Call to boycott ‘racist’ Salzburg Festival director

Call to boycott ‘racist’ Salzburg Festival director


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2015

The Latvian director Alvis Hermanis, presently staging Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust at the Opéra de Paris, is at the centre of a media storm in Germany after telling Hamburg’s Thalis theatre he did not want to work in ‘a refugee welcome centre.’

In a letter published by the theatre, Hermanis went on to equate refugees with terrorists. He called the city ‘unsafe’, claimed the 9/11 attackers came from Hamburg and opined that we are now in a war in which everyone had to choose sides.

Hermanis, 50, is a capable director who has become a summer fixture in Salzburg with successive productions of Zimmerman’s Die Soldaten (2012), Birtwistle’s Gawain (2013) and Il trovatore (2014).

It is not clear what motivated his unpleasant and irrational outburst but there are now growing calls for German theatres to boycott this wayward, Baltic personality.



  • Tristan says:

    He’ll most probably still be very welcome in Bayreuth…

  • Peter Freeman says:

    With respect, you call that Trovatore “capable”? It was outrageous and did away completely with what the work’s creators clearly stipulated, effectively reinventing all but the music. Such are the depths to which the staging of great masterpieces of the past has sunk in recent decades. The tragedy is that newcomers to the art form imagine them to be the real thing. It is all about the pretentious, uninformed egotism of those chosen for the task, most of whom display total ignorance of even what opera is. I salute Sir John Tooley for his comparatively recent outspokenness on the issue in his letter to the Daily Telegraph. Those of us who understand opera recoil from spending money and wasting time on seeing such inelegant and uncultured offerings. Sadly, they have become near-ubiquitous. I feel sorry for the many fine artists who have to cope with it. Those responsible should hear what they have to say about it when off duty.

  • May says:

    There are not growing calls to boycott him, rather one mediocre, publicity-seeking intendant, Amelie Deuflhard, who has called on other theaters to boycott him. She is probably just miffed that he never wanted to work with her again.

    Slippedisc once again makes a mountain out of a molehill, this time calling it a “media storm.” The Hamburger Abendblatt merely ran an article explaining his cancellation from the viewpoint of the Intendant of the Thalia Theater, where he cancelled. No other theater has joined in the boycott, hence not a media storm, but rather a media “fart.”

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Then chuck him out. This idiot is a talentless disgrace, whose garbage production of Gawain was so appalling that the composer himself condemned it.

    Latvia is a racist nation which has refused point-blank to accept its EU quota of refugees. Hermanis is a vile racist. He should be KICKED OUT and sent home to Latvia. If the Paris Opera will not do so, then his production should be closed down by demonstrators. There is no room in Europe for Hermanis or his goose-stepping goons,

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “Latvia is a racist nation”.

      Anything to say, in general, about Jews and Negroes?

      • Eddie Mars says:

        About Jews, we can see the annual Nazi March held in the Latvian capital of Riga. The march commemorates the Latvian officers of the Waffen-SS who commited the atrocities of the Holocaust,

        Here is the march, on video:

        As you can see, the march is escorted by the Latvian Police, and even has a priest leading the Nazi March.

        There are YouTube videos from Israeli sources which cover this march too – but they take a very negative position of this event, for obvious reasons, so I have selected a more neutral & factual clip.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Too bad you didn’t mention that Latvian people smell and spread typhus. Maybe next time.

          • Eddie Mars says:

            No, I just posted video evidence of the official Nazi policies of the Latvian government.

          • Robert says:

            I’ll note that “RT”, whose watermark is on the video, is an external propaganda operation of the Russian government tasked with stirring pro-Russian opinion with its news coverage.

            The idea that its former possessions in Eastern Europe are now overrun with Nazis and need to be saved by re-attachment to the Russian Empire is one the the Russians like promoting.

          • Eddie Mars says:

            So so you deny that this footage shows the annual march of Waffen-SS officers and soldiers in Riga? A parade of honour for those who committed the crimes of the Third Reich?

          • Eddie Mars says:

            Perhaps you’d prefer footage from an Israeli source? Believe me, the Israelis pull far fewer punches.

  • V.Lind says:

    If he said what the above post says he said, the absence of a boycott is to nobody’s credit.

  • Beaumont says:

    Statement by Hermanis as quoted in the NZZ (followed by my translation):
    “Der Intendant des Thalia-Theaters hat ein Statement aus Sätzen von mir formuliert, indem er sie – ohne mich um Erlaubnis zu fragen – aus dem ursprünglichen Zusammenhang riss und so ihren Sinn verdrehte. Die Gründe, weshalb ich ihn darum bat, meine Hamburger Produktion zu streichen, sind sehr privat. Momentan arbeite ich in Paris und wohne genau in jenem Stadtteil, wo vor zwei Wochen das Massaker stattfand. Das Gefühl im Alltagsleben ist wie in Israel. Permanente Paranoia. Sogar noch schlimmer als dort, weil die jüdische Gemeinschaft als erste die Stadt verlässt. Überall umgeben uns Bedrohung und Angst. Wir alle sind traumatisiert von dem, was hier geschah. Als Vater von sieben Kindern bin ich nicht bereit, in einer weiteren potenziell gefährlichen Stadt zu arbeiten. Bekanntlich stammten die Täter von 9/11 aus Hamburg, übrigens.
    Wir wissen, dass die Pariser Tragödie sogar die Flüchtlingspolitik der deutschen Regierung beeinflusst hat. Also war der Preis, der bezahlt werden musste, bis man schliesslich einen Zusammenhang von Migrationspolitik und Terrorismus einräumte, der Tod von 132 jungen Menschen in Paris. Ist dieser Zusammenhang in Deutschland immer noch ein Tabu? Nach Gesprächen mit Thalia-Leuten habe ich verstanden, dass sie nicht offen sind für abweichende Meinungen. Sie sehen sich als Refugees-Welcome-Zentrum. Jawohl, ich will da nicht mitmachen. Kann ich mir diese individuelle Entscheidung, kann ich mir eigene Meinungen leisten? Wie steht’s mit der Demokratie?
    Ich denke nicht, dass meine politische Haltung radikaler ist als diejenige einer Mehrheit von Europäern. Wir teilen den Enthusiasmus hinsichtlich offener EU-Grenzen und unkontrollierter Einwanderung nicht. Vor allem im Osten Europas verstehen wir diese Euphorie schlecht. Wer glaubt denn allen Ernstes, vierzig Millionen polnische Bürger, um ein Beispiel zu machen, seien Neonazis und Rassisten?”

    The Manager of the Thalia Theatre has formulated a statement out of sentences uttered by me, by – without my consent – taking them out of their original context and thereby changing their meaning. The reasons why I asked him to cancel my Hamburg production are very private. At present I am working in Paris, and living exactly in that part of town, where the massacre took place two weeks ago. The feelings in everyday life are exactly like in Israel. Permanent paranoia. Even worse than there, as the Jewish community is the first to leave the city. We are surrounded by danger and fear everywhere. We are traumatised by what happened here. As the father of seven children I am not preparee to work in another potentially dangerous city. As is known, the perpetrators of 9/11 came from Hamburg, BTW.
    We know that the Paris tragedy has influenced even the German government’s refugee policy. So the price that had to be paid until, finally, a connection between migration policy and terrorism was conceded, was the death of 132 young people in Paris. Is this connection still a taboo in Germany? After talks with Thalia people I have come to understand that they are not open to dissenting views. They regard themselves as a refugee welcome centre. Yes, I do not want to participate in this. Can I afford this individual decision, can I afford my own opinions? What about democracy?
    I do not think that my political stance is more radical than those of a mojority of Europeans. We do not share the enthusiasm concerning open EU borders and unchecked immigration. Especially in Eastern Europe we do not understand this euphoria. Who really believes that, to give an example, forty million Polish citizens are racists and Neo-Nazis?

  • Marina Arshinova says:

    Every word in the statement is true. Where is he lying?

  • Tristan says:

    I only may say that his last production in Paris ‘Damnation de Faust’ is another bad production some idiotic critics might like but overall was one of the worst shows in recent years.

  • Dave says:

    I can’t believe the idiotic posts I am reading here. Latvia is a racist country because they won’t accept their EU quota of refugees?? I consider that pretty damn smart on their part. Have you considered that none of their Middle Eastern brethren are taking in these Syrian people. I don’t see anyone frothing at the mouth about that.

  • Andy says:

    Jordan and Lebanon? Over 2.5 million refugees in both of those countries. And they’re pretty middle Eastern Dave. That’s around 1.5 million more refugees than in the EU. I guess daily mail or the sun don’t give you the full image. This is the sort of comment I would expect to see on Fox News. It’s quite disgusting. Not even the racism side, the fact that you can make such a comment when not even knowing what the situation is. It’s sad, especially to see it on here. Then we wonder how people like Donald Trump get so much backing.

    • Dave says:

      You mention Jordan and Syria. What about Saudi Arabia and Iran? Oh that’s right, Iran is mostly Shiites and they despise the Syrian Sunnis. Saudi Arabia is backing the US in the war in Syria. Why would they take in refugees?