Wednesday, 13 June 2012

FWM: ‘I don’t have time for football or pandering’

The Staatsoper’s Don Carlo prima is coming up on Saturday, which means that it’s time once again for our beloved GMD to demonstrate his congenital inability to give anything like a normal press interview. It is perhaps forgivable that one might not want to, um, play ball with inane questions about Euro 2012 – more Krone than Kurier, this – and making instead statements about anal-retentive timekeeping and the plebeian nature of football will doubtless have been met with many a murmur of approval around the breakfast tables of Hietzing. Alexander Pereira comes in for the customary abuse, because it’s not premature to question his judgement before we’ve seen any results, whereas the Meyer/FWM duo’s ‘late’ appointment merits critical restraint until at least 2015. Other stones thrown from the Staatsoper’s glass house include a curious remark about Pereira’s ‘excessive’ fondness for A-list talent. Amid the mouthing off there is, astonishingly, some room for comments about FWM’s first Staatsoper Verdi: alongside Parsifal and Così it’s one of his three favourite operas, or so he says; it’s NOT being done for Verdi 2013 (like football, anniversaries are beneath him); it needs a strong cast (er yep, no stars here); and having done some reading on Philip II lately he’s instructed the Staatsopernorchester to listen out for the polyphony of Victoria in the score. OK, maybe not that last one. But Lord knows it won’t sound like Verdi. Full interview (de) here.

12 comments:

  1. Reading your post I believe I exist in a different universe than you (well, we all exist only in our little bubble, but nevertheless - when you publish something you expand your little bubble and invite others to take part) ... erm, did FWM something hideous to somebody you love dearly? Because I cannot imagine any other explanation for your interpretation of this interview ...

    As this post will be very long I have to split it into three parts.

    I quote you:
    "It is perhaps forgivable that one might not want to, um, play ball with inane questions about Euro 2012 – more Krone than Kurier, this – and making instead statements about anal-retentive timekeeping and the plebeian nature of football will doubtless have been met with many a murmur of approval around the breakfast tables of Hietzing."
    Okaaay ... first things first: I love football (or soccer) and cannot understand how it is possible not to see the wonderful possibilities of entertainment and wonder the game can provide. But ... I really, really fail to see any remark concerning a "plebeian nature of football" which "will doubtless have been met with many a murmur of approval around the breakfast tables of Hietzing."
    ???

    The original:
    "K: Das für viele Menschen zurzeit offenbar Wichtigste zuerst: Wer wird Fußball-Europameister?
    FWM: Ganz ehrlich: Ich bin an Fußball überhaupt nicht interessiert.
    K: Aber Sie haben doch einmal in Wien ein Konzert sogar später beginnen lassen, weil ein Spiel in die Verlängerung gegangen ist ...
    FWM: Das war nicht meine Entscheidung. Der Veranstalter wollte das so. Ich bin ein pünktlicher Mensch. Ich würde für Fußball keine Sekunde zu spät kommen."

    How I would translate that part:
    "K: The most important question for many people first: Who will be European Champion?
    FWM: Honestly, I'm absolutely not interested in football.
    K: But you even delayed a concert in Vienna, because a match went into overtime ...
    FWM: That was not my decision. The organizers wanted it that way. I am a punctual person. I would not come a second late for football."

    And here any references to football end. Ok, he does not like football enough to be late for its sake - something I don't understand ;-). But the words themselves are not haughty - you may percieve them as haughty, you may visualize him rolling his eyes (or whatever ...) at the "plebeian nature of football" (your words, not his) ... but fact ist, you do NOT know how he said it.

    Dobardan

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  2. Part 2:

    Then you write:
    "Alexander Pereira comes in for the customary abuse ..."

    The original:
    "K: Sie kennen den neuen Salzburgchef Alexander Pereira bestens aus Ihrer Zeit als Generalmusikdirektor in Zürich. Wie beurteilen Sie sein erstes Programm?
    FWM: Diese Fülle an Top-Stars überrascht mich ganz und gar nicht. Alexander Pereira ist überbordend. Er betrachtet die ganze Welt als ein einziges Spielzeuggeschäft. Er ist großartig im Einkaufen und auch im Verkaufen. In Salzburg hat Pereira jetzt das teuerste Spielzeuggeschäft der Welt zur Verfügung."

    My translation:
    "K: You know Alexander Pereira, the new boss in Salzburg, very well from your time as music director in Zurich. How would you assess his first program?
    FWM: This wealth/abundance/depth/fullness/plenitude/richness [all those words and some more could stand for „Fülle“ ...] of top stars does not surprise me at all. Alexander Pereira is exuberant/excessive [IMO you can translate it with a positive or with a negative twist - depending on your liking or imagination]. He sees the world as one big toy store. He is great at buing and also great at selling. In Salzburg, Pereira now has the most expensive toy-shop in the world at his disposal."

    I really do not manage to make any connection with what you said about abusing Pereira. You continue the phrase with "... because it’s not premature to question his judgement before we’ve seen any results, whereas the Meyer/FWM duo’s ‘late’ appointment merits critical restraint until at least 2015."
    Where in the interview does he say anything coming near to what you insinuate here?

    Dobardan

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  3. And here the 3rd part:

    You write about Don Carlo "... it’s NOT being done for Verdi 2013 (like football, anniversaries are beneath him)" Well, again for me there is nothing in the interview where he disses anniversaries as something "beneath" him:

    The original:
    „K: Zurück zu "Don Carlo": Ist diese Neuinszenierung schon ein Vorbote auf 2013? Da gibt es ja ein Verdi- und ein Wagner-Jahr, weil beide vor 200 Jahren geboren wurden.
    FWM: Ich halte nichts davon, Komponisten und ihre Werke auf Jubiläen zu reduzieren. Aber natürlich spielen wir 2013 Verdi. Und machen in der Staatsoper auch einen neuen "Tristan".“

    My translation:
    „K: Back to "Don Carlo": Is this new production already a herald/knell/harbinger for 2013? It will be a Verdi and Wagner-year because both were born 200 years ago.
    FWM: I do not believe in reducing composers and their works to anniversaries. But of course we will play Verdi in 2013. And produce a new "Tristan“ at the State Opera.“

    Again, I fail to see an indication that FWM sees anniveraries as something low - he calls them a restriction, a reduction, a limitation. But for me this transports a very different meaning. Again you portray this position as haughty - you may believe that his critizism is not correct, but where do you see words showing contempt and disdain?

    I'm sorry, this multiple post is long - but your way of insinuating and imagining insinuations and overtones on FWM's part (unless you were present or the journalist you have no idea the way the statements were accentated, what kind of emotions nonverbal communication were involved ...) is very disconcerting for me so I tried to answer in depth (or lenth ...).

    I know, bloggers are not journalists - but do you really have to throw basic journalistic standards overboard to be read, to have a big number of hits?
    Of course, it's your blog. But it's YOUR interpretation and you "sell" your interpretation as if it were an objective reality. Yes, you offer the link … how many will check the link (as I did because I also seem to be the „anal-retentive" type - I am a copy editor and this could be my job description …) and understand it?


    Dobardan

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  4. Thanks for your comments. I think it’s quite clear from the tone that my remarks are not to be taken as literally as you have parsed the interview – and indeed the whole point of paraphrasing it was to express my own opinion, which, yes, I am allowing myself to do, as a mere blogger. I don’t think it reads as if I’m selling it as objective reporting, and in any case it is either that or opinionated, if I may relieve you of the contradiction in terms.

    Much of what you mention as not being in the interview I will ignore, as this post wasn’t intended as some kind of stenographical exercise and I’ve made my own references – most of them from previous interviews, so it’s all there in print – as and when. You ask what I know of FWM’s character, and to that I would say that having seen him in more press conferences, Gespräche, private occasions etc than I care to remember over the last two years, I like to think I have a feel for how he ticks – and on that score there has been enough snobbery, summary dismissal and heilige Kunst pomposity to suppose that his manner in this interview was no different. We could indeed kid ourselves that he finds Pereira ‘exuberant’, though given their history I do think there is only one way to read the ‘toy store at his disposal’ comment; he has also said much pettier things about Pereira in recent interviews and indeed seems to relish the opportunity. This to the guy, remember, who gave him a GMD post right after the London disaster and, more recently, the Da Ponte operas with his Lieblingsregisseur and casting carte blanche. Not to mention that nearly every criticism he makes of Pereira's style – incidentally very much like Holender's, bar the better luck had with Regietheater – could also be leveled at the Staatsoper. This is just one of the questions which no music journalist in this town will ask.

    And so the informal cut-the-crap language I find myself using comes from being heartily fed up at reading these fawning, self-serving interviews which sugarcoat what’s going on at the Staatsoper. That this one is far from the worse is a depressing indication of puff piece coverage Meyer and FWM have been enjoying during their overextended honeymoon period. You mention standards of objectivity, but I would rather ask where is the journalistic integrity in looking the other way, refusing to take stock, not asking critical questions?

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  5. Hello again,
    thank you for clarifying your position.

    You wrote: "I think it’s quite clear from the tone that my remarks are not to be taken as literally as you have parsed the interview –"
    Well, no ... ( :-( , am I such an idiot or naive?), it was not clear for me, I really thought that your use of quotation marks in the title would be an indication for reporting (not interpretating) the interview. For quite a long time I am aware of the fact that you are no friend of FWM - well, it's pretty hard to miss ;-) ...) - so the fact that you critizise him was not my problem.

    The problem I had (and still have - that has not changed) is that you use a way to show your frustration, exasperation, anger, contempt ... (giving up searching for more words here because I want to watch ESP-IRE ...) that I see as unfair and therefore not up to a standard you yourself want to see at work at the media.

    You tell me now: "Much of what you mention as not being in the interview I will ignore, as this post wasn’t intended as some kind of stenographical exercise and I’ve made my own references – most of them from previous interviews, so it’s all there in print – as and when."
    Sorry, that was not clear to me - do I have to know all your posts and all your remarks and all your references to be able to fully understand your way of thinking and reasoning? That is probably a fundamental question concerning blogging: Do I have to be "initiated", do I have to follow a blogger and his/her subject to fully comprehend a blog? Isn't that a restriction you impose on yourself?

    At the end you write: "You mention standards of objectivity, but I would rather ask where is the journalistic integrity in looking the other way, refusing to take stock, not asking critical questions?"
    Er ... yes ... so? Other articles were not the issue here for me. The point of reference was an interview and what you made of it. It seems to run in circles: I am frustrated about your biased article - which you (as you tell me now) have written deliberately in a biased way to counter the bias of the Austrian media. Sounds a bit to me like the classic playground-excuse "But ... but, mummy, I hit him because he hit me first!" Aaargh ...

    So you think the mainstream media is lazy or playing foul and therefore you are intentionally playing foul too (going into the other direction) in an attempt to balance the injustice? I still do not think that this is the way to rectify real or perceived injustice. And that has a very practical background:
    In terms of "understanding FWM" you write: "You ask what I know of FWM’s character, and to that I would say that having seen him in more press conferences, Gespräche, private occasions etc than I care to remember over the last two years, I like to think I have a feel for how he ticks –"
    Well, I don't know him personally (like, I guess, 99 % of your readers) nor have I heard much of his work (2 operas and 1 concert) - but if you manage to put me completely off your point of view because your bias is so obvious ... should'nt you reconsider your tactics for us uninitiated who do not see "the truth"*? Which of course is YOUR truth as much as my point of view is MY truth.

    Ok, as a summary: you are the owner/operator of this blog, you are not happy about the way I am interpreting your blog and you might find many others who will follow your way of reasoning while I'm not happy about the way you reason ... ah, well, that's life.

    Sooo ... thanks for the room you offer for arguing and reasoning

    Dobardan

    * Sorry, can't resist to root for Terry Pratchett's "The Truth" ;-) The perfect description of how media works in a ... hmmm, "democracy"?!? Let's call it "our society" ...

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  6. If I may participate in the discussion. Actually I have to say that I completely agree with Dobardan, I’ve been reading this blog for months now (I find it to be the best blog about Vienna’s classical life:), and yes I’ve noticed too your special way of writing about Franz Welser-Möst. I never commented cause I’ve seen no need to do so, you as a blogger, and a free person have a right to show your point of view, but this time (for me and as I see not only for me) you’ve went a bit too far. As I said on the start I do agree with Dobardan. Now you’ve explained that it was not only taken out of this single interview. But in your post you speak about one interview - you give a link to “this” interview, not the others. Much of the readers of your blog probably won’t even click on the link, and even if, not all of them speak German (google translator is no good, as you also noticed writing about interview that Clemens Hellsberg gave some months ago, you remember the part about Pierre Boulez's love of Hellsberg wife’s cooking-Tafelspitz;), so they will only know what you wrote about it, and probably will think that Welser-Möst said the exact same words you’ve written. I’ve read this interview on Sunday, and few days later I come here and see you write about this interview on your blog. First I sow the title and I’ve smiled, really (plus the photo with the ball - priceless;) but while reading your post my amusement grew more and more cause you really misinterpreted Welser-Möst’s words. I had the same impression reading your post as Dobardan had. I won’t go into details cause Dobardan did it already, so there’s no point in doing it again, but reading what Dobardan wrote I could say “my thoughts exactly”.

    I have to say that I also don’t understand from where this “hate” or “misunderstanding” of Franz Welser-Möst comes from, it’s not only on this blog but on some others too, yes u can be not a fan of his interpretations of music, for some reason, u as a free person, can simply be not fond of him too and so on, but why do you people attack him personally? If u criticize his concert or opera leading, it’s something different, cause u critic his work as a conductor, you as someone who writes music critic on this blog have a right to it (and I’ve seen here post that spoke very good things about him conducting operas for example) but now most people criticize him as a person. It’s not fair to misinterpret his words and by it making him sound like a “snob" who tend to hate "all plebeian things” and who try to make impression that he is more wiser the he really is (this comes from other post you've made some time ago about his Positionslichter Serie in the Staatsoper),this is a personal attack and this is not right, also not the first time, not only here.
    Actually I’ve been following Franz Welser-Möst's carrier for some time now, I’ve seen him leading concerts and operas, I’ve meet him too, and I have to say that I perceive him in a completely different light then you do, that’s why I’m so amazed with what I’ve read in your answer. Yes he has his own opinion and he is not afraid to stand for it, yes to some people can appear as a reserve person, but I did not find him as a “snob”, he is also one of the nieces, well mannered and most modest, humble people I’ve meet, in work and in personal life. But this is my impression you have a right to see it in a different way :)
    Thank you for reading.
    Kindest regards.
    Turandot

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  7. To Dorbodan,
    Amusing thought, but goodness no, I wouldn’t say that one has to be ‘initiated’ to follow my scribblings here. An unfamiliar reader might not know my previous positions on FWM, though tags are there to be clicked on etc. And print media is no different – one Wilhelm Sinkovicz review in isolation won’t give the necessary perspective to see that he is Rebekah Brooks to FWM’s David Cameron. But I don’t think it takes long to suss that dynamic, or indeed my own leanings.

    I would say in general that you are reading too much into what I am trying to achieve by writing what I do here, and so won’t respond to the amusing description of where I stand in relation to the Austrian press, or questions of truth and representation (let us save those and the Schopenhauer misquotations for FWM’s Positionslichter talks…) As for sticking to one reference point and not confusing everyone, well, there is a place for context, which I suppose I should try and link more (though the Salzburger Nachrichten interview with the really stinging Pereira remarks seems to have been removed from their site). Incidentally the quotation marks in the title are rather a caption for the photo, which is indeed priceless. And if my ‘bias’ should put you off then so be it, though influencing people is not what I’m trying to do in this space.

    To Turandot,
    FWM is milder and more reserved when he speaks in English, that I would say. But when he gets going in his native tongue the haughtiness and big gob are quite evident and not just my impression, I think. When in high dudgeon he can be quite entertaining and some of the put-downs – the ending of Loy’s FroSch? Like some ‘bad operetta’ out of Bad Ischl – are unforgettable (note also the high/low art framing here). But naturally one would prefer a good GMD to a good entertainer and that is I suppose where the criticism starts…

    Thanks for pointing out that I’ve given him good reviews as well as bad ones – his Janáček and Mozart are usually solid, and Strauss sometimes fine, sometimes not (spectacularly bad Alpensinfonie with the Wiener Phil last year but an impressive Arabella last September).

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    Replies
    1. Zwölftöner,
      thank you for answer, and sorry it took me so long to reply. You are right, most of the people are more mild and reserved when they speak or write in language that is not their first. I can see it by my own example as English is not my first language. At times you lack of words and you can’t fully express what you want to say. So yes he probably may be more reserved when he speaks in English. But.. I will stick to my point of view as for every time I have occasion to speak with Franz Welser-Möst he is really not snobbish, he really is modest and nice, and yes with sense of humor(spekaing in native tongue or english he always is the same for me). But let’s leave it cause everyone can have their own impression of somebody, and I won’t try to prove you wrong, you can have your own opinion, judging by your experience and I can have mine judging by my experience.

      I did point out that you’ve also wrote good things about him leading performances because I wanted to be fair, and it would be definitely unfair to you if I would write that all you do is only criticize, cause you do not. I’ve posted a comment cause this special post and way you wrote it caught my eye, and I did not like it, for me it was really not so fair, to put in his mouth words that he in fact did not say, and making him a snob by it. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, and I just don’t like judging a book by its cover, especially if it’s a false cover, made of misinterpreted words. Anyway I really do think you are objective when you write music critic, and I love your sense of humor, that I’ve also pointed out – read: the title and photo :)
      I agree with you the “Arabella” in September was just great (don’t know how it was this May), I really liked his Janáček -“Katja Kabanowa” last year, and musically “Aus einem Totenhaus” in December (I dere not say a word about what was going on on stage), and remember that after “Die Frau ohne Schatten” (I was at 3rd or 4th performance I think) he was called out 2 times by people who stood and scream “bravo”, and I have to admit I’ve liked the performance I’d attended too, oh and I also liked his Wagner - “Tannhäuser” in November.
      I can’t judge “Tosca”, me and some friends went there especially to hear Nina Stemme as Tosca, and being honest yes the performance was done good, but you could see that it was rather a good time that everybody was having judging by how acted the audience (I remember some people having fun after quoting Tosca: Mario! Mario! ;), the Staatsoper stuff, members of Wiener Philharmoniker read: Franz Bartolomey who in the interval posed for photos with big smile on his face with tourists with his cello, which I never observed before on performances of operas like “Die Frau” for example.

      Ps. Also I admit that I have never read a bad review written by Wilhelm Sinkovicz, also not only FWM’s performances, at times I really do have the impression quoting english translation of what Strauss said about Wiener Philharmoniker: “All praise of the (Wiener Philharmoniker) reveals itself as understatement” ;) no matter about what it is, that’s why I go to Staatsoper to judge by myself and I read your blog :D

      Thank you for answering, and excuse also me for writting long comments,
      Best wishes :)
      Turandot.

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    2. Tosca, Tannhäuser and FroSch I all found disappointing for various conducting reasons. Ironic that you say that about the staging of Totenhaus since I found this so far the only production of the Meyer/FWM era which might be profitably discussed.

      The most brilliant thing Strauss said about the orchestra was the (unwittingly?) ambiguous 'Only those who have conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker know what they are'.

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  8. Dear Zwölftöner,

    I'm glad that I can amuse you with my descriptions. But I'm afraid your answer "(let us save those and the Schopenhauer misquotations for FWM’s Positionslichter talks…)" makes me feel even stronger that I am not part of your target audience and still need a lot of studying to be able to fully understand your blog. Unfortunately I've never read Schopenhauer (I'm not so sure about that "unfortunately" in general but obviously it would have helped here) and had therefore neither the ability nor the intention to quote him (neither mis- nor otherwise). So I can't agree with you and say "yes, let us ..."

    As for "And if my ‘bias’ should put you off then so be it, though influencing people is not what I’m trying to do in this space." - Don't worry (or hope?), I'm not put off by your blog. I discovered through that interchange in the last few days that I seem to have a different view on blogging as you - I see blogs as an emerging journalistic power (thinking of the US presidential elections, the Peter Gelb/MET story and - on a funnier note - the events accompanying the resignation of Constantini and the hiring of Koller as Austrian football team-manager). And as you publish your thoughts the content you offer does influence your readers IMO. Everything we experience leaves a trace, so why should a blog be different? (I now really, really hope that Mr Schopenhauer wrote nothing in that respect, otherwise I will be doomed ;-) ...)
    I believe most of the Austrian media are terrible in upholding journalistic standards (about 80 % of them simply don't do it) so I do hope that blogs become an alternative - and because of that the differences between the article and your interpretation annoyed me.

    You explained your position and with this comment I tried to do the last bit of explaining mine.

    Thanks for reading (the loooong comments) and answering.

    Best wishes
    Dobardan

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  9. Sorry, the Schopenhauer misquotations referred to FWM and not you! Just more FWM banter I couldn't resist... Though having actually endured the pseudo-intellectual waffle of his Positionslichter talks I believe I've earned the right to it.

    I'm sorry if you feel excluded by what I write; it is not my intention to do that. By the same token, nor is writing for a target audience, or indeed writing 'for' anybody. I go to musical events and write what I think about them. Sometimes I write about the people charged with running the city's cultural life. If my readers think I am unfair or wrong they are welcome, indeed encouraged, to use the comments section. Sometimes it can be interesting to get the criticism criticized.

    As for being an alternative to the press... well, if Herr Sinkovicz writes something exceptionally dumb I might make some passing reference to it here. A few Austrian readers have commented privately that they prefer my Spitzenfeder to the 'Bussi-Bussi' boosterism of Sinko and others. I suppose if these things are to be taken as amounting to a style different to the critical community here then it is by definition an alternative, though journalistic power, as you put it, is not something I am interested in wielding, or even have the readership to wield...

    Interestingly, though perhaps not unexpectedly, the one local German-language reviewer I find myself agreeing with most is not a print critic (Dominik Troger, who goes to practically everything at the Staatsoper and TadW, and maintains a blog over at www.operinwien.at).

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  10. It is not only FWM. The attitude shown in connection with Harnoncourt, the Concentus (and HIP in general) is pretty similar.
    However, it is the same as with print critics: If you get acquainted with a blogger and learn to know his likes and dislikes then even heavily biased entries can be amusing to read and contain interesting information.

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