Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
Neeme Kuningas, creative director of Estonian Opera since 1977, has been given the push.
‘I’m on the dole,’ he says, ‘no other prospects.’
On the dole? In 36 years as creative director of an opera company Mr. Kuningas has not been able to accumulate any personal savings? I hope his management of company resources hasn’t been as bad as his own and that that didn’t contribute to his dismissal.
You didn’t even think about what you were writing, did you? You just heard “creative director” and “36 years” and assumed that the money must have been pouring in for that individual.
Do you even know where Estonia is? With even just a little thought you would have realized almost half of his tenure was under Soviet rule. Do you think the Soviets were plowing money into small opera houses of occupied states?
Do you think after independence, Estonia – a small, struggling country just free of communism – could afford to pay it’s opera company chief a huge salary?
You have no idea about his finances nor what he was paid during his decades of service. Accordingly, you really should keep your mouth shut instead of offering idiotic speculation about a subject you know nothing about. I know it’s the internet and it’s tough for people like you to restrain yourself, but maybe we can have a slightly higher standard on this board.
An irony is that this board always complains about heads of art institutions being paid too much. Now that we hear about one who isn’t rich he gets mocked for not having accumulated personal savings.
From reliable surces I can say that the Estonian Opera pays outragiously low fees around 1000 €; however, I’m confused: I thought the opera chief was called Aivar Mäe…
Correct. Aivar Mäe, a trained clarinetist, conductor, and administrator, is the General Manager of Rahvusooper Estonia, the national opera. Conductor Vello Pähn is the Artistic Director, the chief conductor: http://www.opera.ee/en/juhtimine-2/
It is really a shame that somebody pretending to be interested in music could make such a stupid remark. David made a rather withdrawn comment.
Yes, I believe I’ve heard of Estonia. As a matter of fact I have been there (Heard concerts there, too). I’m also aware of that little thing called the Soviet Union.
“Half” of his tenure may have been under Soviet rule. That leaves the other half (22 years, actually). While I do realize that a Baltic (see, I know where Estonia is!) arts org isn’t going to pay like the MET, a top position in an EU member country (see, I knew that, too!) is likely to pay more than a subsistence wage. It’s a fair assumption. If someone in that position has to go on the dole, then yes, he’s probably bad with money.
Then again, David, since you’re so damn smart, why don’t you tell us about his salary history, Estonian cost of living, CPI, etc. No? Can’t provide that? Well, in that case you should take your own advise.
“If all one has is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
I guess Mr. Kuningas has a lot of friends out there. Good for him; he’ll need them. Too bad none of them has anything of substance to say to refute my evaluation.
From my own knowledge of musical life in the Baltic, I would be highly surprised if Mr Kuningas had accumulated anything remotely adequate to ensure his prosperity in this situation. In fact, if he had, it would suggest corruption, not prudence.
I have been teaching in Estonia for seven years now, 26 hours of individual lessons weekly, plus the beginning band, in a kids’ music school funded by the city of Tallinn in a Russian-speaking part of town. My salary is still only about a quarter of what I made as an assistant high school band director in Texas (where I worked 70 hours weekly.) Yet, I am better paid than the musicians in the national symphony and the opera house.
Estonian nurses go to Finland to work, leaving behind only the Russian-speaking ones in the hospitals. Classroom teachers make very little.
At the same time, we have star conductors and Skype millionaires. And the politicians always get whatever they need, of course, with lunch on their expense accounts.
Money aside, it is a wonderfully musical little country.
Estonian National Operan web site:
and YouTube channel:
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
Follow him on FB: Facebook and on Twitter @NLebrecht
More Lebrecht @ normanlebrecht.com
Enter your email address:
April 22, 2014 10 Comments
April 22, 2014 3 Comments
April 22, 2014 4 Comments
April 22, 2014 Leave a Comment
April 21, 2014 6 Comments
April 21, 2014 7 Comments
April 21, 2014 1 Comment
April 21, 2014 13 Comments
April 21, 2014 3 Comments
April 20, 2014 8 Comments
an ArtsJournal blog