Putin is expected at the Salzburg Festival

Putin is expected at the Salzburg Festival


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2019

Heavy hints are being dropped, here and elsewhere, that the Russian president will grace next summer’s centenary festival with his lowering presence.

That’s no great surprise given that the festival’s new sponsor is the Russian state polluter Gazprom, and that Anna Netrebko will appear as Tosca.

What is surprising is that the festival directors think that the Crimea and Syria warmonger will add lustre to the event.

But maybe what the festival needs is a dash of creative tension.The programme is heavily reliant on borrowed productions.


  • Alexander says:

    (languidly) … are you going to attend to see him closer ? 😉
    PS ( just so) Elina Stikhina will also be presented … why didn’t you say anything on her Médée and Tatiana’s letter scene at last BBC proms ? Didn’t you like it ?

  • LewesBird says:

    Which ones exactly are borrowed prods next year? Maybe the Tosca or Flute or the rest of the claptrap first rich philistines; I didn’t check.

    Of the ones that matter (the Warlikowski, the Castellucci, the Nono, the Godunov, the Wilson), they’re all new.

    • Karl Hurb says:

      No, the Wilson “Messiah” is from Mozart Week in January 2020. Furthermore, “Zauberflöte” is from Salzburg Summer Festival 2018, “Tosca” is from Salzburg Easter Festival 2018, “Don Pasquale” is from Salzburg Pentecost Festival 2020. In total, 50% of the scenic opera productions at Salzburg Summer Festival 2020 are old. They have only four new productions, like usual, plus, save choices of creative teams. A bit too little for an 100th anniversary.

      • LewesBird says:

        So basically the three claptrap prods are old but the four important ones are new. I can live with that. As for “MessiaS”, looks to me like it’s new-old rather than old-old (it’s sort of semi-staged anyway). I can live with that too.

  • Anna says:

    Stop interfering with culture and politics. Otherwise, you demonstrate to everyone that you do not understand either.

  • Musician says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Trump, Obama, Johnson or any other world leader actually knew what the Salzburg Festival actually was? Not mentioning that Putin’s Gasprom is sponsoring it! I’m By no means a Putin supporter – actually the opposite, but surely this is not the worst thing a state leader can do – attend a music festival.
    P.s. you don’t think the US and UK are responsible for many more wars/bloodshed than Russia?

    • C Porumbescu says:

      Boris Johnson commissioned Hans Werner Henze. But yes, his public image does tend to fool the gullible.

    • V. Lind says:

      Johnson will know. And Theresa May has been there, quietly and on her own dime. Angela Merkel is a regular at Bayreuth. Putin is clearly interested in music — get over it. And if you are going to get into “Crimea and Syria warmonger,” what about Iraq? You know, home of the weapons of mass destruction? How are the two Bs not warmongers?

    • Brettermeier says:

      “Wouldn’t it be nice if Trump, Obama, Johnson or any other world leader actually knew what the Salzburg Festival actually was? […]”

      Now what do we have here:

      1. A bold claim that only Putin knows what the Salzburg Festival is.
      2. A weird explanation of why of course he should be there (Gazprom).
      3. A weak claim to be in opposition to Putin while saying simultaneously that he’s not all bad because he attends concerts.
      4. And what about whataboutism!?!

      Привет из Германии. 😉

    • No thanks says:

      I’d rather have a leader with tin ears like Franklin Roosevelt or even Obama than that Austrian classical music enthusiast who ruled Germany from 1933-1945 or the KGB apparatchik currently in the Kremlin

    • Anna Y says:

      You are completely right!!!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      “Responsible”? Let’s see: WW1, WW2, Korea.. nuh.

      Involved? Yes.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Boris Johnson knows about the Salzburg festival. He actually has quite an interest in classical music and opera. Corbyn, on the other hand, has no interest in that kind-of-thing.

  • Olassus says:

    The website is much improved:


  • Gustavo says:

    Putin may be a Domingo fan.

    Trump is an Erdogan fan.

    Anything goes these days.

  • Interesting says:

    Of course, it’s great that culture is supported heavily by a major and powerful organization. But such big things have a dark side often as well.

    So it’s no surprize that self-named-and-overrated Harnoncourt-successor Currentzis and no-rehearsal Gergiev have major engagements at Salzburg Festival…

    Of course they were hired by their competence… lol.

  • piano lover says:

    First thing to ask:Does Poutine know something about music?

  • Rob says:

    Apparently he’s going to play the Rach 3.

  • Tamino says:

    The anti-russian hate speech in this blog is shameful, politically uninformed and intentionally destructive.

    Also, no war in crimea.
    And in Syria arguably the Russian involvement decisively pacified the country, by defeating IS, while US and Israel involvement instigated the bloodshed. So the warmongers are very different fractions there actually, and you know it.
    And since you know it and still spread the fake news, it questions your motivations and supporters…

    • Russian bot says:

      Totally agree with Tamino. Sad to see how much hate people have in their hearts these days. Sweep your own porch.

    • No thanks says:

      It’s not anti-Russian speech, it’s anti-Putin.

      • Tamino says:

        Not quite. “Russian state polluter Gazprom”
        Do we hear with the same rational on this blog BP called the “British state polluter BP”? Or Exxon being shamed as the “American state polluter Exxon”?
        No we don’t.
        Because they are not associated as Russian and thus not targets of this hate propaganda, of mental war mongering.

        • SVM says:

          Tamino is right to observe the double standards. Compare the current article with:


          , in which Lebrecht lambasts those who have the temerity to object to sponsorship from a British fossil-fuel company, on the grounds that the objectors themselves consume fossil fuels (or, in Lebrecht’s words, “We wonder, with respect, how they heat their houses, drive their cars…”).

          Then again, that was more than four years ago. Maybe, Lebrecht has since decided to take a principled stand against all sponsorship from the fossil-fuel industry? If so, perhaps he will soon publish an article criticising a festival for accepting money from a UK “state polluter”…

    • Orange says:

      Explain Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • Anna Y says:

    If we now recall all the sins and war crimes of the United States, Britain, Germany, and so on, remember the colonial policy and the famine in India in the middle of the last century, Russia on the this background will look like an angel of God, and Putin will look like an innocent lamb. Politics is a dirty business. It doesn’t matter what our political views are. Culture is the only thing that unites Nations. It’s the last thing that separates humanity from a return to primitive barbarism. Let us separate these things. It is not necessary even here to leave the dirty political stains of endless showdowns between the Anglo-Saxon States and Russia. And, by the way, do not forget that Russia was a sponsor of the American struggle for independence.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Keep going, it’s what trolls are paid to do.

      • Tamino says:

        Ad hominem attacks. Always the last refuge of those who lack rational arguments.

        • norman lebrecht says:

          You do not know the meaning of ad hominem. And we do have means of identifying trolls.

          • Tamino says:

            “Culture is the only thing that unites Nations. It’s the last thing that separates humanity from a return to primitive barbarism.“

            Reasonable words, not troll words, and we all should try to live up to that standard in my humble opinion.

            And if you classify people by geographic origin of their IP address, you are close to using mental traditions of separating people by the attribute of their ancestry into superior ones and ‘Untermenschen’. Not sure that’s your intention.

            And… Russians might have paid divisions of internet trolls, but so do other powers, and others allocate much higher budgets for that purpose, so bottom line the faux outrage about Russian trolls just tells about the calcified Cold War mental divisions and enemy constructs in Western people’s minds. It’s an overblown reaction.
            Some people need to feel like victims though all the time, and it’s extremely annoying.

  • Dennis says:

    Nice to see a world leader who supports classical music. I doubt Trump and most others even know what the Salzburg Festival is.

    As for the Ukraine, it was the US that help foment a coup against the rightful President in 2014, further destabilizing an already unstable and unworkable country (Russia has a perfectly legitimate claim to the Crimean Peninsula anyway – and frankly one could make a good case that eastern Ukraine should just be part of Greater Russia).

    • Larry D says:

      Should Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also be part of Greater Russia? I’m sure Putin misses them too.

      • Tamino says:

        That comparison is totally moot and without any historical knowledge.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Eastern Ukraine has historically been rather more Russified, (e.g. self-identifying as “Russian” for centuries) than western Ukraine (more “Polish” and joined together with the Russian state somewhat later). The Crimea is different again and was somewhat arbitrarily placed into the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

        The Baltic states have never been particularly Russian, but spoke a variety of Baltic languages. Even their aristocracy and major cities were German speaking rather than Russian speaking before the 20th century. They only began to be Russified after WW2 and now have important Russian minorities.

    • Gustavo says:

      “I doubt Trump and most others even know what the Salzburg Festival is.”

      At least he’s been at the Elbphilharmonie.

      Beethoven 9, Nagano.

      Together with Putin.

      He didn’t turn his back on Beethoven.

      He didn’t complain about the acoustics.

      Invite him to Salzburg!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    What’s the old saying about keeping your enemies close?

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    He is not so much as a warmonger as an ambitious nationalist, who wants to reestablish Russia’s position as a global superpower. As the USA is moving towards isolationism, China and Russia may dominate world power in the 21st century. This is something I am not looking forward to, in spite of all my reservations in relation to the cultural influence of the USA. As a journalist recently remarked, under China & Russia, might will determine right.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The US won’t retreat into isolationism, and will remain the pre-eminent military power for the next 50 years. Of course, China is becoming much more important, and this is something we will have to become used to. We are moving to a two-power world system.

      Russia really isn’t a particularly important military power: they just have nuisance value.

  • Ingrid says:

    Perhaps Salzburg Festival should sell tickets only to people who bring a certificate of good character?
    Who knows who also bought tickets? Maybe you are sitting next to somebody with business crime or trades with weapons or something like that.