Where to begin? October’s Editorial ended with a hint of upheavals to come in Madrid, but just one month on some fast-moving and dramatic developments in the Spanish capital account for only a fraction of the latest news, with several of the stories (see Newsdesk, pp. 1398-1402) still playing out as we go to press. At least there is some good news to celebrate, not least the appointments of Serge Dorny to Dresden’s Semperoper and Markus Hinterhäuser at the Salzburg Festival.
Handcrafted Perfection meteor showers By the Editor
It’s excellent news, too, that Joan Matabosch—Spain’s most outstanding opera administrator—has been named to succeed Gerard Mortier at the Teatro Real. Mortier’s meteoric fall has been dramatic even by the standards of his own fiery career. With characteristic chutzpah, he attempted from his bed in a German cancer clinic to dictate who his successor should be, a move that not surprisingly proved to be the last straw for the Real’s already much-provoked board. Whether Mortier jumped or was pushed is still a matter of interpretation, but as he had said he would resign unless one of the nonSpanish names he favoured was appointed, little room for manoeuvre was left on either side. Matabosch, a consummate diplomat, already appears to have had a hand in brokering a deal that sees some of Mortier’s honour restored: the veteran Belgian impresario is to remain in an advisory capacity in Madrid until the end of the season. But question marks now hang over who will fill Matabosch’s shoes at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. And as if that wasn’t enough uncertainty in Spain, as we go to press it has been announced that Valencia’s Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is to shut for three months next year—with corresponding pay cuts—in an attempt to balance its books.
Across the Atlantic, there will probably be no vacancies to fill when the bailiffs have finished with New York City Opera. In September, NYCO launched an emergency three-week campaign to raise $7m, saying that if it was unsuccessful in this—and in raising a further $13m by the end of the season—it would have to suspend operations. Resorting in part to an online offensive via Kickstarter, it had raised only a fraction of the required money by the time of its deadline; we await news, but the talk has turned to bankruptcy proceedings. When the final history of NYCO comes to be written, fingers will be pointed at George Steel’s ill-fated leadership, especially at his decision to lead the company out of Lincoln Center and into the wilderness. But Steel inherited an almost impossible situation from a previous board, whose bright ideas had included the signing of—yes, him again—Mortier, who never took up the post. If NYCO’s September staging of Turnage’s Anna Nicole does turn out to be the company’s last production, it will represent a desultory swansong.
Scottish Opera’s problems may be smaller of scale, but they are scarcely less worrying. Less than two months into his job, and before conducting a single performance, the company’s new music director, Emmanuel Joel-Hornak, has resigned with immediate effect. Neither side made any comment, but the speculation is that JoelHornak believed he would have more artistic clout than he found to be the case. Since taking up his post as SO’s general director in 2006, Alex Reedijk has had to make some very tough decisions, yet his recent co-productions have tended to look like financial square-offs rather than artistic gains. Commenting in the FT, Andrew Clark said that the music director’s job was ‘now a poisoned chalice’. Here and around the world, the game of musical chairs—and less musical offstage noises—looks set to continue.
Opera, November 2013