Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Wiener Staatsoper future plans

I couldn’t attend Dominique Meyer’s recent Publikumsgespräch and since the press didn’t report it I assumed that nothing of interest was said. Stimmt doch nicht! I translate from the Merker [with corrections due to unwisely posting this in too much of a hurry, see the comments/upbraiding below], starting with the most alarming item:
  • Otto Schenk will direct once again in Vienna. On the phone with Dominique Meyer he said words to the effect of ‘But I’m practically dead’, only then to ask which set designer he could work with.
  • Holender-era regular Marco Arturo Marelli is also signed up to direct a new production.
  • Official reason for FWM’s veto of a Thielemann Ring CD is that one performance of each opera wasn’t enough for a recording and could ‘affect the reputations of the artists involved’. Citing cancellations, Meyer might have simply referred to those who stepped into these performances more or less unrehearsed and left it at that. Thielemann’s view was that one performance was enough and for those of us, including myself, who found these performances exceptionally poor on the orchestral side, Meyer’s reference to this might be interpreted as an implicit acknowledgement of problems that patch sessions would not have resolved. My view is that FWM made the right call on this, and for those who thought more highly of these performances there will at least be a full broadcast on the ORF (27 April, April 28, May 1, May 5). 
  • Do we need another Wiener Phil FroSch so soon after this? Yes, says GMD Franz Welser-Möst – the revival he recently conducted was recorded for CD.
  • The Staatsoper’s upcoming Fleming Arabella, also with Welser-Möst, will be broadcast on French TV and possibly released on DVD.
  • Lots of new Strauss too: Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s co-produced Ariadne next season, a 2015 NP with a role-debuting soprano, and later an Ägyptische Helena NP; the FroSch centenary in 2019 was also mentioned.
  • Tentative Palestrina discussions are underway with Thielemann.
  • On Italian rep: ‘We already have a good [Graham Vick] production of Ernani,’ said Meyer, ‘and I would programme it if only I could rely on two casts capable of singing it’.
  • Il Trovatore NP on the back burner – check back in 2016/17, commented Meyer.
  • Meyer is no great fan of French repertoire with the exception of Pélleas, and is happy to leave this to the TadW (where in any case Pélleas has been recently performed) – but every season he wants one or two NPs of operas new to the Staatsoper (no word on what happened to similar new commissioned opera promise).
  • 30% is the reduction in performances the Staatsoper would have to make were they to pay the same soloist fees as La Scala or the Bay Staats.
  • But according to Meyer one singer has asked for more (and been turned down) – Marcelo Álvarez.
  • Meyer says that legally he can’t do anything about scalpers who resell tickets directly outside the house but has had words with them (which I’ve seen firsthand). But even if we accept that these people are trading unofficially, that does not alter the fact that there is official trade between the Staatsoper and a number of independent commercial ticketing agencies in operation across the city. This would seem to make good commercial sense were the Staatsoper to be hedging against genuine risk, but for three or four fairly sizeable agencies to have remained in business for so many years indicates a profitability that the house is willingly ceding. One only has to look in the windows of these places to see the mark-up that is commercially viable for certain performances. Whether the Staatsoper sees any cut of this is unclear, and perhaps there would be uproar were Meyer to introduce 800 euro premier seating (which is what certain people seem willing to pay for Anna Netrebko), but this is an issue which the house is not discussing in an entirely open manner.


  1. I'm sorry to disagree here.

    Many of the items read different on the "Der neue Merker" web site while your compilation neither does justice to M. Meyer nor FMW (which may be the result of a poor translation). One does not need to like the leading team of the Vienna State Opera, but I guess fair reporting can be expected, can't it?

    In order to avoid spreading of false rumors, I strongly suggest some corrections. (For interested readers, the original post -- in German -- can be found on the "Merker" web site at http://www.der-neue-merker.eu/forum/der-neue-merker/publikumsgesprach-wso-am-31-marz.)

    Thank you in advance,

  2. Sorry, I meant to link you! I posted this in an hurry – probably too much of a hurry – as I had a meeting to get to, about, ironically, the (historical) Wiener Staatsoper... So, I looked through your post again and saw a couple of things I overlooked, i.e. an ‘eventuell’ for the Fleming DVD, now corrected, and ‘one to two NPs’ (a bit of a howler I’ll admit, though care to explain why new opera seems to have fallen off the agenda?). Schenk, OK, eher ‘By then I’ll long be dead’, but who cares, it’s Schenk, and just appalling that the man is being let near an opera house again. The scalpers thing wasn’t exactly as you reported it, but I have seen Meyer in conversation with these guys once before and assume it wasn’t to ask them ‘how may we help you do business?’ (What is it with Meyer lurking around suspiciously and engaging random strangers in conversation? He does it ALL the time). The ‘this might be happening’ upturned smile stuff I just take as a yes nowadays, because him being coy about perfectly mundane plans got old long ago. If there’s anything else, you should tell me. Incidentally, there are a number of credible official reasons that could be given for FWM’s Ring veto and I’m surprised more of them haven’t been trotted out, though the real reason, confirmed by a colleague at the WSO, is quite simple.

    I didn’t mention things I find not so interesting (i.e. Ballet and Kinderoper, as important as they are). The ‘tourist’ issue I am doing the house and its interested parties a huge favour by not reporting – many of the things written and said about this are nauseatingly xenophobic. As for Kozak, I’m not sure how relighting that Bohéme makes it any less of a vulgarity, but whatever… And something doesn’t add up about the way Meyer is reporting the archive problems – I don’t know about the IT, but the wissenschaftlich-wise there is nothing left to do (even if there are some minor problems with the work that has been done). Also, a paywall, seriously? Lastly, about fair reporting: well there’s that and then there’s being an apologist for Meyer, which your posts strike me as doing. But by all means correct and take issue with me, this is what the comments section is for.

  3. Sorry, the 'tourist' thing I'm mistakenly conflating with a discussion that took place elsewhere (mention of rucksacks etc, you'll know the one). But some of the things that get said, honestly...

  4. I'm an opera tourist from the US, so stuff like this:

    Tentative Palestrina discussions are underway with Thielemann

    is great news because that opera will never get a production here.

    30% is the reduction in performances the Staatsoper would have to make were they to pay the same soloist fees as La Scala or the Bay Staats

    And that's a bad thing, reducing the number of performances? Isn't that one of the main complaints about the Staatsoper, that they throw stuff on with little to no rehearsal, if they reduce the number of performances wouldn't that give them more rehearsal time?

  5. I’m with you on Palestrina. And you’re right about the other thing of course – it’s fair reporting to say that M. Meyer is très content de lui-même for squeezing even more operas into the season than his predecessor, but necessary to ask if this is desirable (let alone ludicrous). There’s also a catch-22 connecting the schedule pace and new rep: the Viennese like to have an indecent quantity of stuff on tap – incl. the Ring, another 2-3 Wagners, 3-4 big Verdis, Rosenkavalier, Ariadne and at least 2-3 more Strauss, the Da Ponte operas and Zauberflöte, 2-3 bel cantos, Il Barbiere & 1-2 other Rossinis, Tosca, Butterfly and Bohème, Onegin etc. – and the last guy who kept some of these stagnating non-negotiables off the schedule to make space for rarities didn’t last long in the job, as Meyer well knows. But Monsieur le Directeur wants his Baroque opera and FWM his Janacek/Hindemith anyway, which worsens what is already an impossible rehearsal situation. I've noticed some improvement since the opening of the new rehearsal stage, though it’s limited mostly to blocking (the new Probebühne and the main stage are identical).

  6. "Good production of Ernani"?? I must disagree.... I was at the premiere back in 1998 and thought it a snooze, which New York soon discovered when Vick recycled half of the Vienna production for the new Met 'Trovatore', circa 2000.

    Love your blog, by the way!

  7. I'm sure you're right, and wonder if, before making that comment, M. Meyer had actually seen that production of Ernani...