The elderly former artistic director of the Palau de les Arts in Valencia was arrested at dawn in January on suspicion of misuse of public funds. She was not charged with any offence but her passport was confiscated and she cannot leave the country. She is further obliged to report to a police station twice a month.
The investigating judge has gone on sick leave and there is no sign when Helga’s torment might end.
Helga is in her 70s and in need of medical attention. Her salary was stopped in January and she is living in a hotel, at her own expense. Placido Domingo and Zubin Mehta have issued statements proclaiming her complete innocence on these politically motivated charges. We publish below an open letter by Helga, clarifying her position.
In the interests of natural justice and human rights, we appeal to the Spanish authorities to give Helga Schmidt back her passport and allow her to return home to Vienna, where she can recover her health in peace and quiet. To detain her any longer through a hot Valencia summer is no less than an abuse of process – the sadistic torture of a sick lady who has done no harm and deserves a great deal more respect than Spain has seen fit to show her.
Spain: Let Helga Schmidt go.
Open letter from Helga Schmidt
In response to the many different versions circulating about the events of January 20th I would like to set the matter straight. I have not done so until now because I was trying to shed some more light on the situation and reorganising practical aspects of my life after 15 years of work, and finally, dealing with health problems (a part of my life which I would honestly rather have preferred to keep private). But I would like to make it known that I am doing my utmost to demonstrate to the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, the people of Valencia and the whole world who follow events within the world of art and culture, that the accusations that have been levelled at me are absolutely baseless.
Obviously sad and bewildered by the spectacle of this defamatory campaign, I nevertheless wish to thank the judges and the police who participated in the search. They behaved courteously towards me and immediately understood the situation and the person they were facing. I must also say that I cooperated fully and unconditionally with the Spanish judiciary and that on the same night of January 20th I was released pending trial. I look forward to the day when I can explain and defend myself in the context of a police interrogation, even though my advocate has confirmed me already that in the requisitioned documentation the Police did not find anything that the Generalitat and its control bodies did not know already before the search.
There was also no reason for me to resign and my dismissal from the post of Intendant and Artistic Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía was not carried out according to current legislation, but rather in compliance with code of ethics adopted solely for regional political posts of free designation.
Today, as I already said, I am working to show as quickly as possible that from the beginning of my term as Intendant I have put (as I always have throughout my long and respectable career) all my love, passion and experience as well as my professional artistic and economical accuracy and transparency, to serving the emerging Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía. This economical accuracy can easily be proven with all the documents that I always signed jointly with the successive administrators. For 15 years I worked day and night to achieve the very best for the theatre of which I was the Intendant, giving up any thoughts of a private life. Despite its short life, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía inaugurated on October 8th 2005 with symphonic concerts conducted by Lorin Maazel and Zubin Mehta, who also inaugurated the first season on October 25th 2006 with Fidelio, has become of one of the most important theatres in the world and this is evident for all to see.
Such outstanding conductors as Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Chailly, Georges Prêtre, Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Jurowski and many others as Plácido Domingo who above all as singer, have appeared in my seasons all these years at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía and have always returned with pleasure, expressing their joy at working in such an environment, an ‘’happy island of art‘’ to work in, not just in Spain but throughout the world.
This year the season is stunning too: even with the budget cuts in recent years I have managed to maintain the highest quality and I am very proud of this. I would have liked to see personally the results of my work together with the staff of my theatre but I have been prevented from doing so: the maliciousness and pettiness of some people have prevailed and they succeeded in having me dismissed. However, I must say that they will never destroy my reputation and the extraordinary concept of theatre that I have created in our Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.
And finally I would like to thank all the artists, theatre general managers, mass media -national and international-, and the audience itself, for all their support and solidarity they have demonstrated to me during this difficult period.