Composer is ordered to remove ‘degraded’ song from her opera

The Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, whose opera Orlando is supposedly the first by a woman to be staged at the Vienna State Opera, has found herself in dispute with the rights owners of a song she borrowed in the score.

The rights owners of  the song ‘Thank you for this good morning’ by Martin Gotthard Schneider which appears at the end of the first act have condemned its inclusion and ordered the composer to remove it from future performances.

Their statement reads:

The rights holders of this song (Erbengemeinschaft Martin Gotthard Schneider and Gustav Bosse Verlag Kassel) expressly distance themselves from this use and form of presentation. The song is used in a caricaturing-degrading form to represent the bigotry in society. Among other things, it is about the sexual abuse of children. Using the song “Thank you for this good morning” in this context, even if this is done with artistically sophisticated means, does not in any way correspond to the intentions of the composer Martin Gotthard Schneider. The use of the song as well as the corresponding processing and presentation as well as the further use of the “Thank you song” in this context is therefore not approved by the right holders. 


Neuwirth with Vienna Opera chief Dominique Meyer

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  • Astonishing that a copyright song was included without having its usage cleared beforehand. Serious lack of diligence somewhere along the line…

      • As everybody knows, appropriation or stealing is not unusual in music, and sometimes the result is better than the ‘original’. However, some avant garde composers misappropriate beautiful works by other (older) composers in a quite different way – they just copy the original often I the original ‘arrangement’, and call it ‘collage’. How beautiful, alleviating to the listener’s ears, to discover three cabaret songs by Erik Satie in the middle of John Cage’s ‘Sonnekus’:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsvdTc2NTSs

        Other, probably more known and (arguably) less shameless examples are the use of a Mahler symphony in Luciano Berio’s ‘Sinfonia’, or the use of lots of ‘classical tunes, especially piano music by Debussy in Bernt Alois Zimmenmann’s ‘Monologues’, just to name a few.

        It places the original compositions in a new context that would not necessarily be approved by the original composer, and it’s never better than the real thing…

  • How did no one realize you had to check copyright …. Oh the high level of professionalism working in classical music today..

  • With regard to all the comments above about composers not understanding copyright. . . There is nothing in this brief report to indicate that the songwriter is asserting a copyright complaint (droit d’auteur) for which no reason to object would need to be given. Instead, it appears that the composer is asserting a violation of their moral right (droit morale) to object to a performance damaging to their honour or reputation — in which case adequate reasons to object, such as those mentioned in the article, do need to be asserted.

  • The song should be banned completely for ethical reasons.

    “Danke für meine Arbeitsstelle…”

    Why thank God for jobs in the corrupt German car industry that has ignored climate change for decades?

  • It happened to Stravinsky in Petrushka.. He used a copyrighted French song “Elle avait une jambe de bois..”. The songwriter received a compensation afterwards..

  • Except that Orlando is not the first work by a woman at the Vienna State Opera. According to the online archive (https://archiv.wiener-staatsoper.at/), Adriana Hölszky’s “Die Wände” was staged more than two decades ago!

    Also, the children’s opera “Der 35. Mai” by Violeta Dinescu was presented in 2001. And the Viennese take their children’s opera seriously, as they should: Seiji Ozawa himself led 6 performances of “Die Zauberflöte für Kinder”.

  • Here we nicely go metastasizing stupidity, the unintelligent use of intelligence…music that resource only God (who happens to be my favorite composer, just ask) can bring into Being, compose…..is there really any difference to this and the ending of Kater Myrr we haven’t been blessed with yet, only knowing that Kreisler has to deal with the same…

  • If nothing else, this cease-and-desist order gives the song new publicity. The report cited by ‘Bernardel’ indeed indicates that permission was granted, but then (my opinion) the grantors saw the context and didn’t like the mirror being held up to the face. Joshua Barone’s review of the opera was less than kind, but even he didn’t comment on the use of that particular song. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/09/arts/music/orlando-vienna-opera-review.html

  • Yes, well…I removed myself from the audience of opera houses a decade ago. The tragic freak-show farce prevails. Che sorpresa.

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