Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Wien Modern begins

Tonight’s Eröffnungskonzert at the Theater an der Wien was devoted to Olga Neuwirth, the subject of this year’s composer focus. There will be much more about Neuwirth and Wien Modern on this blog over the next three and a half weeks, and for those in town for the duration the only thing left to recommend is the Generalpass (great value after only five or six events compared against the already affordable ticket prices). For an overview of this year’s highlights, see this post.

Falter’s annual WM special edit
ion is also out: in theory this should be on display at all major venues, but only ever seems available in the hallways either side of the Mozart Saal and is in any case hardly essential reading this year; how a Jelinek interview can be squandered on parlour game inanities defies explanation, while questions put to Neuwirth inexplicably retread matters of public record with the evident belief that she has something to answer for. I translate:

Why was the opera you planned with Elfriede Jelinek rejected [by Salzburg]?
You would have to ask the gentlemen who rejected it. A similar concept realized by two men made it to the operatic stage last year*; in 2002 we were apparently too early. Or two women may not deal with these themes. What should I say in addition? And why I am asked about this again and again? Why should I have to explain myself constantly, and not those who rejected the project? Jelinek and I certainly did not reject it.

Why were your last two operas premiered in Mannheim and Berlin?
Again you must ask the promoters and Intendanten concerned. I don’t decide matters like this. Perhaps Austrian institutions aren’t interested in Austrian composers, or don’t believe in their abilities, I don’t know. [...] Perhaps they [die Herren Kollegen] might take responsibility sometime and speak about problems in the music business, instead of leaving the explanations to me.

Over at Der Standard, facts are rewritten outright: asked whether she feels her work has now been acknowledged, Neuwirth answers ‘recognition also means getting a lectureship or professorship. But I was never good enough apparently’, to which Daniel Ender (himself a Lehrbeauftragter) responds ‘you were considered controversial’. He knows very well the real reason why her two MDW applications were ignored, not to mention by whom (we could call this Der Fall W., after the thwarted Salzburg project).

There are many things worth discussing about Neuwirth’s gender and complicated relationship with Austria; in these respects she overlaps interestingly with Jelinek. So far we are seeing instead the dredging up of old stories which disingenuously emphasize what a difficult character she is, a view increasingly confined to this country in the light of her international recognition and as lazy a dismissal as ‘Jelischreck’ invective. This, too, in what are supposed to be promotional interviews. With friends like Wien Modern, who needs Sinkovicz.

*She means Nico Muhly’s Two Boys. Neuwirth’s proposed opera about sexual abuses committed by Austrian paediatrician Franz Wurst was a Salzburg, Vienna and Paris commission which foundered after Mortier (as Paris director délégué) objected to Jelinek’s libretto, leaving Peter Ruzicka to contrive a dubious cancellation excuse involving handy scapegoat Alberto Vilar, whom, as Neuwirth noted, was never known for his support of contemporary opera. The one character to show Jelinek and Neuwirth any respect throughout this process was Ioan Holender, if mainly for reasons of point scoring.

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