Christian Thielemann Quits Deutsche Oper Berlin After Demands for More Money Rejected
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
BERLIN (AP) ó Christian Thielemann is quitting as music director of Berlin's Deutsche Oper in a dispute with the city government over scarce funding, the opera said Tuesday.
His departure follows years of bickering over the future of Berlin's three opera houses as the capital tries to balance its cultural ambitions with $57 billion of municipal debt. Thielemann has complained that the rival Staatsoper, headed by Daniel Barenboim, was getting a better deal and demanded equal treatment.
"Christian Thielemann is and was an important figure for the Deutsche Oper and its audience," said Thomas Flierl, Berlin's top culture official. But "given Berlin's budget situation, there can be no additional money."
Thielemann said he rejected an offer to boost Deutsche Oper's yearly budget by $962,000, half of what he had demanded. Thielemann then decided to cut short his contract, which runs through 2007. "I could not agree to this offer purely because it would have left us no better off," Thielemann said in a statement.
Thielemann was irritated that the Staatsoper and its Staatskapelle orchestra have gotten an extra $2.2 million annually in federal funding. "They are wanted and loved, and we are not," he told the Tagesspiegel daily last week. "What I want is honesty and fairness. The real question is: How do we deal with the heritage of two world-class opera houses in this city?"
It was unclear exactly when Thielemann would leave Deutsche Oper, which he has led since 1997. No replacement has been named.
Thielemann's departure comes a year after Deutsche Oper managing director Udo Zimmermann quit after only two seasons, complaining he was forced out by city officials. Zimmermann has yet to be replaced.
A Berlin native and former assistant to Herbert von Karajan, Thielemann, 45, is perhaps best known for conducting Wagner, including at the annual Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. He is slated to become music director of the Munich Philharmonic this fall.
Funding for the arts in Berlin has been a problem since Germany and its capital reunited in 1990, bringing together the city's cultural venues in east and west. Last year, the city threatened to merge two of the opera houses until the federal government stepped in with extra arts funding.
This year, the three operas ó the Deutsche Oper in the former West Berlin and the Staatsoper and Komische Oper in the formerly communist east ó were placed under a federally backed foundation. The aim was to cut costs, but the move raised tensions over the houses' artistic independence.
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