Salzburg shame as festival surrenders to Russian gas

Salzburg shame as festival surrenders to Russian gas


norman lebrecht

October 06, 2019

The Salzburg Festival has rolled out a new sponsorship deal with the Russian oil company Gazprom.

It replaces former sponsors Nestlé.

Festival president Helga Rabl-Stadler said: ‘The connection between Austria and Russia has always been particularly intense about art and culture. If our festival has the reputation of being the best in the world, it owes much of that to Russian artists.’

The deal is multiply problematic.

1 Many arts companies are turning down sponsor deals with gas companies under pressure from climate protesters. Salzburg now puts itself in the front line of pollution protests.

2 Gazprom is a commercial arm of the Putin regime, which is heavily involved in at least three current wars.

3 By signing with Gazprom, Salzburg  makes Valery Gergiev, Russia’s cultural tsar, its most powerful artist.

4 The 2019 festival was opened by the director Peter Sellars with a powerful speech on climate change. Sellars, along with many others, may reconsider their involvement with Salzburg in future after this very dirty deal.

5 Austria’s Green Party is up in arms bout the deal. It may become a coalition-breaker.

Here’s the official Gazprom version.


  • Brian says:

    And pray tell, is there nothing dirty about having Nestlé as a sponsor?

    • sam says:

      What, that Nestle paid 25 million Swiss francs to settle claims by Holocaust survivors and Jewish organizations over its use of slave labor during World War II?

      Or that during WWII, it was controlled by the Nazis?

      Or that sugar kills more than fat or red meat?

      Or that the raw materials used to produce chocolate (industrial production of cows, palm oil, cocoa, sugar), and its packaging (deforestation for paper, plastics), are destroying the environment?

      • Tamino says:

        Or that Nestlé has stated that there is no natural right to access to clean water and that they want to commercialize world water supply. They are evil.

        Gazprom is a benevolent peace dove in comparison.
        But Gazprom is Russian. Certain cold war brainwashed minds are too old to recognize the new realities.

        Three wars? Which ones?
        The ones that were ignited with lots of US money and covert meddling? Like Ukraine, Syria, and?

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        They are vilified because they apparently sell powdered milk in third world countries and encourage mothers to mix the milk rather than breast feeding. The water of course is not clean leading to illness etc.

  • M McAlpine says:

    I wonder how those who say the arts should turn down sponsorship deals with gas companies heat their own homes? Or imagine how theatres are heated and lit?

    • P Couture says:

      Not at all the same, McAlpine. Surprised people agree with you on this. Given the seriousness of the climate crisis for the future of the the planet and all living things, and Salzburg’s giving voice to Peter Sellars’ important remarks, the festival has shown itself to be unethical and hypocritical.

      • M McAlpine says:

        Interesting that when 500 leading scientists expressed concerns over the flawed models for climate change in a registered letter to the UN and called for debate, the delegates chose to give more credence to people like Peter Sellars.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          “500 leading scientists”

          Er…no. They were 500 rather minor and obscure scientists. The over-whelming consensus in the scientific community is that climate warming really is happening and is largely man-made.

          “Calling for debate” is just a sly way of obstructing any action being taken.

      • M McAlpine says:

        I assume you don’t drive a car?

  • Bloom says:

    Not necessarily off topic, in what classical music is concerned, the Russian piracy is the best in the world.

  • Fiddlist says:

    Best in the world? Lol!

  • john Borstlap says:

    Another signal that ‘classical music’ is a business and not an art form. It’s like prostitution.

    • Lulu says:

      Sometimes classical music is the most dignified face organized crime ( connected with politics) may assume. In Russia, at least.

    • Has=been says:

      Your comment is nonsensical. Classical music is an art form. The presentation and promotion of music requires vast resources, without which the ticket prices would be unaffordable and beyond the reach of many who want to experience the art form. Yes, business plays a role in keeping classical music before the public.

    • Tamino says:

      Oh please…
      if that were so, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven etc. were all prostitutes.
      Money always was important for music to be alive, and rarely even the geniuses had options to be picky about the ethical purity of their money sources.

      And, they gave us sublime masterpieces…
      What does your hyperbole render those people who hark in huge amounts, but give this world nothing, to the contrary, e.g. certain „investment“ bankers?

      • John Borstlap says:

        What I meant, is that where financial factors override artistic ones, the art form is turned into a prostitution business, and that is often the case. There are musical institutions and performers who look upon the works they present as vehicles for getting the budget right, or for financial gain, and nothing more. There are even performers who have contempt for the music – the classics – they perform themselves. Yes, all of this happens.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      Are you saying prostitution is not an art form? Narrow-minded.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Although it has a very long history and impressive tradition, it cannot be considered an art form, since it does not contribute to any aesthetic, moral, spiritual, or even physical aspiration. Art – real art, that is – is humanizing, ‘the other thing’ is dehumanizing. Lesson one in the civilisation course.

  • Lohengrinloh says:


  • william osborne says:

    It’s unfortunate that Halliburton, Enron, and Exxon were not available. Or in Germany, the highly respectable diesel car division of Volkswagen. Actually, the best sponsor might be the Murdoch Group in the UK, a true symbol of probity in the media.

    Salzburg is a rare example of a European cultural institution that relies heavily on private funding. And inevitably, it shows all the high integrity such a system produces. It’s so good to see them following the superior American funding model.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The Salzburg festival also has considerable government support. It really isn’t that similar to the US model.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Not bad: sponsor money and out with Peter Sellars!

  • double-sharp says:

    Norm! You’re losing your touch! You forgot to call Gergiev a ‘henchman’? You must be slipping. The Atlantic Council will dock it from your monhtly paycheck! Try harder.

  • Wake to Reality says:

    If you read the actual information you see this is done through OMV which is an Austrian company. Also, it is for a single Russian opera production.

    When environmentalists begin sponsoring operas when can all celebrate. Until then, let’s be realistic unless you plan to give up your cars and most of the food which is generated for your life by major multi-national corporations.

  • John Rook says:

    They should sponsor our long summer music festival with its iconic Last Night and relieve the BBC of its responsibilities.

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    I agree it is a shame. To be put in the same bag as the eviction of Die Staatskapelle Dresden from the Easter Festival. Gergiev in is may good news. Nobody will regret Sellars though.

  • Anon says:

    Entire cultural ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is dirty money, and fairy tales of reputable financial sponsorship. How dare you!

  • udouble-sharp says:

    [[ Russian oil company Gazprom ]]

    Gaz = Gas. Not an oil company. If you think it’s all the same thing, Normsky, remind me never to send you out with a lighted match, for look for a suspected gas leak? The Atlantic Council will dock that from your pay-cheque too. This is thin stuff, even by your standards.

  • Lev Deych says:

    Bravo Mr. Lebrecht, you are consistently making right calls. And those who think that Nestle is as bad or worse than Gasprom must seriously rethink their priorities

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Reality check: can someone please suggest a few ethical, effective and realistic ways to finance the Salzburg Festival?

    • Tamino says:

      Ticket prices and fees for artists down?
      Or ticket prices up and rebranding as „Rich people’s festival“?

      Easter Festival as well: „Very rich people‘s festival“

      I personally don‘t mind the high ticket prices and artist fees.
      I do mind though, that (too many of) the wrong people make all the money in this world.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Very simple: the Viennese government should take it under its financial wing to garantee its existence, with a small percentage of covering by donors and sponsors. Compared to expenses on railroads, alp tunnels, the army and Mr Kurz’ hairdo, it would not be a great sacrifice.

  • Ken says:

    The sooner Peter Sellers goes away, the better. How is that even arguable?

  • Ken says:

    Sorry, I wrote “Sellars.”

  • Mick the Knife says:

    They have every right to sell gas without this childish complaining. Not happy about it? Elect representatives who will vote to provide R&D money to develop alternative energy sources and pass laws to limit the use of gas. In the meantime, be grateful they support the arts.

  • Ordinary Member of the Public says:

    Shareholders of energy companies should object to subsidizing a corrupt business like classical music, notorious for financial chicanery, ruthless exploitation and disposal of the powerless, sexual abuse and monstrous levels of income inequality.

  • Alan says:

    One Russian opera in 2020.

    A total overreaction and a very click bait headline

  • Jack says:

    It appears that the richest classical music festival in the world have to get the money anywhere they can.

    Why can’t respectable companies like Deutschebank, BMW and Mercedes step in as top sponsors? Are they simply too cheap, so they leave the field to shady Russians?

  • SoCal Peter says:

    Ethically clean patrons of the arts have been very thin on the ground of human history. There are few, if any, signs that this will ever change. Are we then ethically compromised for being inspired by great works of art?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Ethically-compromised art patrons use their support to relieve some of their guilty feelings. And indeed they create some sort of moral excuse at the end balance.

  • Olassus says:

    Such an ugly logo!

  • marina says:

    Soon Europe will dance “Kozachok” under the Russian pipe. Congratulations! :(((((

    • John Borstlap says:

      The reason that the Russian regime (and not the Russians themselves) are so hostile, is their profound fear of Western ideas about freedom and democracy.

  • Franco says:

    The nutjob Greens want to stop manufacturing in Europe. They should go to China, India, Pakistan and try to stop manufacturing there.

    Russians are Europeans more so than Americans and are welcomed in Western Europe.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “The nutjob Greens want to stop manufacturing in Europe.”

      Wherever you get your “news”: Don’t get it there.

  • Maria Feldmann says:

    Shame on Salzburg festival for accepting money from Gazprom. Gazprom is the mane source of financing for Putin when it comes to wars and separatist movements in ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and many other countries. Not to forget political assassinations of Putin’s opponents in Europe. All these happens with the help of proceeds from Gazprom .

  • Alan says:

    There is no climate emergency!
    Stop worshipping at the altar of St Greta.
    Let’s all grow up, there is serious science out there we are not hearing.

  • Alan says:

    The world of art and culture will face a crisis if the lunatic Xrebellion anarchists succeed.
    In the UK She’ll and BP have cut back art sponsorship under threat from anarchists and schoolchildren. We need to wake up and smell the coffee. Make some difficult decisions and be defend them. Some wilting under threats from extremists!

  • almaviva says:

    No sooner Mr. Lebrecht posts another item critical of the Russian regime, than immediately the Putin apologists are activated as if on command, with the same old-Soviet rigmarole: the evil Western (mainly American) imperialists, the greedy capitalist corporations, while the Russians are the only forces of good in the world and so on…

    If they are not Kremlin trolls – everything’s possible – they are certainly useful idiots, all living comfortably in the West, never having experienced and plainly ignoring the level of atrocities the Russians inflicted on millions of innocent people in Eastern Europe (and beyond) for 60+ years.

    To quote a favourite of theirs: “Go where you belong – in the dustbin of history!” (L. Trotsky)

  • John Borstlap says:

    For Salzburgian festival enthusiasts suffering from gastritis, the notion of ‘windfall’ has obtained a quite new meaning.