Ioan Holender, former general manager of Vienna’s Staatsoper opera company. Holender ran the company for nineteen years, the longest reign in the theater’s history. Source: Wiener Staatsoper via Bloomberg

Nina Stemme as Leonora, left, and Salvatore Licitra as Alvaro, perform in Verdi’s „La forza del destino” (The Force of Destiny) at the Staatsoper in Vienna, Austria, in this undated handout photo. „La forza del destino” is in repertory at Vienna’s Staatsoper through June 20. Photographer: Axel Zeininger/Wiener Staatsoper GmbH via Bloomberg News

A handout photo, provided to the media on Monday, March 31, 2008, shows ballet dancer Risa Dirtl. Dirtl, who received a letter on March 16, 1938, informing her she was excused from her position. She was married to a „full Jew.” Source: Wiener Staatsoper via Bloomberg News

The sekt was still flowing at 3 a.m. last month when said goodbye as general manager of Vienna’s after a six-hour gala featuring more than 50 singers and conductors, some with names like , , , and .

Holender, known for his perfect tan, impeccable political connections and blase attitude toward critics, ran the fabled company for 19 years — the longest reign in the theater’s history.

Stars liked stopping by the ornate venue on the Ringstrasse, which has 1,500 seats and 567 places for vociferous standees. Fees were good, rehearsing not too arduous. When divette actually complained about not enough rehearsal time, Holender cheerfully dumped her in a public way designed to produce maximum attention.

For all that, Holender kept the coffers full, raising 45 percent of the annual budget of around 97 million euros ($125 million) through ticket sales and sponsorship, with the government making up the difference.

We met in the paneled office he was soon to vacate. Under a beige summer suit, a cornflower blue shirt complemented his eyes. We should all look so good at 75.

“It was my biggest wish to become a singer,” he said, reminiscing about his childhood in a small town in Romania. “When I started they told me I was a tenor and I believed them. I came to Vienna and was accepted by the conservatory. By the time I finished, I was a baritone with a contract in Klagenfurt. My singing career lasted five years.”

The Holender era at the Staatsoper began with a new “Ring” cycle and the company quickly took on a reputation as a Wagner house. He even staged “Rienzi,” an early work often spurned by the high-minded.

Asked about his achievements, Holender cited improved standards and a bigger repertoire.

“There were no contemporary operas, so it was difficult to present these to a public that is not very curious, namely the Viennese.” More recently, to attract the future generation, he set up a tent-like structure on the roof and performed operas composed specifically for kids.

Yet the most controversial event in the Holender era was probably not a production, but an exhibition installed at the theater in 2008.

In 1938, after annexed a happy Austria into the Third Reich, the Staatsoper quickly purged some 92 company members because they were Jewish or married to Jews. The exhibition presented photos, letters, programs documenting their suffering and the enthusiasm of their tormentors. A lot of the material had been either misplaced or ignored after the house was bombed toward the end of the war. Holender made sure it was seen.

“Austrians don’t like to talk about it very much: They act like between 1938 and 1945 nobody was here and nobody knew anything. When the house reopened, it was under the same director as during the war.” That was the accommodating conductor , whose life during the Nazi era was showcased under the banner: “profiteer.”

Looking back, Holender said he disliked some of his own shows.

“I had my mistakes, of course. ‘Der Freischuetz’ was the worst,” he said referring to a quickly discarded 1995 production.

As for high points, he cited the appearances by and Verdi’s “Don Carlos” directed by Peter Konwitschny. “Add to that the world premiere of ‘Medea’ by . Not only did we have this fantastic performance by , but this super-intelligent production from . To have such a huge success with a new work is very special.”

I asked if he’s apartment-hunting in New York, having recently signed a two-year contract as a consultant with the Metropolitan Opera.

“No! I will stay here,” he said, shaking his thick white hair. “I will hear singers and conductors and look at the work of designers in Budapest and Bucharest and other houses in this part of the world and inform of things I find important.

“An example: there are very good singers in Moldavia. In September, they have a Verdi festival and I will go to ‘Ballo’ and ‘Aida’ and I will try to find singers, just as I found singers for this house. , , were all unknown until they came here.”

To contact the writer on this story: in Vienna at L3Productions@aol.com.

Read the article on Bloomberg

Tan Opera Chief Holender Says Goodbye to Vienna, Hello to Met: Interview

Ioan Holender, former general manager of Vienna’s Staatsoper opera company. Holender ran the company for nineteen years, the longest reign in the theater’s history. Source: Wiener Staatsoper via Bloomberg

Nina Stemme as Leonora, left, and Salvatore Licitra as Alvaro, perform in Verdi’s „La forza del destino” (The Force of Destiny) at the Staatsoper in Vienna, Austria, in this undated handout photo. „La forza del destino” is in repertory at Vienna’s Staatsoper through June 20. Photographer: Axel Zeininger/Wiener Staatsoper GmbH via Bloomberg News

A handout photo, provided to the media on Monday, March 31, 2008, shows ballet dancer Risa Dirtl. Dirtl, who received a letter on March 16, 1938, informing her she was excused from her position. She was married to a „full Jew.” Source: Wiener Staatsoper via Bloomberg News

The sekt was still flowing at 3 a.m. last month when said goodbye as general manager of Vienna’s after a six-hour gala featuring more than 50 singers and conductors, some with names like , , , and .

Holender, known for his perfect tan, impeccable political connections and blase attitude toward critics, ran the fabled company for 19 years — the longest reign in the theater’s history.

Stars liked stopping by the ornate venue on the Ringstrasse, which has 1,500 seats and 567 places for vociferous standees. Fees were good, rehearsing not too arduous. When divette actually complained about not enough rehearsal time, Holender cheerfully dumped her in a public way designed to produce maximum attention.

For all that, Holender kept the coffers full, raising 45 percent of the annual budget of around 97 million euros ($125 million) through ticket sales and sponsorship, with the government making up the difference.

We met in the paneled office he was soon to vacate. Under a beige summer suit, a cornflower blue shirt complemented his eyes. We should all look so good at 75.

“It was my biggest wish to become a singer,” he said, reminiscing about his childhood in a small town in Romania. “When I started they told me I was a tenor and I believed them. I came to Vienna and was accepted by the conservatory. By the time I finished, I was a baritone with a contract in Klagenfurt. My singing career lasted five years.”

The Holender era at the Staatsoper began with a new “Ring” cycle and the company quickly took on a reputation as a Wagner house. He even staged “Rienzi,” an early work often spurned by the high-minded.

Asked about his achievements, Holender cited improved standards and a bigger repertoire.

“There were no contemporary operas, so it was difficult to present these to a public that is not very curious, namely the Viennese.” More recently, to attract the future generation, he set up a tent-like structure on the roof and performed operas composed specifically for kids.

Yet the most controversial event in the Holender era was probably not a production, but an exhibition installed at the theater in 2008.

In 1938, after annexed a happy Austria into the Third Reich, the Staatsoper quickly purged some 92 company members because they were Jewish or married to Jews. The exhibition presented photos, letters, programs documenting their suffering and the enthusiasm of their tormentors. A lot of the material had been either misplaced or ignored after the house was bombed toward the end of the war. Holender made sure it was seen.

“Austrians don’t like to talk about it very much: They act like between 1938 and 1945 nobody was here and nobody knew anything. When the house reopened, it was under the same director as during the war.” That was the accommodating conductor , whose life during the Nazi era was showcased under the banner: “profiteer.”

Looking back, Holender said he disliked some of his own shows.

“I had my mistakes, of course. ‘Der Freischuetz’ was the worst,” he said referring to a quickly discarded 1995 production.

As for high points, he cited the appearances by and Verdi’s “Don Carlos” directed by Peter Konwitschny. “Add to that the world premiere of ‘Medea’ by . Not only did we have this fantastic performance by , but this super-intelligent production from . To have such a huge success with a new work is very special.”

I asked if he’s apartment-hunting in New York, having recently signed a two-year contract as a consultant with the Metropolitan Opera.

“No! I will stay here,” he said, shaking his thick white hair. “I will hear singers and conductors and look at the work of designers in Budapest and Bucharest and other houses in this part of the world and inform of things I find important.

“An example: there are very good singers in Moldavia. In September, they have a Verdi festival and I will go to ‘Ballo’ and ‘Aida’ and I will try to find singers, just as I found singers for this house. , , were all unknown until they came here.”

To contact the writer on this story: in Vienna at L3Productions@aol.com.

Read the article on Bloomberg

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