Friday, 24 August 2012

Ready to Rabl

Der Standard: The Rolex clocks hanging everywhere around the Festspiel buildings look pretty tacky. 

Helga Rabl-Stadler: These clocks are a service for those who don’t wear a watch.

Spend as many years in the ÖVP as the president of the Salzburg Festival has and that’s how silly your spin would end up looking. Elsewhere this interview is about as fearsomely combative as Austrian music journalism gets: why is the festival not sold out? Why is Pereira obsessed with the moneyed classes? Isn’t the idea of exploiting spirituality for the commercial purpose of selling more tickets simply disgusting?

Rabl-Stadler may be ÖVP but can deflect tough questions well even if there are some answers unique to Salzburg, like that elitism is the core value informing her commercial strategy (‘the limited number of good tickets is our best marketing tool’). She adds that the Friends of the festival get heavily reduced tickets and deserve them since they raised nearly two million euros for the Felsenreitschule’s new roof. This method of distribution is also a simple way of cutting losses for events that haven’t sold out. As the interviewer Thomas Trenkler mentions, 750 euro tickets for the new Festspiel ball not only seem absurdly extravagant but are also far from sold out, and Rabl-Stadler hints that these may also be offloaded to the Friends (‘don’t worry. The ballroom floor will be full of people’).

When asked about Pereira, Rabl-Stadler says he goes to great lengths for the artists and that they are satisfied with him (note that this dodges a Netrebko question). As for his claim that the festival was in dire straits before he took over, she comments that every new Intendant loves to sing a ‘Rettungsoper’, which may best be translated into English as crooning the Michael Kaiser song. And of course he is interested in artistic matters, she adds, but he does talk too much about money.

As yet unleaked plans for 2013 are kept firmly under wraps; there is a mention of the Kaufmann Don Carlo and confirmation of FWM’s series of Da Ponte operas with Sven-Eric Bechtolf, ‘which Welser-Möst already blabbed’ (priceless).  Instead it is up to Gert Korentschnig of the Kurier to spill some beans: he reports the somewhat WTF rumour that under Daniele Gatti the Wiener Philharmoniker is to perform onstage for Stefan Herheim’s Meistersinger. And with singers including Michael Volle (Sachs), Roberto Saccà (Walther), Juliane Banse (Eva) and Markus Werba (Beckmesser), the word to describe the casting, as always under the new regime, begins with Z. No, not Z-list.

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