Sacked opera director: I was confronted by the Inquisition

Sacked opera director: I was confronted by the Inquisition


norman lebrecht

April 20, 2018

The veteran director Peter Konwitschny has given his account of being fired this week by Gothenburg Opera from his production of Boris Godunov. He asked for the statement – to Swedish radio P4 Gothenburg – to be published in full. Here it is:

Beim proben der applausordnung störte ein musiker. als ich ihm sagte, daß wir ruhe brauchen, setzte er sein lärmen fort. daraufhin wurde ich laut. die probe wurde fortgesetzt. am nächsten mittag erschienen drei herren der oper, darunter der intendant, in meiner wohnung und teilten mir mit, daß ich das theater nicht mehr betreten dürfe, weil ich die gute schwedische arbeitsatmosphäre verletzt hätte. meine argumente wurden nicht gehört, die herren hatten ihr urteil bereits gefällt, bevor sie zu mir kamen. das ganze hat mich an die inquisition erinnert, wo das opfer auch keine chance hatte. der intendant betonte mehrfach, daß er meine inszenierung großartig findet, aber er könne nichts gegen die union ausrichten. auch ich bedauere den kuriosen zwischenfall und hoffe, meine arbeit mit stephen langridge fortzusetzen, aber nicht in göteborg, solange dort unfaire gewerkschafter das sagen haben.

And here’s our translation:

While rehearsing the order of applause, a musician made a disturbance. When I told him that we needed quiet, he continued his noise. At that point, I became loud. The rehearsal continued. The next afternoon, three gentlemen of the opera, including the Intendant, appeared in my apartment and informed me that I was not allowed to enter the theatre because I had violated the good Swedish working atmosphere. My arguments were not heard. The gentlemen had already made their decision before they came to me. The whole thing reminded me of the Inquisition, where the victim has no chance. the Intendant repeatedly stressed that he finds my staging great, but he cannot do anything against the union. I, too, regret the curious incident and hope to continue my work with Stephen Langridge, but not in Gothenburg so long as unfair trade unionists have their say.


  • Suzanne says:

    I was not present in Gothenburg, but I can unfortunately confirm that Peter Konwitschny has a track record of temper tantrums, bullying and verbally abusive behaviour – towards conductors, musicians, singers, administrative staff. I am happy to see an opera house finally call him on it.

  • db says:

    Curiously, I now have mixed images of Monty Python and the Muppet Show in my head.

  • Anna says:

    What Suzanne said. Konwitschny’s aggressive behaviour is well known by most people in the opera world. The problem here is easily solved: act like an adult, ask people in a nice and polite way to be quiet if you need silence. If they ignore you, keep calm and go to the stage manager. Fake tears and whining about “inquisition” will not help.

  • FS60103 says:

    A sorry story – but genius, or whatever, doesn’t excuse unprofessional behaviour. No amount of seniority or celebrity gives you the right to abuse or humiliate colleagues. The simple fact is that there are plenty of very great artists who are also responsible, decent human beings – and in future, they will be the ones who get the work. Meanwhile, zero tolerance of diva behaviour and bullying is the only answer.

    • The View from America says:

      When one works in an environment peppered with divas (the operatic world is “Exhibit A” in this regard), one can react in either of two ways: become like the divas you see … or see the negative effects and go the opposite way.

      The Gothenburg Opera incident is what happens — sooner or later — when you choose the former.

    • Sue says:

      What a relief that Solti is no longer alive!

  • Phil says:

    Kindly don’t force the musicians to sit there while you’re doing your precious Applausordnung. Quietly or not.

    • Glerb says:

      I very much doubt anyone was forcing the instrumentalist to be there. Curtain calls are often rehearsed at the end of one of the final stage/orchestra rehearsals, where the orchestra will have been dismissed while the principals and chorus will continue working on stage. Quite often, players won’t realise that serious work is still being done and will carry on practising – not through malice but through lack of awareness. My money’s on that being the case here. Usually a polite request does the trick.

  • anon says:

    Clearly he has never undergone the Inquisition. He’s still in one piece.

    • Edgar says:

      “Aggressive peacefulness” – do I have your permission to use this phrase? I suspect the current problems and their pooh-pooing by officials in Sweden are the aftereffects of the smothering social democracy which über-nannied the Swedish people to the extent that one could almost speak of crypto-totalitarianism.

      • Sue says:

        Bravo. And, as usual, even when something is tangentially related to a topic people will want you silenced – primarily because truth is painful to gulls who think like Pollyanna. A classical case of “oooh – look over there”!! Name-calling usually follows.

    • Emil says:

      And that is completely and utterly off topic. Congratulations for finding another article about something happening in Sweden.

      Another try:
      This incident clearly shows how much rebuilding there is to do in Sweden. Just check out an IKEA catalogue.

      • JoBe says:

        “Swedes are not prone to grandiose manifestations of national pride, but the notion of a “Swedish Model” — that the country has much to teach the world — is a vital part of the national self image.”

        Whatever Konwitschny has done (an he may well be a true a**hole) – he was more likely to get his come-uppance in self-righteous and hypocritical Sweden than anywhere else.

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    There are always two sides to a story; we all know that but, being a player myself, I would not tolerate any conductor acting boorishly against any player, least of all myself. The guy deserved what he got. Modern conductors know proper channels and protocols to follow when “issues” arise and they should ALWAYS follow them. Court orchestras went the way of the dodo bird a long time ago.

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    haha the Swedes and their Union in Gothenburg! The city where many places are now unsafe day and night. What a gang of Hypocrites!

    • Maestro says:

      Well, Gillot! Despite how it is in the city you can´t just sit there and accept it! Or maybe you are one of that kind yourself?

  • Wiener says:

    Endlich, ein eingebildeter ,eitler ,unfähiger, arroganter Unsympatler.