Opera benefactor Alberto Vilar gets some money back

A U.S. appeals court yesterday confirmed an increase in Vilar’s jail sentence from nine years to ten.

But the court ruled that Vilar, who is doing time for securities fraud, money laundering and fraudulent investments, did not have to pay a $10 million fine. He has been let off with a $25,000 charge.

Vilar, now 75, was the biggest cash donor ever seen at the Met, Salzburg, Covent Garden and the Mariinsky.

All have long since taken his name off the wall.

Reuters report here.



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  • One wonders did the Met, Salzburg,and Covent Garden ,ever return the money
    as tainted and therefore unacceptable to these high places of culture .
    I do recall the Met naming anything that could be named Vilar as long as the money flowed
    then scurrying like mad to remove every trace of the name after his fall …
    In their moral indignation I don’t recall the returning the ill gotten gains .I do recall they
    seemed upset that what was promised them was not to be .

    • I believe the MET took his name off a Grand Tier or something for which he had specifically donated in exchange for having it named for him, but then didn’t pay.

      For other donations, there was presumably some other recognition.

  • I find this case of Alberto Vilar more than extraordinary. This guy is quite clearly madly in love with opera and at the same time an egomaniac. He’s also a crook having stolen what seems to be $22 million of his clients’ funds. Searching various internet sources, I cannot find a figure in excess of this.

    Step back a bit. In only a few years he had became the largest patron of the arts the world had seen in goodness knows how many decades. Again precise numbers are not easy to trace, but his pledges (mostly to the arts, but some to medical foundations) are variously estimated at between $150 million and $300 million – probably somewhere in between. Specific pledges included –

    $14 million to the Maryinsky
    About $45 million to the Met
    £10 to the Royal Opera
    $10 million each to the Washington and LA Operas
    The largest ever donation in the history of the Salzburg Festival (among not specified)
    $50 million to various activities at the Kennedy Center

    For some years, no-one was more feted. Parts of Opera Houses were named after him, his photo was included in programmes, everyone wanted a slice of the pie. Then, after the tech bubble market crash Vilar’s money-making machine started generating more and more losses. He dipped his fingers in the till to try and stay solvent, illegally, and was caught. He is now a convicted crook. He seems also a pretty nasty individual who has repeatedly failed to assist the legal authorities.

    But – and to my mind this is quite a large BUT – as a result of his failure to fulfil his pledges, all those who had seen at least part of their cash, then treated him like a pariah. Even though the ROH is thought to have received half of their promised £10 million for the refurbishment of the Floral Hall, his name is now nowhere to be found. Even though he appears to be the third largest donor to the Met with $12 million or more actually provided, his name is no longer on the Grand Tier. It’s again nowhere to be found. He is virtually a non-person in that organisation.

    I can fully understand the desire of Opera Houses and performing arts organisations to distance themselves from such a high profile crook. But the fact remains they actually received and they accepted what from most other sources would be termed as very large donations. In an interview, Vilar himself put the amount of the pledges actually donated between 1990 and 2000 at around $150 million . Even allowing for self-aggrandisement and the probability that it may only have been $100 million, is that not worthy of some recognition? The ROH may only have received £5 million but it then readily accepted a further £10 million from Paul Hamlyn earmarked for educational and development programming. And it is Paul Hamlyn’s name which now adorns the Floral Hall. Vilar’s is nowhere.

    What, I wonder do others who actually provide £5 million or thereabouts to the ROH receive for their cash? Whilst I in no way condone Vilar’s criminal activity nor the high-handed way he seemed to have dictated how he would be treated by each company, the fact remains that virtually none – or at least very little – of the cash he provided prior to 2000 came from clients’ funds. Might this be a case of more sinned against than sinning?

    • All any true philanthropist – rather than someone with an over-inflated view of their own importance – should get in return for any donation is a heartfelt thank you. Buying naming rights is not philanthropy, it’s advertising or promoting yourself or your business.

  • The Met took his name off, because Mr. Vilar promised much and paid very little. To speak of cash contributions is quite an exaggeration.

      • I am speaking of the Met and why his name was taken off the Grand Tier. As for the Mariinsky, I recall that Gergiev posted a substantial bail for Mr. Vilar and had him released for one of his performances at the Met. The world is not that bad.

      • I recall a visit to the Grosses Festpielhaus in Salzburg at Vilar’s zenith. In the centre of the entrance foyer was a framed photographic portrait, spotlit of course, of Mr Vilar in a gold Louis XIV armchair smiling (smirking?) at onlookers, one of the most vulgar things I have ever seen.

  • Conductor G.Georgiev gave $500000 to help Alberto Vilar, the only person that didn’t forget
    his kindness. I personally express my admiration to Georgiev. People from Caucaus region have a generous nature. The reason that I invest with Amerindo fund when I heard at TV interview that A.Vilar devoted to opera. I did well. I’m glad to know that A.Vilar got a reprieve.

  • At the Met, Mr. Vilar’s name remained associated with the productions for which money was actually received—Cosi, Cenerentola, Figaro (retired), Traviata (retired), Fidelio, and Dr. Faustus. There were a few operas that were pledged but never paid, creating some cash problems for the company.

    As for the Grand Tier at the Metropolitan Opera House, an additional $20 to $25 million was pledged (depending on how the very complicated agreement was read), for unrestricted endowment, but very little was ultimately received. The Grand Tier naming was strictly to recognize a new gift to the endowment, not production gifts, which were recognized individually in print and other acknowledgements.

    To Joe Volpe’s credit, the Vilar name nonetheless remained on the Grand Tier for a few seasons, long past what was due, despite other organizations scurrying to cleanse their facades. It was a few years later when the fully paid cash gift from the Basses was made before the Grand Tier was renamed.

  • Vilar’s name was removed from the Vilar Floral Hall at Covent Garden, but it remained on a plaque placed by the Royal Opera House Development Appeal not far from an entrance to the main auditorium — the only person listed there, along with four institutions.

  • Good news although I think he would have much preferred the one year rollback of the sentence.
    His partner is already in a halfway house in Brooklyn.
    According to the news reports the court found them “indigents” . it would be a nice gesture if the Met offered him a job

  • Tonight’s opera at the Met, Fidelio, was sponsored by Vilar, according to the notes.

    I am sure he wanted to underscore that opera’s particular theme — a man in prison is rescued.

    Good for him, he scraped together enough cash for another Met donation!

  • Thanks Milka
    Love the integrity…
    We provided the defense to Shevitz to get Vilar released… She gave it to Dershowitz
    Funny thing is shevitz outright refused to file issues that would’ve gotten him outright aqcuiited and free and reimbursed similar to David Ganek… Only better
    If people are upset the didnt get thier monies they can blame the govt.
    He had 40million in the bank vs 19 million owed to clients including Cates.
    Donated 250 million would you Steal 5million? Doesn’t make sense
    Read the case files…
    Amerindo was/is worth 500 millon.
    Curious why they took his company?

    Have a good day.


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