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The singers’ revolt: Pereira says he’d like to pay them more, but….

Elisabeth Kulman, leader of the Singers Spring, has bearded the Salzburg boss in his den, demanding to know why he refuses to pay non-stellar artists for rehearsals, or cover their travel and accommodation costs. Pereira was charm personified. I’d love to pay more, he said. Oh, read on….

alexander pereira vs elisabeth kulman



„Sie können sicher sein, dass mir die Künstler am Herzen liegen. Ohne euch geht gar nichts!“

“Rest assured, I have the best interests of the Artists at heart. We can do nothing without you!” Alexander Pereira.
Those were the opening words of the discussion I had with Alexander Pereira on May 8, 2013 in Wien. With an surprisingly open and friendly discussion, despite weeks of criticism in the press on my part, Mr. Pereira made himself available for a full 90 minutes. He spoke most respectfully of his artists, almost apologetically, despite blaming difficult situations regarding the planning on a variety of causes out of his control. Regarding selling tickets in excess of 150 Euros for Dress Rehearsals the artists were forced to sing for free, his response “Tickets to dress rehearsals will certainly no longer be sold, unless there is another Earthquake in Northern Italy (…) and then in that case, the artists will be asked in advance.”

Asked about rehearsal fees and expense, he said that performance fees were high enough to cover expenses eventually. I informed him that this was not standard practice worldwide. If a singer fell ill and was unable to perform, hegave his word that they would not be out of pocket. “In such a case, I can assure you, that I would not let these people stand out in the rain.”.

He agreed that in Italy, Spain or France, a rehearsal period of one to three and a half weeks of rehearsal should be enough for most productions. In German speaking countries, where productions tend to be more complex, they needs twice as much rehearsal time. He personally finds although “rehearsal periods of seven weeks are simply wrong, 5-6 is the absolute maximum necessary.” Ironically all of the productions in Salzburg this Summer have seven week rehearsal periods and the artists are completely on their own to finance their expenses.

Mr. Pereira himself expects when he is traveling in his role as Intendant and representative of the Salzburg Festival that all his expenses should be completely covered in addition to his own salary. When this discrepancy was pointed out to him, he had no response.

Further excerpts:

AP: “Ihr müsst mich als euren Anwalt sehen und nicht als euren Feind. Ich bin euer Anwalt. Ihr habt keine Ahnung, was ich für Schlachten führe, damit ich die Dinge durchsetzen kann, die ich durchsetzen muss. Ich kann es nur so gut machen, wie ich halt bin, nicht besser und nicht schlechter.”
EK: “Sie könnten besser sein!”
AP: “Oh ja, ich würde auch gerne anders zahlen.”

EK: “Ein kleines Gedankenspiel: Wenn Geld keine Rolle spielen würde, was für ein Programm würden sie machen und wie würden Sie Ihre Künstler bezahlen?”
AP: “Ich würde ungefähr das Programm machen, das ich mache, und natürlich würde ich mehr Geld bezahlen!”
EK: “Würden Sie Probengeld und Hotels bezahlen?”
AP: “Wenn Geld keine Rolle spielt, dann spielt es keine Rolle! Jedenfalls würden wir besser zahlen, als wir jetzt zahlen!”

AP: “You must see me as your advocate, not your enemy. I am your advocate. You have no idea what battles I fight to push through the things I need to do. I can only do the best I can, not not better, nor worse. ”
EK “You could do better!”
AP “. Yeah, I would also like to be able to pay differently.”

EK: “If money were no object, what kind of programme would you put on and how would you pay your artists?”

AP: “I would do more or less the program that I’m doing, and of course I would pay more.”
EK “Would you pay for rehearsals and hotels?”
AP: “If money was no object, that would not matter! In any event, we would pay more than we do now! ”


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  1. Cut down the money for those idiots they call opera directors. They do not deserve it. I’m sure there will be plenty for the singers.
    Also, Intendants make too much money and it has been proved by facts they work is not worth it. They are responsible for the sad state and low standards in opera houses.
    German productions are not complex; they are mostly a bunch of crap, a bad excuse to give employment to untalented people..

    • Bassolirico says:

      Right on target! Talentless people with psychological problems are brought in a triumph procession are creators of art. And you only need someone who understands the language of the libretto or who knows the piece to reveal the emperor’s new clothes. [redacted]

  2. mitzouko says:

    Rather disgusting, it’s all for the media.

  3. mitzouko says:

    I musst correct my first comment. Ms. Kulman is doing the right thing, speaking for singer’s rights.

  4. Five to seven weeks is a long time to ask anyone to work without pay. I wonder what the Working Time Directive would state about that. Singers do not live outside the rest of the world. Whatever I did as a singer, being in a position where I was away from home and costing money would do nothing to help our mortgage payments, provide childcare for when I was unable to be home at the same time as my children, or to pay for any expenses at home.

    Singers might have a portable instrument, but have still been trained to a high standard, and require money to eat and survive.

    It would be rather Ironic if Mr Pereira was planning to put on La Boheme… starving musicians may be a tad too “Verismo” for Salzburg.

    For goodness sake pay these singers and make cuts to other areas, but don’t just ‘not pay them’.

  5. The problem is that singers are not united. If many singers together refused to work under this condition, a hundred of others would sell their mothers to sing for free.

  6. @ Roger: The ethics of the singers who would sell their mothers under these circumstances is not the issue.

    Musicians, and this includes singers, deserve to be paid for the work they do.

    • No one is disputing singers must be well paid for their work. But it’s obvious that singers’ complacency with all this, justifiable,by the fear of losing their positions as it may be, is a serious obstacle to change also.Try gathering singers for this fight or even for the noble cause of fighting crappy stage directors and you will verify my theory. Without crying out in unison, there will be no change.

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