Just in: William Christie cancels Edinburgh

Just in: William Christie cancels Edinburgh


norman lebrecht

August 09, 2015

The concert he was down to conduct tomorrow will be led instead by John Butt. The Edinburgh International Festival did not see fit to post notice of  his cancellation.

Sources in Les Arts Florissants tell Slipped Disc that Christie took offence when EIF refused to meet his fee demand. Very serious offence. He has also cancelled next year’s plans for a production of Rameau’s Platée.

william christie


  • nimra says:

    William Christie is an absolutely fantastic conductor (and musician). His and the Les Arts Florissant’s interpretations of Purcell, Rameau, Lully and other baroque composers are non-par.

    • Bob Thomas says:

      So what? He cancels on the eve of a performance because of something that should have been negotiated months ago? Either there’s more to this story or this is yet another all-too-frequent example of an artist who doesn’t care about his audience who purchased tickets expecting to, in this case, see him conduct.

      • Olassus says:

        See Peter’s comment below. That’s probably what happened.

        Also, “fee demand” doesn’t seem to be the right idea. It’s just his “fee.” EIF either agrees to it, negotiates a discount, or does not.

        If the two sides proceed without a signed contract, EIF prints Christie’s name to sell tickets, and then Christie discovers “on the eve” that the money has not been agreed, surely both sides are at fault.

      • Luk says:

        It’s impossible that Christie “found out” his fee one day before the concert. It’s a no brainer that a venue lists an event only when everything is set, not when negotiations on stuff like the fee or artistic conditions are still ongoing.

        The fact that no standard “health” justification and that he allegedly canceled next year’s Platée points at a not yet defined clash between him and the Festival management as the reason of the cancellation.

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    Let us consider this positively: Maestro Christie (70) can & will enjoy a small period fúll of well-deserved rest, and Maestro Butt (55) can & certainly will realize with this a kind of push-up concerning the somewhat pale outlook of his carreer for already some years.

    Moral: everybody is happy & nobody is indispensable.


    • MWnyc says:

      “Pale outlook of his career”?

      Rob, you are kidding, right?

      As an academic, he’s had tenured faculty positions at Berkeley and King’s Cambridge and he now holds an endowed chair at Glasgow; as a musician, every recording he and the Dunedin Consort release gets nominated for multiple awards.

      John Butt may not have the career you or I think he should have, but (granting that I don’t know the man personally) I suspect that, given the limitations of a 24-hour day and 365-day year and the (fortunate) constraints of a wife and five children, he has pretty much the career he wants.

    • Luk says:

      Just because he’s not in the news like other collegues or its name hasn’t the attraction value of the likes of Christie doesn’t mean Butt has a “pale” career!

  • Peter says:

    Difficult to know the real story here, if the ‘cancellation’ has really only occurred on the eve of the performance. But it is fair to say that orchestras, festivals and promoters the world over are told fee expectations by most managers very early on in the discussion. Many go to press way before they have actually contracted artists. It is surprising there are not more situations like this. One day an interesting test case will be brought – “we told you artist’s fee was x, you printed the concert in the season brochure, we deem that you have accepted that fee”.

  • Anon says:

    This was announced weeks ago that John Butt was replacing William Christie. Just because you don’t like the EIF doesn’t mean you have, at every excuse, a chance to slag it off and try and blacken it’s name. The EIF is one of the greatest and most outwardnlooking of arts festivals encompassing all sorts of culture that rarely makes it to anywhere in the UK other than perhaps London. Just because it isn’t in the capital doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time or money.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      1 It was not announced at all. The press office assured me this morning that no release was sent out. Nor was it flagged on the website. The only signifier was a note to listings agencies last week, or the week before last. The EIF kept the change very quiet.
      2 Leading critics told me they were unaware of the change.
      3 I have nothing against EIF. On the contrary, I had tipped the new director as a marked improvement on his limp predecessor.

  • Nick says:

    No artist “discovers” on the eve of a performance that his fee “demand” has not been agreed – not unless he is a very last minute replacement. And no organization of the stature of the EIF announces artists – or should have the right to announce artists – unless the basic fee agreements have not been reached. If that is what the EIF did, then it is guilty at the very least of misrepresentation.

    Equally, if as some allege, Maestro Christie did in fact pull out “weeks” ago, it is understandable that the news be withheld for a few days whilst a replacement is sought. But if the EIF further withheld the announcement of the change, then again it is guilty if withholding information of importance to ticket holders and potential purchasers. This is in no way to denigrate the talents of John Butt. It is merely professional courtesy to the artists and the public.

    If one decides this is acceptable practice, then how can the public have any confidence that IEF programmes in future will have been contractually agreed verbally and in writing (whether or not formal contracts have been issued) or are merely wish lists of programmes the management hopes they may be able to present!

    But as others have suggested, there p

  • Nick says:

    Apologies. 2 errors in my earlier post. The end of line 5 should read “fee agreements HAVE been reached.” And the final line should have been deleted. (Just as well I don’t draft contracts!)

  • Jennifer says:

    People shouldn’t be criticizing so harshly when they don’t have all the informations. Maestro Christie has canceled weeks ago. So disappointed the reprise of Rameau’s Platée planned for months has been canceled. The festival hasn’t been transparent to keep selling tickets? It may be disappointing but no panic: Maestro Butt is doing an amazing job.

  • Jérémie Lumbroso says:

    This article is a rather unwarranted blend of misinformation, and outright lies.

    The truth behind is simple: the main project with the Edinburgh Festival was to be the acclaimed production of Rameau’s Platée by Les Arts Florissants and Robert Carsen, which has already toured Vienna, France and the US – to be mounted in Edinburgh in 2016.

    William Christie was contacted a few months ago, and asked at the last minute to give tonight’s concert. He agreed, despite an already difficult summer schedule, as a favor to the festival which considered it important to drum up interest and excitement for next year’s production.

    The Platée production was summarily cancelled by the festival a little under a month ago, which rendered this concert redundant.

    It is understandable that the Edinburgh Festival would not want to advertise organizational problems (and in this day and age, who doesn’t have those). But it is unconscionable that they would let a respected conductor take the blame. I hope they post a clarification.

    • Furtwangler says:

      If, as you say, Platée was cancelled by the festival a while ago, why have the cast, or their agents, not yet even been informed of this by LAF or EIF? Even the soloists for tonight’s gig, all of them LAF regulars, didn’t know that Bill had pulled out of the concert until arrival in Edinburgh last week – and only subsequently discovered via the grapevine that Platée has been cancelled too.

    • Furtwangler says:

      Also, I don’t know what your definition of “a few months” is but tonight’s gig, with Christie at the helm, was confirmed, at least with the soloists and the orchestra, before January this year at the latest.

    • Nick says:

      Misinformation? That certainly seems to be the case! Outright lies? That’s a very serious claim! Who has been lying? It would appear the EIF is the culprit here. When a major organization like the EIF does not own up to the truth and then muddies the waters with what appear to be lies, its credibility in future statements is bound to be questioned. It is time the EIF media department came clean with all the facts – if only to clear William Christie’s reputation.

  • Edinburgh International Festival & Les Arts Florissants - Official answer says:

    William Christie unfortunately had to withdraw from tonight’s concerts of extracts of Rameau and Charpentier. No disagreement over fee was ever a question for the two organizations.

    Regarding 2016 discussions were underway about the possible staging of Platee in Edinburgh, but this sadly has not proved possible. William Christie did not cancel the production which he would have been delighted to conduct.
    EIF has a long and happy relationship with Mr Christie and looks forward to working with him in the future.

    Edinburgh International Festival & Les Arts Florissants