Christa Ludwig has no time for #MeToo

Christa Ludwig has no time for #MeToo


norman lebrecht

March 11, 2018

From a 90th birthday interview:

Darf ich Sie nach der „#MeToo-Debatte“ fragen, Frau Ludwig?

Die hässlichen Frauen sagen: „Och, bitte, me too!“ Das alles ist so ein Quatsch. Dass 40 Jahre später einer den James Levine anklagt und der nun nicht mehr dirigieren darf, das ist eine Hexenjagd. Wissen Sie, die Besetzungscouch ist so alt wie das Theater. Jede junge Frau hat das erlebt. Dann sagt man eben: „Geh’, lass es bleiben!“ Aber es gab eben, auch in der Filmwelt, Frauen, die unbedingt die Rolle wollten.

May I ask you about the “# MeToo debate”, Frau Ludwig?

CL: The ugly women would say, “Oh, please, me too!” That’s all such rubbish. That someone 40 years later makes an accusation against James Levine and he is now no longer allowed to conduct, that’s a witch hunt. You know, the casting couch is as old as the theatre. Every young woman has experienced this. In the past one used to say: “Go on, let it be!” In the film world, too, there were women who wanted roles.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Perfectly scandalous. Image we would say that of burglarly, murder, war, etc. Of course that happened and happens all the time, but that does not make it OK. The cynicism behind that answer is despiccable.

  • Caravaggio says:

    A pretty stupid statement from Ludwig. And gross. But then she’s known for making stupid remarks. By the by, that Winterreise is no contender among the greats. For sheer greatness one goes to, for example, Hans Hotter/Raucheisen, 1942.

  • Vladislav says:

    When I sang Turiddu I was sexually harrassed by the Santuzza, who insisted on kissing me even when I made it clear that this was not what I wanted. The director thought it was hilarious. The Santuzza kept going in. The Alfio laughed. The Lola grimaced and took my side.

    I still feel gross from that show… that I did 3 years ago.

    It is very much real. Christa Ludwig- eat crap.

    On the up side, it made my contempt for the Santuzza look real…

  • ketzel says:

    Well she’s 90, what do you expect? Women didn’t even have the political space to be angry and acknowledge that in public until the late 60s or so. I’m from the 2nd wave feminist generation, and I remember there was a before and after. Blaming Ms. Ludwig for holding on to a sexist world view is blaming the victim. When she was young, and no doubt being harassed as much as any other woman singer, her attitude was a survival skill.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That does not make her comments acceptable. She could have said what you here said.

      • ketzel says:

        That’s my point–she couldn’t have said what I said, because she didn’t have access to the free speech I had in the late 60s to 70s. It’s the rare woman who can redo her political sensibility to integrate a liberation movement that happened well after she needed it. My feminism was handed to me by growing up in New York in the 70s. If I were her age, would I have invented feminism on my own? Maybe not. Imagine the isolation of being in a room with a casting couch and a director, and not even knowing it would be a political issue someday.

        • John Borstlap says:

          OK, bit she could have siad NOW what she could (maybe) not have said THEN. It shows that aging does not necessarily mean getting wiser.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            My personal impression is that old people can get wiser on matters they ‘ve been dealing with for a long time, but cannot easily adjust to new issues or adopt new approaches.

    • V.Lind says:

      She reminds me of the generation of just slightly pre-feminists who said how THEY didn’t need feminism to accomplish whatever they had. (That there were relatively few of them was of no consequence to these inflate3d egos). And also of the Rush Limbaugh mentality that talks of feminazis and suggests all feminists are the ugly women who couldn’t get the guy.

      This bird is either a nasty and vain cow, preternaturally stupid or just senile. Her remarks, which even some of her critics here are sugar-coating, were unconscionable.

      • David says:

        That a 90 year old woman can still set the geese to honking is most gratifying.
        She strikes one as being an intact human being.

      • Hilary says:

        She’s rather likeable if the masterclassses and interviews I’ve read are anything to go by.
        As for her seemingly un-nunanced comments on #metoo, I think they’re consistent with someone of her generation and should be seen within that context.

        • Una says:

          Yes, and even younger than 90! She is entitled to.her views without this character assassination as one of the greatest singers ever. Two wrongs do not make a right.

        • Una says:

          Yes, and people even younger than 90 from the singing world who think similarly but scared to even say for fear of being attacked with words. Christ’s Ludwig is entitled to her views without this character assassination, and as one of the greatest singers ever. You may not agree with her but neither do two wrongs make a right.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Ms Ludwig simply states a fact that many now seem to wish to deny. The casting couch has been but maybe will no longer be a way to get on but I somehow doubt it. Despicable it may be but it is a reality and although it is no longer acceptable to say so many have used it for their own advantage and not just those with the power. If #MeToo means an end to this age old practice then good, but something tells me that even now favours are being given in return for the promise of a help up the ladder. Why, it probably even happens in the realms of the high moralistic world of journalism and social media that now daily spotlights the outrage of the new puritans!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I too can hardly see how consensual casting couch activity will disappear. Cynical as it may sound, that’s a far lesser evil than molestation.

  • Tom Hase says:

    I think the uproar here is mainly caused by the inadequate English translation. Frau Ludwig did not say

    “In the past one used to say: “Go on, let it be!”.In the film world, too, there were women who wanted roles.”

    It is hard to translate the „Geh’, lass es bleiben!“ which is Vienese dialect, but the meaning is more along the lines of:

    “If you don’t want this to happen you have to clearly say: “Fuck off.” But then there always were women, just like in the film world, who would do everything to get the role.”

  • AKP says:

    Even if something is lost in translation, her opening gambit – “The ugly women would say, “Oh, please, me too!” ” is in pretty poor taste and her comments about Levine are rather ill-thought out.

  • Bruce says:

    Just because things used to happen a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean (a) it was OK then or (b) we should go back to those days.

    Because women* in the past had to put up with it, doesn’t mean they should have to put up with it now.

    If some women* took advantage of the system to get work, it doesn’t mean the system was a good one; quite the contrary. If women* know that taking off your clothes is an effective way of getting work, that means the person in power is corrupt. The conductor (or whoever)’s job is to not coerce sex from anyone, and to reject any offers. The principle is the same as the bribing of officials: it might be “how things are done,” but it shouldn’t be necessary. When the official is caught and sacked, should he be replaced by another corrupt official? Should people who had to pay bribes back in the day insist that bribes are fine, and young people who complain about them are soft and whiny?

    Naturally there are people who are able to brush off sexual advances with no apparent harm to their psyche; naturally also, there are people who are not. Should the ability to put up with shit like that be a job requirement? Or should a conductor (or whoever) be expected not to subject subordinates to that kind of behavior?

    A regrettably bone-headed remark by an artist I greatly admire.

    *(yes yes, men too; but she’s talking about women)

  • Sharon says:

    With regard to the “accusations of 40 years ago..” Men were, and frequently still are, ashamed to admit that they were victims or let them be seduced. As far as the “Levinite” group is concerned–most probably believed they could not come forward as long as their parents were alive–and their parents would be around the age of Crista Ludwig

  • Mark says:

    Yet another reason to love and admire this great artist. BRAVISSIMA !!

    • Sue says:

      Ditto. She obviously never had to hide behind other womens’ skirts!! And, like me, I think she would take absolutely notice of the dictum, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”.

      When I was in my 20s, hard on the heels of Germaine Greer, ‘womens’ lib’ was all about sleeping with lots of men. All the time.

      • Sue says:

        Typo: absolutely NO notice….

      • Sharon says:

        I remember that in the seventies/eighties “women’s lib” was all about lesbianism, hard on the heels of Shulamith Firestone and Andrea Dworkin i.e. as long as women were “on their backs” there could not be true equality.

  • YoYo Mama says:

    She is realistic. A pop singer and movie star I know, wisely told me, she never holds it against anyone what they do to get ahead, she said, “you have to grab your chance, whatever it is, you may never get another,” and truer words were never spoken. Such high dudgeon is a cheap expression of high principles, but really it is a lack of principles to support blacklisting, witchhunting, even though it is being done by witches.

  • Anthony Kershaw says:

    Respectfully, to the great artist—a silly old fool. Sad.

    • Sue says:

      You should live so long!! And I’m betting she didn’t wear her breasts hanging out on public display for all the world to see, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. Why do you think women do this in such significant numbers? What is it they want and why?

      What was Angelina Jolie advertizing in that dress on the catwalk with the slit up to her morning breakfast and a leg on show, quite ostentatiously?. Could it have been her IQ, her grace, gentility, complexion. No, it was her pound of flesh.

      What staggering hypocrisy. Pass me the bucket!!

  • Ozan says:

    I remember reading one of her 60s interviews where she complained about the constant attempts of sexual harassment from Paul Schöffler, who made the backstage a hell for her. I wonder if anyone remembers the details of the incident…
    Sorry to read these comments now.

    • James says:

      No trace found of this interview. Surely, anything of
      such prurient potential could not have simply vanished, not in this age of
      Cotton Mather reborn.

      Apocryphal, prehaps?

      • Ozan says:

        She is alive, in very good health and still giving interviews. There are numerous people who follow SD and have a personal contact with her, so it can easily be checked… It most probably took place during the Vienna Cosi fan Tutte recording sessions.

        Scepticism is for more vague conditions.

  • Bylle Binder says:

    Frau Ludwig certainly was a great singer. But unfortunately that doesn’t mean she’s a wise human being, too.

    • James says:

      Not wise like the rest of us, eh?
      Prehaps we should remember today, the 80th anniv. of Hitler’s arrival in Vienna,
      the Austrian Jews, who, so unwisely, were still there 5 years after the Nazis
      took power in Germany. Surely, a wise human being would have seen all that was
      to come and have headed for safety. But no, they foolishly insisted on not being
      wise and so helplessly entered the vortex.
      Ah, wisdom. We few who have it are truly blessed.

    • Una says:

      You obviously know her well as a person to come to such a conclusion …