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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

Why the stars aren’t out in Salzburg

By Norman Lebrecht / August 15, 2007

Salzburg is enduring a summer of no-shows and a touch of the wobbles. Both halves of opera’s golden pair pulled out last minute from separate events, Rollando Villazon claiming ‘long-term illness’ and Anna Netrebko a sore throat. Villazon’s condition had been forewarned, but the Russian diva, who is showing heavy Paris Hilton tendencies to shop and shock, had sung only the week before on German television and is now going ahead with a lucrative German tour.

Added to these woes. the popular Bulgarian mezzo Veselina Kassarova suffered a Wayne Rooney metatarsal while rehearsing Berlioz’s Benevenuto Cellini, from which the American tenor Neil Shicoff pulled out in a huff after failing to be named head of the Vienna Opera. Also out is the French soprano Patricia Petibon.

‘We are not a stepping stone – we are Salzburg,’ exclaimed festival director Jurgen Flimm, but the Salzburg magic is wearing thin. Having yoked itself to star power in order to attract high-spending audiences, Salzburg has become a hostage to the capriciousness of celebrity.

Five years ago, Netrebko won stardom and a record deal after singing Donna Anna in Salzburg’s Don Giovanni; she was subsequently granted Austrian citizenship. Now she does as she pleases. Flimm, a straight-talking theatre director who has just taken over after in the bleak year after the Mozart blowout year, needs artists of her calibre to stay loyal until he can reform the festival. But loyalty is anathema to celebrity, a lesson that Salzburg is learning the hard way.

It should perhaps study the BBC Proms which rations stars sparingly across over eight weeks. When a big name cancels, as Maxim Vengerov has done this Saturday with a serious shoulder complaint, the gap causes very little turbulence in a well-stocked larder.

To be notified of the next Lebrecht article, please email mikevincent at scena dot org

Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]


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