Watch: Kaufmann and Terfel beg people to come to Grimes

Watch: Kaufmann and Terfel beg people to come to Grimes


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2022

The Vienna State Opera cannot sell tickets, despite a luxury cast that also includes Lisa Davidsen.

‘Please come!’ they cry.



  • Tamino says:

    No idea why people don’t buy tickets.
    I mean, you only need:
    -3x vaccination with an experimental vaccine.
    -1x PCR test (not older than 48 hours).
    -FFP2 mask the whole time. (medical mask will not do)
    -no Restaurant or social mingling in the intermissions, only masked people around, the wrong kind of masks (not Venice carnival style).

    It’s so worth it.
    I mean, one could watch a good DVD at home, no mask, no PCR test, glass of champagne in hand. But that would be too nice.
    Go to the opera, masochists of this world!

    • Vienna calling says:

      The bars are open and you can sit down without a mask if you order in advance.
      I guess the science of research is not for everyone.

      • Tamino says:

        Ok, great, you get your glass of champagne if you preordered it and sit down at your reserved spot. So much fun, so socially engaging.

    • Andrey says:

      “Experimental vaccine”

      Antivaccer’s cancer reached their medieval tenticles all the way up to this website as well.

    • Emilee says:

      “experimental vaccine”??? Why don’t you just call it a “chemical injection.”
      Please spit out the kool-aid.

    • Ebba Anders says:

      Dear couchpotato, of course I have tickets. yes comfortable sofa, champagne, no discomforts – but omg what a difference in sound in the whole big room, what a difference in atmosphere! It’s worth it! But well enjoy your dvd.

      • Tamino says:

        Actually, the sound of a good DVD or Bluray production can be better, than sitting in one of the less than great seats in a theater. Or if you sit in Berlin Philharmonie or Hamburg Philharmonie behind the orchestra, where the sound can be very funny and out of balance.
        Yes the whole atmosphere in a theater is no comparison to sitting at home. But not when FFP2 masks are mandatory. That makes the theater so not enjoyable.

    • anon says:

      Tamino is absolutely right. Also, Austria is making life impossible for people who decline to take the experimental vaccine (or decline to declare their vaccination status). Could we be about to see another wave of emigration from oppressive Austria to almost free England (where concert halls are selling tickets quite well once again)?

  • A.L. says:

    Yep. The proverbial chickens coming home to roost. And please don’t blame it entirely on the pandemic, which only precipitated the inevitable. Finally, it is degrading to hear desperate exhortations of “please come!” from these singers. And in Vienna of all places. Between this and the self-trolling on social media that many young singers engage in in order to be noticed only adds salt to the wound. Good luck to an art form on a steep nosedive.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Well that’s dreadfully sad to hear!! So many injuries in life are self-inflicted, but when it comes to art music and theatre I guess the beginning of the end was Diversity Officers. You know you’re top heavy when you can afford that kind of crazy – with attendant agitprop.

      • V. Lind says:

        Which has absolutely ZERO to do with this story. Are you pathologically incapable of parking your prejudices at the door and addressing a situation on its own merits?

        You are free to take whatever position you wish on the issue, which is low attendance at an opera that may not have as universal an appeal as the artists behind it wish, during a pandemic that has made people very wary of going out in large groups, and where the medical demands are indeed quite demanding.

        But must you introduce one of your pet bugbears where it does not belong? It’s so Fox News.

  • Patrick says:

    “Unbelievable”? Why? Under the current circumstances everyone who ventures on stage is crying out for an audience. Believable and, hopefully, temporary.

    • Mouse says:

      No worries, Patrick. That’s just a personal thing. Since Roscic heads the Opera it has to be written like this. As SD reader you should know who is on the hate-list!

  • MacroV says:

    I assume this is more a reflection of COVID rather than of the popularity of Peter Grimes?

    • RW2013 says:

      Many German-speakers still do not “get” the genius of Britten.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        I certainly don’t. I can’t help thinking of all the boys!! Yet he’s survived the cultural purges and we have to ask why the hypocrisy.

    • JamesM says:

      Well, and I am really sorry to even think this let alone say it but I rather think the opera itself has a lot to do with it. I know that in this country BB walks on water and is considered a genius beyond compare and ‘PG’ one of the greatest operas of 20th century rep. But….,um…sorry…. our ex-European opera going partners by and large just don’t think the same. Especially if they have to go though everything Tamino says above.

      • James Weiss says:

        They would be wrong. Either they are ignorant or narrow-minded. Peter Grimes is one of greatest masterpieces in the operatic canon. Period.

      • Elsa says:

        Sorry James,
        I have already known some of BB’s work and like it. Because of ‘his’ Peter Grimes I worked through Jon Vickers’ Peter Grimes and I like it very much. I am looking forward to the live radio transmission this Saturday coming at 6pm GMT( from Vienna State opera. I would have travelled to Vienna from the British Isles if we lived in sane times. I hope the cast will manage to keep their spirits up and I wish them ‘Good Luck’ despite the various cold viruses invariably annoying us in winter!

        PS: Perhaps most opera buffs are quite happy with our Continental operas. Perhaps Jonas Kaufmann will help to widen the Continental horizon a bit?

      • David G says:

        You’re quite right. I have joined an upcoming tour to see opera in Milan, Verona, and Venice. “Grimes” is the Venice performance. I saw it years ago in New York with Vickers. I retired to the family circle for a nap. Grimes is one of the last operas I would’ve chosen to see with the Italian public. Yeah, I know it’s a masterpiece, blah blah blah. Many operagoers are not smitten with Britten.

      • IC225 says:

        You do have to ask why a city that claims to pride itself on its musical sophistication is quite so parochial.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Peter Grimes played before in Vienna, and so did Billy Budd. How well did they sell in the pre-covid era?

      I have been a number of times in Vienna and, at the Staatesoper, I have attended both standard repertoire works as well as those more on the off-beaten path. In most of the cases the house was full. But how much of the public was tourists?

      • Tristan says:

        or maybe Viennese instead go to the awful Tosca at their other opera company? I was told it’s again rubbish Eurotrash?

        • guest says:

          What rubbish. Don’t you think Vienna is a large enough city to fill two theaters? BTW, the Tosca at the other theater (which is much smaller than the State Opera), was booed vehemently at the premier. Perhaps you were told the production is rubbish, but weren’t told about the audience’s reaction to it? Or if told, you decided to forget because it didn’t fit your preconceived theory why Peter Grimes doesn’t sell? Whatever the reason it doesn’t sell NOW, you may want to know it didn’t sell well in the past either. I don’t call about 40 performances in 25 years a good sell (with only half of them in the 21st century), compared to 200 performances of the State Opera’s Tosca in the same period, which BTW isn’t rubbish Eurotrash, it’s the Wallmann production premiered in 1958.

          • Don Ciccio says:

            40 performances is not an insignificant number for an opera, supposedly more respected than loved outside UK.

            No, Peter Grimes will never be as popular as Tosca or Nozze di Figaro. But, since December 1996, the date of the Peter Grimes Staatsoper premiere, Idomeneo played 36 times, Clemenze di Tito 16 times (admittedly, not Mozart’s most popular works, but it’s the local hero nonetheless), Die Entführung aus dem Serail some 34 times if my count is correct, and Pelléas et Mélisande only 9 times.

            And question still remains: how well have these 40 pre-covid performances sold?

          • guest says:

            I compared PG with Tosca because Tristan mentioned Tosca. Yes, there are operas performed even less than PG at the Vienna State Opera, but this doesn’t make PG a popular opera there. A few other titles for comparison, all in the same period, the last 25 years:
            Tosca: 205
            Zauberflöte: 177
            Barbiere: 176
            Nozze: 167
            La Boheme: 154
            La Traviata: 149
            Elisir d’amore: 146
            Don Carlos: 135
            Don Giovanni: 131
            Rosenkavalier: 127
            Salome: 109
            Madama Butterfly: 101
            Rigoletto: 96
            Simon Boccanegra: 94
            Parsifal: 84
            Nabucco: 82
            Lohengrin: 81
            Otello: 79
            Der Fliegende Holländer: 79
            Ariadne: 78

            I could go on but it isn’t necessary, there’s a long way down to 40. When an opera sells, it is scheduled regularly, in long runs. Opera may be subsided in Austria but there’s a limit to the cash flow, they need the box-office too. When an opera doesn’t sell, it gets a dozen performances per decade or less. After 2000, PG was scheduled only every 5-7 years, in short runs of 3-4 performances.

          • Don Ciccio says:

            Still, how well these 40 performances sold?

          • guest says:

            The first 26 performances in the period 1996-2000 (five years) sold so “well” that the management scheduled the next 15 performances over a period FOUR times longer. Is this so difficult to understand? Does it look like increasing demand to you?

          • Maria says:

            Vienna with 1.8 million people, and London 9 million???

          • guest says:

            @Maria Is your comment in reply to mine? Yes, London has a much larger population than Vienna. What point are you trying to make?

        • guest says:

          P.S. Tristan, you may also want to know that the stage director of Peter Grimes is Christine Mielitz… If you believe her a “traditionalist” you are pretty much alone in your belief.

      • Una says:

        Grimes IS standard repertoire, and already last century!!! Perhaps they prefer Wozeck annd Lulu as they are in German.

  • Me says:

    Worst period in the year for a premiere.
    And generally speaking, young people are complaining their lives had been destroyed by this pandemy, but the only ones that did suffered and lost a lot during the last two years were the older people which were forced to stay away from travelling, going out freely and so much more, including going to opera houses

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      No, I disagree; young people’s lives have been destroyed on the altar of protection of Baby Boomers. I fully understand their anger and frustration. The Boomers should have been kept indoors so that younger generations could go about their business without interference. Now they have unemployment and no lives to deal with. And for what? They aren’t dying from it. I have said this from Day 1.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Guess it’s the same reason people aren’t exactly queuing up to see the new West Side Story

  • Couperin says:

    If they throw in some airfare I would gladly buy a ticket! Then again it’s Peter Grimes. My assumption is, it could be a healthy mix of both covid and that it’s Peter Grimes.

  • Liloloperaluvr says:

    I have tickets. Desperately wanted to go. But being in most vulnerable group, facing 4 airports, 3 flights and PCR tests on arrival. With Omicron so transmissible, what if I am positive? Quarantine in Wien or worse symptomatic in Wien alone? Just bad timing…so sorry and sad for this amazing cast. Toi Toi Toi luckily some locals are there.

    • Robin Worth says:

      The London Times says this morning that Austria (unlike Germany) only demands booster vaccination, so no PCR test. Are they wrong?

      • Leontamnos says:

        The PCR test is not required to enter the country but the opera house itself, and has to be done a maximum of 48h before.

      • Tamino says:

        That‘s for entering the country. But for entering the Vienna State Opera, in a way a country on its own, you also need a PCR test.

  • Liebe says:

    Charge us and put it online!!

  • IP says:

    No gratitude. . . I mean, it could have been Gloriana.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      One of my most memorable evenings at the opera was when the ENO brought Gloriana to the Met in 1984. It was a revelation and Sarah Walker had a true triumph. I swear, in 45 years of attending the Met, there has never been a louder or more sustained ovation (excepting, perhaps, the opening performance of Salome with Karita Mattila and the final Aidas of Leontyne Price). People beat on any available surface to give noise to their appreciation.

  • Bloom says:

    Herr Grimes seems slightly tipsy.Old Joe has gone fishing…

  • fred says:

    a top cast indeed, who is the conductor and while Grimes is not puccini or verdi it still is a very great work never equalled buy britten again. Hope a dvd is in the making

  • Carlos says:

    It is really a pitty. In past times, I would literally cross the Atlantic Ocean to attend this dream cast performance.

  • Carolyn Memmott says:

    Interesting that the final performance of Werther with Juan Diego Florez played to an almost full house

  • Ebba Anders says:

    “Peter Grimes” not sold out yet, but not so many empty seats. It will be sold out by the evening. @ “Werther”: a large quantity of very discounted tickets as a promotion!

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    Dominique Meyer’s anti-artistic quality, boorish, bean-counting pigeons have finally come home to roost.
    His obsession with box-office sales records was entirely dependant on foreign tourists buying tickets with the same enthusiasm (or knowledge) they evinced for the Riesenrad or a reservation at the Cafe Sacher.
    When the tourists stopped coming due to Covid, there were no locals (at least with any musical taste or discernment) to fill the gap.
    The once great Wiener Staatsoper has descended into a mere musically mediocre Trip Advisor attraction.
    Teatro alla Scala, en garde!

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    I shall be there on February 8th for the Edinburgh Music Review and Slipped Disc with three of the finest singers in the world it promises to be a special occasion !

  • jan neckers says:

    I once had a conversation with Britten at a reception after a concert in Leuven. The boss of the third programme of Flemish Public Radio (VRT) always invited Britten (and Pears) at the Festival van Vlaanderen. He introduced me ( young assistant at the time) somewhat maliciously with the words: “This is Jan and he doesn’t like your music”. Britten: “Oh no?”. I: “Not enough melody”. Britten: “Young man, don’t you think that if I could have written melodies like Verdi, I would have done it?” That was my whole conversation with Britten.