Vienna’s fake Mahler is heavily booed

Vienna’s fake Mahler is heavily booed


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2022

Last night’s opening of a staged opera confected from Mahler song cycles was poorly received – if you can see the video below.

The one person heard cheering admitted to being a friend of the conductor.

This is not to be confused with a Vienna scandal. It’s just a Vienna disgrace.

UPDATE: The video we have is incompatible. Apologies.


  • MR says:

    I became entranced with Gustav Mahler’s music in my early twenties, mostly some early song cycles, Kindertotenlieder and Songs of A Wayfarer, along with Das Lied von der Erde. After that, I completely immersed myself into his Symphony No. 9. I’ve convinced that the famous jazz ballad, ‘Round Midnight, was absolutely inspired by a song from Kindertotenlieder despite to my knowledge no one ever mentioning this possibility before.

    Lee Konitz and Michel Pettruciani recorded a momentous 16 minute interpretation ‘Round Midnight at the Bösendorfer Showroom in Paris, with Michel playing a Bösendorfer, of course. Lee was trying out a new metal mouthpiece for the first time that day, talk about spontaneity!

    Lee told me this ‘Round Midnight went on for so long because, he later learned, Michel had misplaced his glasses, and couldn’t see the alto saxophonist signaling to end, fortunate for everyone involved given the masterpiece that resulted.

    At the Edwardian Ball in Los Angeles a few years ago, prior to covid, a gentleman there had an uncanny resemblance to Gustav Mahler, including his dress. I couldn’t resist telling him this, though he replied I was the first person to voice this observation, and had never even heard of the Austrian composer. With everyone dressed up in fantastical fashion in crowded grand spaces, seeing and meeting this Mahler doppelgänger who sported an unidentifiable exotic accent was like being in a film or a dream.

  • lamed says:

    I swear, classical music fans are the only music fans who would pay to go to a concert with the anticipation … to boo.

    There is something psychologically warped about this mind set, this relationship with music, not to speak of a waste of money and time.

    The audience going in knew that it was experimental Mahler. If you don’t go with an open mind, why go?

    • poyu says:

      I am in London and people very rarely boo if they boo at all. However I know British opera goers went to Germany (eg Bayreuth) to boo. Not sure what‘s their problem. It‘s not that ROH has no bad production or singer.

      • Una says:

        Yes, Londoners and the likes have better manners, appreciate the whole act of getting up to sing, and believe you can’t like everything in front of you. Mostly open to new ideas about anything. Sick of this booing culture as if it’s a boxing or wrestling match. No such a thing as fake Mahler – it’s either Mahler or it’s not. It’s either chicken or it’s not!

      • Tristan says:

        as in London you hardly get any nonsense like Bieto – his Tristan was just such awful work but never forget the German/Austrian Feuilleton! It’s even a bigger disaster
        Sooner or later all those companies will even lose more audiences….Vienna has been going down since long like Salzburg which is totally overrated

    • Tiana Roman says:

      Apparently you don’t have Wiener Blut in your veins 🙂 It has a very specific old cultural characteristic. So to say, this is one of many distinctive Viennese traditions. Well, read about it, this shouldn’t be a surprise if you are interested in classical music and its history. 😉

  • RW2013 says:

    Was the cheerer a certain clarinettist from Berlin?

  • Anton says:

    I was there yesterday. Honestly, it did not disappoint.

    Bieito has consistently achieved an unparalleled level of shit productions in recent time that yesterday only fulfilled my expectations. Tristan and then this: the self-indulgent, vain, senseless approach only reveal a deep lack of ideas, to say the least. When a director always resorts to naked actors, sex, blood and gore, you know he has no meaningful ideas or interpretation, only an unrelenting love for himself and a desire to be talked about.

    Yes, I do think people have the right to boo in premieres, as loud as they wish. Nobody knows beforehand what the production will look like, so as to avoid it. It is an expensive affair to go to a premiere, let alone the hundreds of thousands of euros spent on a horrible production like this, while countless young producers around the world, with far better ideas are washed off to the side. He deserves to be booed – a waste of concertgoers’ and taxpayers’ money.

    • Bud H. says:

      Absolutely vicious comment — I love it.

    • Maria says:

      They have the right to complain bitterly if they want, but not the right to boo in front of a whole hardworking and talented cast. It is childish and belongs to the baddie in pantomime at Christmas, not to hard working opera singers and orchestras playing to their best ability.

    • Clem says:

      You think that Bieito “achieved an unparalleled level of shit productions”, yet you go to a Bieito production. See anything strange here?

      But hey, I’m SO happy for you that you weren’t disappointed. Really.

    • William Evans says:

      Don’t be shy Anton – tell us what you really think!

  • MacroV says:

    I don’t know about the production at issue here, but an opera based on Mahler songs could be interesting. I know of at least two terrific ballets – one by (I think) Antony Tudor set to Kindertotenlieder, and another by John Neumaier. Also a third I saw on Mezzo a couple years ago, don’t recall the choreographer.

    • Larry L. Lash says:

      Tudor’s „Dark Elegies“ (danced to the „Kindertotenlieder“) premiered in London in 1937 (Ballet Rambert) and in New York in 1940 (American Ballet Theatre); it was still on show at ABT in the 1970s. A dreary affair which certainly didn’t age well.

      John Neumeier choreographed almost all of Mahler’s symphonies for his Hamburg Ballett starting in the 1970s, just when he used-up his last original ideas. Sadists and dance-haters can catch some clips on YouTube (Nr. 3 seems to have had a life south of the Elbe).

      Under the dreary leadership of Martin Schläpfer, Wiener Staatsballett found it necessary to stage yet another dance to the Adagietto of Nr. 5 (I’ve lost track of how many I’ve suffered through over the years). I didn’t bother arriving at the theatre until the Balanchine came on as the last piece of the evening. That damned Visconti flick caused it to become so overplayed (and often too slow!).

      I was almost tempted to pick-up at standing room ticket for last night’s premiere at Staatsoper, but recalled that I had a ticket for Wiener Symphoniker at Konzerthaus. I enjoyed “Ein deutsches Requiem” instead, especially the magnificent singing of the Wiener Singakademie (Eschenbach made some startling decisions, which made me rethink the piece overall … in a good way). Both Christian Karg and Georg Nigl (jumping in for Matthias Goerne) were overmatched.

  • Tiredofthis says:

    I would also like to add how this production is a total rip off of the staged Mozart Requiem that was performed at the Museumquartier in April 2022. Is it a coincidence that Bieito was in town at that moment, and all the images used in yesterday premiere awfully remind of the Castellucci production?
    Examples of what stated above:
    1) the white costumes for the soloists and Chorus
    2) the presence of dirt and trees (the Bieito trees were lifted, while the Castellucci’s fell). The dirt falling from the box, like it happen from the bags in the Requiem
    3) people writing in colors on the walls (only difference is that the staatsoper is too cheap to replace the white paper every show, so they covered it in tin foil)
    4) the huge cable tree is a strong reminder of the Maypole that appears with the dancers holding the ribbons towards the end of the Requiem.
    The pictures look like a very badly executed copy of the Castellucci production.
    This comment has been made by many people, including by people that work in both houses or were involved in the production/s. It is really a shame that the Staatsoper management allowed for this to happen, especially considering that the Requiem was shown only few months ago in Wien, not even in another city!
    Bieito is a total fraud and most people that work with have huge complaints about his behavior, especially when it comes to the actors/dancers that have the misfortune of having to work with him.

  • trumpetherald says:

    have you seen it?

  • trumpetherald says:

    Well,the main piece of the evening is Das klagende Lied,a piece he wrote in his early twenties,with many flaws(albeit i love it,it is just so atmospheric….).It is indeed the nearest thing to an opera he ever wrote,with a fascinating,gruesome dramatic story,and many references to Wagner.So,why not?

  • NP says:

    All the resources were just shock value. a real dead raven? lots of blood and dirt. All looked messy and all over the place. The huge cables took the whole stage and you couldn’t appreciate anything (if there was something in stage to appreciate). It was like if Bieito was hiding his own opera in between the cables so no one in the audience could see a thing.