Breaking: Zurich runs out of money

Breaking: Zurich runs out of money


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2020

The Zurich Festival, set up in 1996 as a rival to Lucerne and Verbier, is shutting down.

This summer will be its last.

A joint venture of the Tonhalle, the opera house and the Kunsthaus, spearheaded by Alexander Pereira, the festival received 1.4 million Swiss francs in subsidy from the canton and the city, but Zurich banks failed to follow suit.

In 2016 the festival went biennial and retired its director Elmar Weingarten.

Now it’s shutting down.

Zurich goes bust. You’ve been waiting a long time to read that headline.



  • I have never heard about this festival. But the Zurich Orchestra is famous.

    • Pedro says:

      The fact that the Tonhalle is being renovated doesn’t help to keep the audiences.

      • The fact today is that Switzerland is more famous internationaly for the two big festivals (especially Luzern) and less for the orchestras works. That doesn’t signify that thoes orchestras are bads of course.

  • Gustavo says:

    Maybe this is good news for Paavo’s summer festival in Pärnu?

    Bring the Swiss audience up north!

  • Marcello says:

    Well, NL got only about a quarter of the story right. The Zurich Festival goes back a long time (at least to the late 60s) and used to be called “Junifestwochen”. It consisted of some gala performances at the Opernhaus, the Tonhalle and the Schauspielhaus to festively end the season.
    It was given new life in the 90s by Pereira, who wanted to extend his season into July and squeeze in an additional new production. More recently the festival was given a theme and is taking place place only every other year. The other institutions joined, but Pereira and his successor Homoki did always as they pleased. This year the theme is “The 1920s”, but I cannot see any link to Vespri Siciliani, Carmen and Lohengrin.
    The Zurich Festival is quite different from Lucerne (which concentrates on orchestral concerts and contemporary music) or Verbier, as it attempted to include other arts and (in the last years) tried to involve a wider audience with open air concerts by the Tonhalle and “Oper für alle” (live video showing of an opera performance) and other events.
    As the festival is neither fish nor fowl, it is probably best to let it die. Some events like Oper für alle, which is usually a huge success, will probably continue.

  • Nick says:

    What else do you expect from the Swiss? Watches, chocolate and banks!!
    Arts? Don’t be naive.

    • Gustavo says:

      Joachim Raff

    • CHNina says:

      Cheese. Roger Federer.

    • V.Lind says:

      Einstein. Kubelik. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Durrenmatt. Jung. Dutoit. Giacometti. Le Corbusier. Ursula Andress. Honegger. A personal favourite — the figure skater Denise Biellmann, whose eponymous spin is the most beautiful movement in sport, and who was an artist on ice.

      Johanna Spyri.

      • fflambeau says:

        Einstein was born in Germany and lived much of his life in the USA. Biellmann finished 4th in the European championships in 1978, and again 4th in the Lake Placid Olympiads of 1980.

        Dutoit has been accused by numerous women (at least 10) of improper sexual advances: he “withdrew” from concerts with the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic. Several other orchestras (Boston, San Francisco, Sydney) have severed ties with him. Canadian CBC Radio/CBC Radio Two adopted a policy of no longer crediting Dutoit as conductor when they played recordings of music he had conducted. He’s not a good role model except as a sexual predator.

        • V.Lind says:

          Nick raised the question of whether the Swiss produced anyone in the arts, not whether they produced role models. Dutoit may or may not be a sod but he is still a conductor of considerable success.

          Einstein spent almost 20 rather significant years in Switzerland. They have some claim on him.

          The Biellmann Spin, now a part of the most superior figure skaters’ repertoires, is named for her and immortalised by her originating it, and is still the most beautiful movement in all of sport.

      • CHNina says:

        Oh well, if we’re going to get serious about this…. little Switzerland produced some rather good opera singers: Fernando Corena, Edith Mathis, Lisa della Casa, Hugues Cuenod for instance. A few conductors too: Ernest Ansermet, Silvio Varviso, Heinz Holliger, Peter Maag, and the two father/son pairs, Armin/ Philippe Jordan and Marcello/Lorenzo Viotti.

        One might also consider Zurich’s stellar record in nurturing and furthering young singers’ careers. To name only tenors: Jonas Kaufmann, Piotr Beczala and Javier Camarena all got their international start in Zurich. (And coming right up: Benjamin Bernheim.)

    • SwissMusician says:

      Nick, which country are you from? I would like to compare the arts grants per capita between your country and Switzerland.

  • Eddgar Self says:

    Running out of money in Zuerich sounds positively un-Swiss.

    Hermann Hesse, Frank Martin, Othmar Schoeck, Albrechtsberger, Lisa della Casa, Ernst Levy, Edwin Fischer, Alfred Cortot, and I think Heinz Rehfuss.