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Interview with Dominique Meyer, Director of the Vienna State Opera

Monday, 6 January 2014 , ora 15.07

The son of a diplomat, Dominique Meyer was born in Alsace, France, in 1955 and spent his childhood between France and Germany. In the course of his career he collaborated with important artistic and political personalities, holding a few public positions, such as advisor in the cabinet of the Minister of Culture Jack Lang in France, advisor to the president of the Paris Opera, but also a member of the board of the Maurice Béjart Ballet Company. Dominique Meyer is currently a professor at the Institute of Theatre, Film and Media Studies of the University of Vienna.

Mr. Dominique Meyer, welcome to our programme. How long have you been the Director of the Vienna State Opera?

I have been Director for three and a half years. I came here in 2010. Beautiful days have gone by.
In the last year, Mr. Meyer, you have carried out several important projects, but there is one that thousands of people enjoy.

We have accomplished many things, it’s true. We wanted to modernize some aspects of the Vienna State Opera. The project about which everybody is talking nowadays represents a series of live broadcasts and rebroadcasts of some performances, by means of the Internet and HD television. We started in October, with Der Rosenkavalier, featuring Renée Fleming. Then, there was the new production of The Magic Flute. Lately, we have realized that the traditional means of broadcasting an opera, the DVD or the television, are increasingly inactive, as television companies are part of a tough, highly competitive environment and opera is not always a priority. And that is why I believe that opera theatres have to manage this on their own. Thus, we signed a contract with an important television company and we broadcast (live or rebroadcast) a number of shows on the Internet, on subscription. We broadcast two images at the same time: a fixed, complete one, a general frame, because there are persons who don’t like the frames chosen by a director, and then a selection. Thus, you can alternate the two images. What is fascinating is that we work by the most advanced standards, using very accurate images. Starting with December 2013, we broadcast Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner and for the first time, we’ll be able to watch at the same time on a tablet or on a portable phone the score that scrolls automatically during the show; for Tristan and Isolde we’ll use Gustav Mahler’s score, with his notes. It’s the dawn of a new world and our purpose is to make those who love and support the Vienna Opera happy, not only those in Austria, but in the entire world. Thanks to the Internet, wherever you are, on the seashore or in the mountains, in South America, China or Japan, you can watch our productions. I realize that we have friends everywhere. We have also created a system, difficult to achieve, of adapting broadcast times to all time zones. I don’t think that people in Tokyo would like to wake up at 2 a.m. to watch our broadcasts. So, we created a system which can be adapted to all geographical zones. Thus, the family of the Vienna Opera received new members.

Mr. Meyer, you have proposed the audience seven different performances until 31
st December, 2013.

This week we’ll broadcast Tristan and Isolde, and until 31st December, just like fireworks, we’ll broadcast The Nutcracker for ballet lovers and La Cenerentola by Rossini. I think this is a production for both parents and children. Then, Fidelio, directed by Otto Schenk and conducted by Franz Welser Most, our music director; on 31st December, The Bat (Die Fledermaus), a classic of the Vienna Opera, also directed by Otto Schenk. It will be a celebration to which all music lovers in the entire world are invited.

It will be a gift for all, but what are the projects for the next months, Mr. Meyer?

We’ll continue to broadcast, on a regular basis, approximately ten performances by the middle of next year. There will be new productions, such as Rusalka, Lohengrin, Parsifal, and at the end of the season, The Cunning Little Vixen by Janáèek. What we really want is to resume Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, using the original choreography of Rudolph Nureyev. Moreover, we would like to have weekly live broadcasts, since, as you well know, the Vienna Opera proposes 60 different performances every year. Obviously, it would be interesting if we could manage so many special productions, presenting the greatest artists of the world to the audience. Given the diversity of the repertory, we can afford to invite the best artists of the moment.

In terms of repertory, what are the new projects, the new productions that you’ll propose?

In the next few days we’ll start rehearsals for a new production of the opera Rusalka. This is a work which hasn’t been included in the repertory for a long time. Then, we’ll present an opera which has never before been interpreted at the Vienna Opera: Adriana Lecouvreur, beautifully directed by David McVicar, in a co-production with Covent Garden. Then, there will be the new production of the ballet Swan Lake, with the original choreography of Nureyev. After that, the new Lohengrin, with a wonderful cast directed by Bertrand de Billy; Klaus Florian Vogt and Camilla Nylund are the protagonists. At the end of the season, within the Janáèek cycle, we’ll present an opera that has never been produced here: The Cunning Little Vixen. These are the new productions, till the end of the season.

Mr. Meyer, are there projects using the contemporary repertory?

Yes, we have very important projects. At the end of the next season, we’ll interpret a very beautiful work, composed ten years ago: The Tempest by Thomas Adès. The composer will conduct his own opera. For the following years, we have programmed works belonging to the second half of the 20th century, as well as new creations that we commissioned to contemporary artists.

What are the projects of the Vienna Opera with regard to tours?

We have just returned from a tour in Oman with The Marriage of Figaro. In February we’ll go to Carnegie Hall in New York, where, within a co-operation project created by the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Opera and Carnegie Hall, we’ll offer a week of Viennese music, seven evenings with a different programme, consisting of works created by Viennese composers: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner, Richard Strauss and Webern. There will be symphony and concert operas, such as Wozzeck by Berg, with Daniele Gatti, but also Salome, an iconic work of the Vienna Opera, under the baton of Andris Nelsons.

Mr. Meyer, there are a lot of Romanian artists and friends at the Vienna Opera.

Of course, they are all my friends. My predecessor, Ioan Hollender, was Romanian and he brought here several Romanian artists. We are always glad to receive guests, such as George Petean and Angela Gheorghiu, and the ensemble includes Anita Hartig, who is wonderful, Ileana Toncas, splendid, Sorin Coliban and a few ballet dancers. I’m glad they are here. I wish your listeners a New Happy Year for 2014, happy holidays and we’ll always be delighted to welcome you as our guests.

Irina Hasnaº
Translated by Mihaela Olinescu and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest