Thursday, 10 January 2013

A final word from Luc Bondy

This year’s Wiener Festwochen mark the end of Luc Bondy’s seventeen years in Vienna (fourteen of those as Intendant), a passing which has been mostly greeted with what might be termed Wurschtigkeit. Nobody less than the sainted Markus Hinterhäuser is to take over in 2014, after all, and great things are expected of him. Still, there is no reason to throw the 2013 edition out with the bathwater even if the offerings are as characteristically uneven across divisions as last year and the year before. Stefanie Carp, director of theatre and least work-shy of the festival’s ruling troika, has for instance again assembled an embarrassment of riches that surely places the Festwochen as one of the leading European festivals of its kind for drama. For concerts the story is much the same as in previous years, with programming possessed of no distinctive festival identity, though as this year’s host the Konzerthaus is also celebrating its 100th anniversary and has accordingly devoted the bulk of its Festwochen budget to the Vienna, New York and Berlin Philharmonics. The two major operatic projects are Il trovatore, which wraps up the Festwochen’s wretched Verdi series, and a tour stop for George Benjamin’s Written on Skin

The festival’s socio-political projects are once again more closely aligned with the theatre division, though musical highlights involve a Christoph Marthaler production that will see music from Jewish composers persecuted or otherwise affected by the Nazis performed in the Austrian parliament, a music theatre piece inspired by Mexico’s drug war from Vienna-based composer Diego Collatti, and what is billed as a Twitter opera from Franz Koglmann. A particularly active Into the City programme will be announced in full later, but some details are given here. The theatre programme is as international as always, including productions from Festwochen regulars Martin Kušej, Robert Lepage, Bondy himself, and many others. Of particular note is a return to Vienna for Nicolas Stemann, peerless director of Elfriede Jelinek’s stage works, with another media-focused project that will almost certainly prove more provocative than Koglmann’s.

Back in 2001 Luc Bondy gave the Festwochen a much-needed reboot and for some years pursued – by Viennese standards – a radical course that harvested improbable commercial success. But by the time of his latest contract extension he was reflecting that he had stayed in Vienna for too long and the public perception in recent years, confirmed all too often in press conferences and interviews, is that bar Carp his team treads water shamelessly. Stéphane Lissner, who in addition to contributing nothing to Into the City couldn’t be bothered to turn up to his own press conference this year (‘he probably missed his flight’, fudged Bondy half-heartedly), should have been pressured into resigning years ago. A golden handshake would have been small beer set against the absurd cost of his further employment. It will not take much for Hinterhäuser to better the festival’s musical output, but as noted, expectations are high and perhaps unhealthily so.

The Wiener Festwochen take place this year from May 10th to June 16th and full listings can be found here.


  1. I'm particularly looking forward to Christian Marclay's 'Everyday' on 8 June; his work is always interesting.

  2. When I get round to mocking up a Festwochen calendar that event will certainly be on it.

    Something else I didn't mention in this post but also intriguing is pretty much everything grouped under the 'Unruhe der Form' rubric.