viele Sänger mit schöner, aber zu kleiner Stimme. Und dass eine Opernaufführung mit Ausschnitten zu Ende gebracht werden muss, weil ein Protagonist nicht mehr weiterkann, aber kein Ersatz gefunden wird, ist in den Annalen der Staatsoper auch kaum je (wann eigentlich?) verzeichnet worden. Es müsste Aufruhr herrschen am Stehplatz und in der Presse. Doch Wien ist offenbar nicht mehr Wien.

Ein Interview mit Meyer in der ORF2-Sendung “Wien heute” am Montag enthüllte indessen sein Geheimnis. Freundlich, ruhig und bescheiden gab er eigene Fehler zu. Und, ja, er will sich verbessern. Wann hört man das schon von einer Führungskraft? Er wird auch applaudieren, wenn der ihm abhanden gekommene Ex-Generalmusikdirektor Franz Welser-Möst beim Philharmonikerball dirigiert. Das war nicht der Opernimperatorenauftritt eines Ioan Holender, nicht der arrogant-kühle eines Lorin Maazel. Meyer wirkt so klug wie menschlich. Meyer ist einfach ungeheuer sympathisch. Auch mir. Obwohl ich finde, dass Wien etwas mehr Wien sein könnte.



  • Neil McGowan says:

    Mr Baumgartner ought to be addressing his wailing to the Austrian government – because all of these alleged ‘failings’ are linked to financial cutbacks in funding for the Arts.

    Meyer’s incumbency – like so many other European opera houses – is marked by finding ways to get a quart out of a pint pot. You can keep pouring water to create the illusion that you have enough… but you’ll eventually be caught out.

    Very few opera houses can afford to have a second set of stars sitting about doing nothing in the Crush Bar, on the off-chance that someone might stub their toe? Almost all ‘cover’ nowadays is done “long-distance”. The agreed substitute artiste sits at home (very ofen in their home country, which isn’t where the opera is being sung) and is known to have learned the role (attendance at rehearsals is often beyond the budget too). If the diva is feeling poorly, the cover flies in next morning, gets a quick walk-round of the set, perhaps a half-hour with the conductor about tempos… and they’re flung on. Bad? Of course it’s bad. Talk to the beancounters if you don’t like it.

    My ‘significant other’ has done it twice this year – once in a production she already knew, and another time in a production she’d never seen. In major cities, too. The second case was particularly regrettable, because the management knew their singer was 95% likely to cancel, but they shrank from calling in the cover earlier – to save money on hotel accommodation :((

    The proper answer to this situation is that main roles would largely be covered by talented young singers from the chorus, as we always used to do at ENO. They ‘shadow’ their star at all the rehearsals – in the good old days there were even in-house ‘cover showings’, where the covers had a chance to run their role on stage (albeit with a piano). It’s part of bringing-on a new generation of performers – no end of famous names got their start that way. But marketing managers these days are worse divas than the divas, and go into shrieking hysterics if the understudy “doesn’t have a foreign name” 🙁

  • Tristan says:

    didn’t Alagna walk out at La Scala a few years ago as some dilsiked his Radames?
    That is opera also, no? Aren’t Welser-Moest and de Billy slightly overrated and mainly pushed by a local Viennese newspaper which sometimes sounded embarassing?
    Didn’t WM walk out in Salzburg and left his poor casting ending up in one of the most boring Cosi fan tutte run Salzburg has even seen? Let’s be honest London and especially Munich are the better companies at the moment and the MET’s latest success of Macbeth is simply a better run than it was in Vienna with Kennlyside and Sunnegardh among many other weak shows of Vienna. Aren’t Pappano and Petrenko simply more attractive than FWM?