Vienna boss abolishes music director role at the Opera

Vienna boss abolishes music director role at the Opera


norman lebrecht

December 03, 2022

The director of the Vienna State Opera, Bogdan Roščić, has said that the role of music director will cease to exist after Philippe Jordan leaves in 2025.

Here is what he tells Der Standard:
‘The post of music director has always been a special case in Vienna, because the State Opera’s musical identity is also very much its orchestra. This is unique in this form. And the orchestra has its own ideas, also because of its second identity as the Philharmonic. A very famous conductor said to me: “Your orchestra just wants promiscuity.”

‘Historically, the State Opera has been without a music director for much longer than with one. Both models can have major advantages and disadvantages. As of September 2025, the house will have no music director. I will then concentrate on working intensively with a group of important conductors.’

Meaning that all major music decisions will be in his executive hands.

Is that what the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra really wants?


  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Promiscuity!! Oh yes , yes!!

    Vienna is not alone! I know of a world renowned conductor and music director who loves promiscuity!! And I know of a US organization that enables promiscuity for the music director!!

    It’s a promiscuous state of …. AFFAIRS!! ;-)))

  • Prof says:

    The Vienna Opera has been musically ungovernably by any music director since the time of Mahler. So it’s not a matter of what they want, it’s just how it is.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Gérard Mortier had the same idea in Paris, I think. Did the house benefit? I know neither one way or the other.

  • SDP says:

    The Vienna Philharmonic/Opera Orchestra have operated and existed at such a high level because management has answered to the musicians – as it should be. Management does NOT play in the orchestra and probably has no knowledge of music and musicians. This is why orchestras in the US are in trouble – MANAGEMENT!

  • Petros Linardos says:

    “Historically, the State Opera has been without a music director for much longer than with one.” Correct.

    Also, historically music directors are ousted or driving into resignation: Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Franz Welser-Möst… (I don’t know about Ozawa.)

  • wiener says:

    Mahler, Schalk,Strauss, Böhm, Karajan, Maazel , Abbado, Ozawa, Welser-Möst etc. waren vielleicht doch nicht so schlecht. Roscic wollte Jordan. War allen klar, dass das nicht funktionieren wird.Oder War es Absicht ?

  • Dixie says:

    Remember the song “What Lola wants, Lola gets”? Well, the same applies to Bogdan and Co. If he thinks he has had problems with just ONE conductor, i.e. the Musical Director, he has NO idea what is ahead of him working with “multiple” conductors because that system will increase exponentially the work with the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, which is actually the Vienna Phhilharmonic under another name and management, i.e. its OWN management. I have attended the Vienna State Opera since the end of the 1960s. I can remember only ONE Director who was able to corral the Opera’s Orchestra by commanding its collective respect: Lorin Maazel. However, he, like Böhm and Karajan, were “ushered” out by hook or by crook. Whether, or to what degree the Orchestra, was involved therein, I cannot say. However, I do know that any conductor practically has to put the fear of God into the Orchestra members if he/she wants to get positive results. A quote from Leonard Bernstein: Name me an orchestra that plays better than the Vienna Philharmonic – when they WANT TO! While Lennie was still alive, there was no better orchestra – when they wanted to, but that is no longer the case. So if Bodgan gets what he wants, which he apparently will since he will be reigning alone as of 2025, I do not think that even God will be able to help him …

    • trumpetherald says:

      The orchestra plays way better now than in Bernstein´s days….Orchestral standards have improved immeasurably over the last 30 or 40 years,even 20 years….I remember some horrible train wrecks of the Berlin Phil in the sixties and seventies(Mahler 2 under Barbirolli,Copland 3rd under the composer,both on Testament),and the Vienna Phil in those days,especially in the brass section.

      • Dixie says:

        I have no knowledge of the “train wrecks” of the Berlin Philarmonic. But the Achilles tendon of the Vienna Philharmonic has been, continues to be and most probably will always be the brass. What has gone downhill in Vienna is the quality of the strings! Until approx. 2003 most of the violinists who eventually became members of the Vienna Phil. were trained by primarily only one instructor, which guaranteed the Viennese string tradition. That genlteman has retired and whoever is responsible for instructing would-be candidates for the Vienna Phil is not doing a good job. The last time I heard an opera performance in the Staatsoper the sound of the strings was HORRIBLE. However, I doubt seriously that Bogdan and/or those advising him have the faintest idea about the quality of the orchestral sound.

        • Tamino says:

          All not true.
          The Achilles heel of the Vienna Phil is the percussion. Mediocre section.
          Anything else, if the conditions are favorable: top notch.

          But you are right at one point: they play a lot of sloppy opera performances, because they play „routiniert“, and don‘t care… but when they DO care they are the greatest.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Maybe they’re just overloaded with those two big gigs? Two-for-the-price-of-one should be reserved for TV marketing of steak knives.

      • Antwerp Smerle says:

        “The [Vienna Philharmonic] orchestra plays way better now than in Bernstein´s days”

        Really? I don’t see too much wrong with this:

    • PG Vienna says:

      Yes I can name a few, I live in Vienna and just for this year the Cleveland Orchestra and The Gewandhaus Leipzig whom I happened to listen in the Musikverein are far superior to the Vienna Philharmonic.

      • Tamino says:

        I doubt that. Both are great orchestras, and on tour, in Musikverein!, orchestras usually play their guts out.
        You‘ve come to „the shrine“ of classical music, and live up to it. But „far superior“? No.

        And any top orchestra has this bipolar personality. You get them in a state of intrinsic motivation, then they do great. Or for whatever mundane reason you get them in their arrogant „full of themselves“ state, and the results are all mediocre and pointless, and working with them is a PITA.

  • Emil says:

    Might not be the worst way to go, provided the orchestra has a principal conductor it trusts (someone in charge of musical standards). So many major houses are plagued fights over artistic direction – Nagano was ousted in Munich, Thielemann got into fights with his intendant in Dresden, endless fights in Vienna, etc. Having one clear boss – if they’re good of course – may clarify lines of responsibility. Most houses that function well – such as the Berlin Staatsoper – have a clear person in charge of artistic direction (Barenboim in Berlin, Gelb at the MET with YNS advising).
    Now, of course, if all it means is that the Staatsoper runs on autopilot, and as the joke goes, the director programs what he wants but the Philharmonic play what they want, now that’s not good.

    • Alviano says:

      I disagree that the Berlin Staatsoper has run well, at least when seen from the audience. Indeed, I would even suggest that since Barenboim has been seriously ill, the house has improved. Also in the last few years the best part of every season has been the Baroque Weeks, scheduled for when Barenboim was away.

  • PG Vienna says:

    Except that Jordan is a much finer musician than Bogdan “knows it all” who is responsible for the recent catastrophic decline of staging at the Staatsoper…

    • Erik Leidal says:

      Two very different topics. Crucially different. Makes me wonder how you think. Jordan is fine but the orchestra is better than him. They’re right to protest him, although the better conductor is hard to find and keep in house.

  • William Osborne says:

    Symphony orchestra and opera conductors have a very different function. Time and again I see that the best opera conductors serve a kind of Kapellmeister function. They hold together a very complex art form like a traffic cop with a great sense of proportion and tempo, but otherwise stay out of the way. They must often step aside to a certain degree to accommodate the singers–while insisting on some borders. Naming them a Music Director almost over inflates their position. The major problem without an MD is a possible lack of orchestral discipline and technical refinement like Levine gave the Met orchestra. As for the VPO, it has always been their Gelassenheit, a kind of relaxed, Austrian easy-going stylishness that gives them their character. MDs often interfere with what they are as an orchestra.

  • CSOA Insider says:

    The right music director can help an orchestra flourish. But the wrong music director can do irreparable damage at both the musical and reputational level. Especially when management does not have the weight, or even the will, to act as a counterweight. As we all know.

  • IP says:

    And the singers, the singers, get rid of those too! All one needs is a Herr Direktor and a small zoo of stage directors.

  • M McGrath says:

    Sounds like a coup to me. A power grab. A hissy fit of Bog standard proportions.
    Will the evenings’ performances improve? No with the house’s production values, its prima-donna orchestra, and its grab-bag, Repertory system of planning the season.
    Skip the big house and head to the Theater an der Wien: Excellent stagione results nearly every evening.

    • Jonathan Sutherland says:

      I agree with M. McGrath.
      The Theater an der Wien audience is also predominately discriminating locals – not selfie obsessed tourists who treat the Wiener Staatsoper as little more than a TripAdvisor attraction after riding the Riesenrad and munching an overpriced and under-moist Sachertorte across the road.
      Bogdan Roščić is correct that there have been lengthy periods when there was no GMD at Das Haus am Ring.
      But these periods usually coincided with Intendants of unrivalled musical genius such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan and Lorin Maazel.
      These were unquestionably musical titans – the polar opposite of an Alsatian bean-counter or an upstart Serbian recording-industry thug.