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Disharmony at Berlin opera

16 December 2003

BERLIN – Amid the cost-cutting and restructuring of Berlin’s three operas, star opera conductor Daniel Barenboim has dropped a heavy hint that he might consider leaving the German capital, according to the weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

The paper cited Barenboim, conductor and general music director of the Berliner Staatsoper, as criticising the new Berlin opera foundation under whose roof all three opera houses will be administered starting 1 January 2004.

He argued that such a restructuring would diminish the quality of Berlin’s operas, Die Zeit reported him as saying.

“I must see, if it comes to this, whether I still will want to work here, or if I even can,” Barenboim said.

“I am no beginner. If I cannot express that which to me musically is important, then I will not continue the work,” he said.

Barenboim first began at the Staatsoper in 1992. In 2001 he signed a new contract extending his term until 2007.

He criticised the Berlin government’s Culture Minister, Christine Weiss, for opposing a state takeover of the Berliner Staatsoper.

Barenboim said the new opera foundation was “naive at best, but at worst a mixture of desperation and hypocrisy”, seeing his 13 years of work in Berlin in danger of “simply being thrown away”.

With the new structure, in which the intendant of each opera house would be demoted to deputy intendants under the opera foundation director, there will no longer be three operas, but rather one house with three stages, Barenboim argued.

He said he thought a good solution would be the model of the Lincoln Center in New York, with the federal state as a participant. This idea had been proposed by former German president Richard von Weizsaecker.

Berlin’s three opera houses, the 261-year-old Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper and the Komische Oper, have been battling for survival for years amid drastic public funding cutbacks.

Subject: German news