The rich get richer: Salzburg Festival gains a sponsor

The rich get richer: Salzburg Festival gains a sponsor


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2018

Press Release of the 2018 Salzburg Festival

Ground-Breaking Commitment from the Kühne Foundation

Kühne Foundation Becomes a Main Sponsor of the Salzburg Festival through 2021

Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival, and Prof. Dr. h.c. Klaus-Michael Kühne, President of the Kühne Foundation. Photos: SF/Anne Zeuner

(SF, 24 August 2018) From 2019, the Kühne Foundation will be a Main Sponsor of the Salzburg Festival. Dr. Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival, and Prof. Dr. h.c. Klaus-Michael Kühne, President of the Kühne Foundation, announced the signing of the contract at today’s press conference in Salzburg. The cooperation agreement initially spans three years, running through 31 December 2021. The Salzburg Festival and the Kühne Foundation thereby significantly extend their successful partnership of many years. Since 2013 the Kühne Foundation has supported the “Young Singers Project”, a high-carat platform for international young vocalists.

“For the Festival it is a great honour and pleasure to extend its circle of main sponsors by a foundation for the first time. I am deeply convinced that this partnership will give new impulses to both parties,” declares Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler.

Klaus-Michael Kühne adds: “Entrepreneurial success should always be linked to a responsibility towards society. In my opinion, the goal is not only to donate money, but to invest in the future of our community and offer that community new impulses with well-designed projects


  • Dr. Benway says:

    Is that sort of . . .like… the Clinton foundation?

  • william osborne says:

    Fortunately, most Europeans have a healthy suspicion towards private funding models for the arts and know that they must not replace their public funding systems. They understand that an excessive reliance on private funding leads to classism, cultural plutocracy, and far less funding that public systems provide. We can only hope that private festivals like Salzburg remain an anomaly in Europe and that they continue to maintain their public systems in the face of opposition from the United States.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The problem with exclusive state funding of cultural projects and institutions is that the audience is kept-out of the considerations. Regietheater, nonsensical Klangkunst projects, concept art museums thrive on tax money without the need to think of the audience as a serious partner, and the more their offerins draw protests from the audiences’ side, the better the state support is justified by ideology: ‘This is so special, so groundbreaking, so transgressive and progressive, that audiences cannot follow us and hence, they should pay for it via the taxation system.’ Destructive cults of nihilism and aggressive audience offences have become convention, solely because of state funding. But in a normal culture (not even a ‘healthy culture’), the audience / the public is part of a cultural system of production, interpretation, presentation and reception (= sharing), and every partner has to play its part in the whole.

      Exclusive state funding makes culture vulnerable to populism: if political parties can win votes by cutting culture subsidies for the reason it is too elitist, they will not resist the temptation; if culture is entirely dependent upon private funding and corporate sponsoring, when the economy wobbles again, companies and patrons will reduce or withdraw their support. Paying for culture will always be a complex problem, but at the heart of whatever solution lies the awareness that culture is important for society as a whole and therefore requires responsible treatment. Unfortunately, responsible treatment is often absent on the side of both artists and organisers, due to state funding.

      • Sue says:

        Bravo and there was more than a smack of class envy and resentment with the first comments. Imagine people having the temerity to be rich!!!!

        • Petros Linardos says:

          It depends what they do with their wealth.

          Bill Gates donated more to charitable causes than any other individual in history. No doubt his actions have save lives, possibly by the thousands.

          Another hi tech giant of the same generation, Steve Jobs, for all his exquisite sensibilities, has hardly left a legacy outside Apple.

          • william osborne says:

            Gates is notable for neglecting the arts — a pattern among the tech moguls.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Regardless, he seems thoughtful and not capricious about his donations and he does make a huge difference. You often criticize capricious art donors and I agree.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        Wise words. Thank you!

    • william osborne says:

      The problem with your theory is that it is notably contradictory. The situation is far more complex. The private Salzburger Festspiel is notable for some of the more extreme Regietheater that has ever been created, especially after Mr. Regietheater himself, Gerard Mortier, took over the directorship in 2001. Private funding didn’t prevent Regietheater at all. And Salzburg has premiered several modernist oepras, including one or two from Berio.

      As you note, state funding can be both detached from public opinion and populist. This illustrates that public systems can be quite flexible if properly administered. And that is what we see in actual practice. German houses, for example, usually aim for a yearly average of about 85% capacity. This allows for both popular and more challenging productions. Everybody from the common folk to the intelligentsia gets a piece of the pie. We see a lot of very traditional production, and a good bit of Regietheater as well.

      Given the range shown in the actual use of public funding in Europe, we see that it is not inherent problems that causes programming bias, but rather misguided cultural norms within communities. I think this is what you actually mean to address.

      Even though Salzburg would seem to be an exception, private funding in the USA does indeed create programming biases. Productions tend to be conformist to the point of banality because companies are deeply dependent on ticket sales. And the productions are often so cheap they are ridiculous — such as using watered-down orchestras, if not simply using a piano.

      The difference with Salzburg’s private funding is that the private system starves the arts in the USA which results in publics that are less sophisticated than in Europe where opera is far more common.

      Again, there is no direct link between state funding and elitism or populism. The system is extremely flexible, but private funding alone impoverishes the arts which results in naive publics only willing to support the most conventional forms of art, and companies that have little room for creative exploration.

      As for your particular interests, in the USA we see a lot of neo-tonal new work, but very little in Europe. This isn’t a result of funding. Extreme serialism reigned in the USA for four decades under private funding. The move toward neo-tonality was a result of weariness with serialist music rather than financial concerns. Neo-tonality didn’t lead to more funding for new music, other than perhaps a bit more programming by orchestras.

      • william osborne says:

        A concrete example: Mortier was schedule to take over the New York City Opera, but backed out after they couldn’t obtain the operating budget he demanded. The company struggled on a for a while and went entirely bankrupt (and in the richest city in the world.) Even the most traditional opera couldn’t keep it alive. Nothing illustrates the limitations of private funding like an expensive form like opera.

        • John Borstlap says:

          “Again, there is no direct link between state funding and elitism or populism.” Bit isn’t that dependent upon the country, and its culture? My strong impression is that there does exist such a link, but it appreas in different forms in diferent countries in different periods.

          It seems to me that the state should garantee the survival of cultural institutions, and pay a part of production costs (not only opera, but also orchestras and chamber music venues), and that the rest of the budgets should be provided by donations, sponsoring, and ticket sales. A paying audience should be part of the whole entr=erprise, even if offerings are ‘unusual’. To find the right balance is the task of expert managements, but as we know, that is not always done very well, so put it mildly.

          Altogether Osborne is right that the surge of new tonal music in the USA is a cultural phenomenon, not a financial. But in Europe, the new music establishments everywhere are being kept alive on state money, almost exclusively, and that forces managements to keep aesthetics in place because these aesthetics can be used as a justification. With the regular orchestras, an unknown new work (of whatever signature) is, above all, a problem: it will deter audiences. So, programming with unlistenable new music will require more state funding, and then the argument of justification will work also in this circuit.

          The best illiustration of power games, fundamentally related to mmoney rather than to musical aesthetics, is the Ducros affair in Paris in 2012 where an excellent lecture by famous pianist Jerome Ducros at the Collège de France provoked an uproar from the state-funded modernist postboulezbian establishment. Pluralism and variety of offerings were definitely not acceptable.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Where can one find new traditional opera productions in Germany? Whenever I look at news, reviews or schedules, in big and small opera houses, I only notice Regietheater, except for occasional long running old producitons, like Everding’s wonderful Magic Flute and Entfuhrung in Munich.

  • Pja says:

    The headline, and the subsequent comments seem a funny way of saying thanks to the Kühne Foundation for its generosity.