Vienna Opera readmits errant countess after an 18 month ban

Vienna Opera readmits errant countess after an 18 month ban


norman lebrecht

January 22, 2022

Countess Eva Walderdorff was banned from the Vienna State Opera in September 2020 after allegedly switching seats to one of the premier boxes in the interval of Madam Butterfly.

It was further alleged that she received the box seat from a journalist, who had not been required to pay.

Both were banned indefinitely on the orders of Vienna Opera boss Bogdan Roscic.

Yesterday, it was agreed in court that the countess could return to the opera without delay.

Walderdorff is president of the Weinviertler opera festival.


  • Maria says:

    Nothing better to do.

  • The linked article only says she was banned because by moving to another seat she didn’t follow the strict covid seating rules:

    “Weil sie den exakten Sitzplan missachtete, der aus Sicherheitsgründen wegen Corona penibel eingehalten werden musste, erteilte ihr Staatsopern-Direktor Bogdan Roščić Hausverbot.”

    Perhaps a bit of backpedaling.

  • RW2013 says:

    Moving to better seats in the interval is my life.

  • Paul says:

    Sheesh, if only things were that strict at the Met — between breaks, it’s all but certain that you’ll find a totally reconfigured seating arrangement with people upgrading themselves from standing room or even just a few rows away, as if it really matters much. Huge nuisance, and tacky behavior.

  • V. Lind says:

    Hmm. On lightly attended nights at some theatres I have been in, I have seen people who purchased the less expensive seats at the back being actively encouraged by the ushers to move forward. I have certainly been among those who moved up — sometimes to join friends –if I happened to be reviewing alone (in the perfectly satisfactory press seats).

    I moved once toward the centre during an interval because I had been hearing the soprano poorly and I wondered if another acoustic point would improve things; the person sitting next to me asked where I had come from and I told her. She asked if she might move out to my former seat as it was nearer the aisle and she needed to make a quick getaway.

    Whenever I moved (these tended, aside from the occasion described above, to be when I paid for tickets and perhaps did not get what I wanted in my price range) I try to find an usher and ask permission. Most houses seem to take the position that as long as the seats have been paid for and there is no dispute over whose seat it is, it does no harm.

    The Countess, along with her friend, seems to have tried to cheat the house out of her ticket price. Mind you, I do wonder at such a thing ending up in court. Maybe one of our many German speakers could tell us what the article reports that the court says: I hope it is “grow up” to both sides.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    How sad that they treated her so deplorably. She should never step foot in that theater again.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Switching seats? When I lived in Vienna this was standard practice!! I saw it, over and over. At all venues. In one case, in the Musikverein, a couple moved into empty seats after interval and proceeded to talk right through the performance.

    • John Borstlap says:

      At some concerts, when the hall is half-full because of a new piece on the programme, all people move to the very back the moment the unknown item is going to begin.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Funny: if there is something approaching a hot ticket for Staatsoper right now, it’s for Jonas K’s first Peter Grimes which he’ll try-out on Wednesday (as of today, about one-third of the tickets remain available at all price levels). To mark Walderdorff’s return to the house, she has been invited to another show where she must take her assigned seat and stay in it for about 100 minutes and then go home. By the way, Austrian press describes her as „Society-Gräfin“.

    Somewhat ironically, she cancelled the 2021 Waldviertler Festspiele (not „opera festival“) on very short notice – to the tune of 24 hours – because of a lack of planning to meet COVID restrictions (her avoidance of which got her tossed out of Staatsoper) and Facebook postings from prominent singers who claim they were never paid. A week later, the festival’s founder and Intendant (who announced in January 2021 that he would temporarily step-down due to internal conflicts in his festival’s organisation) died from COVID.

    To date the „festival“ has presented outdoor, semi-staged performances of two Wagner operas in 2020 in a village across the border in the Czech Republic with a last-minute pick-up orchestra from Hungary (three rehearsals); a critic referred to „Der fliegende Holländer“ as „Katastrophe und Schande“ (catastrophe and disgrace).

    Walderdorff ended her July 2021 announcement by stating that plans for 2022 would be announced in the autumn. Since then, total silence.

    Some people just have bad luck …

  • Zvi says:

    Someone in the Staatsoper is clearly lost his mind. It is well known that before the lights go out the ushers make a list of all the free seats to make sure the thought of freely upgrading one’s seat will cross no one’s mind but this is outrageos. To ban her because she moved from one seat to another? Was there any dispute she paid on her ticket? Did she sneak in? To drag this to court. Perhaps someone in the Staatsoper still thinks they are in the golden era of Karajan when each evening is sold out, or worse that they are in the 1930’s where one is just following the orders.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      There is an announcement in German and then English after the house lights dim: one must stay in the seat which corresponds to your ticket for reasons of COVID tracing. This is the policy at Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien, Volksoper, Konzerthaus, and Musikverein, and it is strictly enforced.

      • zvi says:

        My dear, this has nothing to do with COVID. Those are the strict rules of the house.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          No, sweetie darling: it has ALL to do with COVID. The rules/restrictions are government mandated and the theatres are openly quite upset that visitors have to go through so much just to get in the door. They apologise, but make it clear that they have no choice: either the house observes the government’s rules (which vary on the size of the auditorium) or they will be shut down.

  • Suzy O'Shea says:

    Waste not want not!

    If the journo didn’t think it worth his while to stay in his box for the whole of the performance of Mme Butterfly, that speaks volumes as a critique. So why should he not pass on his seat to another paying guest in the opera house? At least she wanted to stay and see the rest of the performance which he clearly did not!

    I think it’s that aspect that put Bogdan on the war path to extract maximum revenge.

    So does this mean that the bored journo can return if the counters can?

  • HugoPreuß says:

    In the linked article there is the press release by the State Opera, and she is correctly addressed as “Frau Dr. Eva Waldersdorff”. Countesses appear only on stage at the opera, not in the audience. Austria abandoned all “noble” titles way back in 1919. There are no countesses in Austria. Except for Count and Countess Almaviva.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, even if titles are abandoned, people are still free to sport them if they wish. You only cannot use them in official contexts as an instrument for gain. Dr Waldersdorff is a society figure known as Gräfin Waldersdorff.

  • Anthony Sanderson says:

    When I have attended the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, I have, on a couple of occasions, chosen seats in the upper regions of the Hall, just to get a free upgrade on arrival to the stalls with the friend I was with.

    I guess it looks better attended for the TV cameras.

  • Carel says:

    What a childish affair! Both the Opera and the Countess ended with lots of egg on their faces…