A small town in Austria has twice as many opera premieres as the Met

A small town in Austria has twice as many opera premieres as the Met


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2018

Here’s the new season from Graz – eight or nine new productions, under the guidance of music director Oksana Lyniv.

It includes Szymanowski’s King Roger, Flotow’s Martha and Joseph Beer’s Polnische Hochzeit.

And the Met? Just four new shows.


  • Caravaggio says:

    And with Cheryl Studer in the supporting role of Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    From my point of view, at present, the fewer premieres an opera house has, the better. They are phasing out the glorious old productions and replacing them with new ones I can’t stand.

    I see that tonight the Vienna State Opera performs Fidelio, in Otto Schenk’s production that Bernstein premiered in 1978. Aaaahh.

    • Caravaggio says:

      I see your point

    • Bogda says:

      “Glorious” old productions?!? Under this I assume you mean any production that has opulent sets and costumes and is set in an era before WWI, and it actually does not matter if there is any stage direction or acting whether sets have actually anything to do with the actual story. As long as sets look ‘old’ and opulent it’s a “glorious old production”

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Assume / Ass-u-me: you make an ass of you and me.

        Here is an example of what I mean:

        Magic Flute, directed by August Everding


        How inert is it?

        Here is another. Boheme, Zefirelli.

        Yes, it’s opulent. But there is no inertia. The music is also opulent. I love chamber music, but that’s not the only kind of music I listen to.

        Newer productions also tend to be very busy. Even at the Ouverture there is action:

        Tannhauser, Munich 2014:

        Frankly the women look gorgeous, but if I wanted to enjoy the music I’d have to close my eyes.

        • Bogda says:

          I’m aware that this a pointless discussion, as your understanding of what opera is and should be is diametrically opposite of mine. But I’d have to say it’s also not in line what Verdi or Puccini wanted it to be, not to mention Wagner or anyone writing music in 20th Century. They’ve seen it as a way of telling stories. Watching Zefirelli’s Boheme today does anyone really care about struggling young artists or dying Mimi?. Barely anyone even gets from that staging that there is any drama going on. Only thing you get are lovely sets and beautiful Music. Can Zefirelli’s Traviata shock anyone today as Verdi intended it to? Have a better look at Zefirelli’s Boheme Clip you posted. Who the hell is Musetta teasing or talking to? audience or conductor. Clearly not anyone on stage. It’s pointless and naive.

          • Sue says:

            Clearly you have a direct line right back to those composers you’ve mentioned. You know, for instance, that they’d all be happy with Regietheater – except Wagner, who’d had opera singers trained the way he wanted and whose works have been produced at the same venue and have the air of tradition about them.

            But, you know best. And your knowing best means demeaning anyone else who has a divergent opinion. We get that. As you say, pointless and naive.

          • Bogda says:

            Sue, you clearly didn’t get the point of my post. I was not writing about how they wanted their operas to be staged, but that they’ve clearly understood opera as theater, a staged performance that should tell a story and not as a concert performance.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Bogda: let’s agree on the right to disagree. While I mostly disagree on what you dislike about the productions I like, and find that your comments on my expectations totally misrepresent me, I honestly think that you are raising interesting questions. So I’d be very curious to know of a couple of productions that you find satisfying.

          • Bogda says:

            there are many. For example I’ve found both Guth’s and Bechtolf’s Salzburg productions of Le Nozze di Figaro very satisfying. Being on completely opposite spectrum of interpratation Guth’s a very modern rethinking of the opera in something many ridiculously call eurotrash aesthetics, while Bechtolf’s a very traditional take. But both are very alive and proper theater.

            Great example are also current MET productions of Cendrillon and Luisa Miller. Cendrillon being a highly stylized but very alive production with amazing acting, Luisa Miller being a concert performance in extremely opulent, but completely inaccurate sets -(if you transfer action to England, then you should at least try to have the village look at least remotely like an English one). Luisa Miller was saved by some fantastic singing, but it was very easy to notice the difference in audience reaction to what was happening on stage in these two performances.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I was talking about productions where the sets and the direction are fully in line with the story. Productions by Otto Schenk or August Everding, for example.

        A good example is the Schenk/Schneider-Siemsen MET Ring that was premiered in the 80s.

        Another is Everding’s Munich Magic Flute.

        • Caravaggio says:

          The Schenk Munich Rosenkavalier is another example.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Definitely. So is his Fledermaus (Vienna, Munich etc.)

          • Bogda says:

            You couldn’t have chosen a better example to prove my point. Schenk’s Munich production of Rosenkavalier is set in Munich (here I refer to set design) and is clearly not in line with Strauss’ “intentions”. It’s just looks old enough to suit your taste. (And don’t get me wrong it’s not a bad production at all).

  • Ernst says:

    But the quality in this little town called Graz is very bad.

    Bad orchestra,singers etc.

    Better have 4 high class premieres like the Met,than 8 low class in the provincial city

    • Mike Schachter says:

      Do you say its bad from experience or on principle? After all New York is a city of 8 million in a phenomenally wealthy country.

    • Caravaggio says:

      And, of course, we see that the Metropolitan is not doing anything great at all of late, neither with productions nor with singers nor with conductors, a few very rare exceptions aside. Too often what transpires on that stage is outright pitiful and provincial, worthy of Kazakhstan, say. For example, last night’s Tosca went for nothing despite the overhyped Netrebko and husband. It made no difference in the pit that Bertrand de Billy led the band in the mashed potatoes style of Plácido Domingo. So many other examples. Just saying.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I wouldn’t underestimate Kazakhstan.

        Back in 1995, on one summer night in Bayreuth, I remember walking in the city’s pedestrian zone and hearing a group of young Asian string players perform parts of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons astonishingly well. I approached them asked where they came from: Kazakhstan.

    • Medi Gasteiner says:

      Graz is the second biggest town in Austria and the beautiful Opera house built by Helmer & Fellner (likewise Zürich, Salzburg Landestheater or Odessa Opera houses!) is not bad at all! I saw 2 productions last season.

    • Henning says:

      …..if only the Met’s were high class! They used to be but not much to rave about now!

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    Graz is a good house. This is not, however, predicated on the number of new productions it has; rather on its attendance, its performances and its staff.

    Comparisons to the Met are utterly absurd.

  • JoBe says:

    Graz is actually not that small. Almost the size of Dresden, a world capital of music that no one would call a small town.

  • Austrian says:

    I believe Graz is the 2nd largest city in Austria, no?

    • Nik says:

      Yes but that doesn’t mean it’s big. It has roughly the same population as the 139th biggest city in India.

    • Sue says:

      Harnoncourt and Concentus performed their regularly; they probably still do since the maestro died. It’s a beautiful city; I love it.

  • Edgar says:

    Small is bigger and much more adventurous. The MET becomes more and more the monumental tomb of its own once glorious past with each passing hour. I would agree with the young Pierre Boulez on this one: blow it up and replace it with a smaller venue, surrounded with new and daring spaces for study, relaxation, conversation, all combined in a new structure.

  • SoCal Dan says:

    One of the most famous premieres in opera history occurred at the Stadttheater in Graz.

    On May 16, 1906, Richard Strauss’s Salomé had its Austrian premiere there, after the censors denied permission for its performance in Vienna. The audience that day included Alban Berg, Gustav and Alma Mahler, Giacomo Puccini, Arnold Schoenberg, and Alexander von Zemlinsky. The conductor was Richard Strauss.

    The world premiere of this opera had already taken place at the Hofoper in Dresden on September 12, 1905.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    With due respect to Ernst, in over 50 years of critical opera going, a recent performance I heard in Graz of ‘Il Viaggio a Reims’ was one of the most enjoyable ensemble performances I have heard.


    Nora Schmid is the ideal Intendantin – adventurous, accomplished, personable and immensely knowledgeable. In a less misogynist opera world, she would have been offered Vienna, not the zero-experienced Bogdan Roščić.

    In the recent International Opera Awards, Oper Graz was nominated for the best opera house in Europe, only to be beaten by the vastly higher funded Bayerische Staatsoper. No small achievement.

    The spirit of Richard Strauss and Karl Böhm is still very much alive and well in Graz.

  • Stuart says:

    The comparison (number of new productions) is valid but I’m just not sure it provides any meaningful insights (this blog’s MET Opera bias aside.)

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    Tiefste Provinz next to Magdeburg, Kiel and Coburg. Why would anyone go to Graz?

    • Caravaggio says:

      Because anyone can

      • JoBe says:

        Aaaand because it is a beautiful city. The castle Schloss Eggenberg, the church Basilika Mariatrost and the Landeszeughaus are among the most beautiful and interesting buildings of their kind in central Europe, no less.

        • Helene Kamioner says:

          I spent half a summer there and found it ridiculously boring. Again, with all there is to see and experience on Europe, Graz really isn’t high on any list. Rather insignificant, in my opinion. Oh well, the endless train trip from Munich to Graz was rather pleasant.

          • JoBe says:

            So you didn’t visit Schloss Eggenberg? One of the most glorious early Baroque castles anywhere. I spent four days in Graz and liked the city very much. But maybe half a summer (four to five weeks) is a bit “zu viel”.