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Breaking: Mortier’s successor is announced in Madrid – almost

El Pais reports that Joan Matabosch, artistic director of the Liceo in Barcelona since 1996, will succeed Gerard Mortier at the Real in Madrid. A decision was taken today, but has been held back for ratification until Wednesday.

Matabosch will take over in 2016, unless Mortier has to withdraw earlier due to his cancer treatment.


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  1. Only a few radicals would mind a purely political decision if the chosen candidate was a brilliant manager. Mr. Matabosch´s competence and suitability for the post is, at best, worth questioning as soon as one thinks of the big problems affecting the Liceu in the past few months that lead, if I am not mistaken, to various cancellations. I wish this is a good move for both parts, but the first thing that comes to mind is that, in Spain, incompetency is too often well rewarded. As a Spaniard living abroad (with no professional options in the classical music industry in Spain), I am not at all surprised by the amateurish soap opera that the business is in Spain. This recruitment process shows, once more, how things work there – and how the results are.

    • Dear Kurt, I would be careful in judging Mr Matabosch almost 20 years tenure at Liceu only by the last few years, where cuts from institutions have affected his planing. Liceu, in spite of the image, continues to be a reliable partner in the international opera scene and much loved theatre for singers and stage teams invoved in productions there. Of course there are points of Mr Matabosch I would criticize but he’s far from being “incompetent”. Besides Mr Matabosch has had to deal with a much lower budget than other top opera houses in Europe.
      I agree on your general criticism over the politicians dealing with culture in Spain, though.

      • Dear Manu: my comment on Spanish incompetence was not a direct attack on Mr. Matabosch. Given the current situation at the Liceu, well known internationally and depicted below by Rodrigo, and knowing how Madrid and Barcelona relate (or, rather, unrelate) within Spain, the move, as I wrote, seems questionable. It seems to me even more questionable that Mortier’s preferences were not even considered by the bureaucrats that apparently made the decision.

        The real issue at play is not Mr. Matabosch and his ability to produce great opera. I hope that great opera will continue in Madrid. The real issue is the general state of mismanagement of Spanish arts institutions.

        Furthermore: money and art are usually so interconnected that they end up being inseparable.
        Given that Mr. Matabosch was elected by bureaucrats, he would do well to speak to those bureaucrats about fundraising and further forms of arts funding, or to help hire somebody able to write down a decent budget and/or balance faulty ones. We’re bankrupt! If nobody comes up with alternatives to government funding, Mr. Matabosch’s brilliance as an artistic director will be to no avail.

  2. Politicians have decided to ruin Opera everywhere. Why should Spain be an exception?

  3. Joan Matabosch is the ARTISTIC director of the Liceu: he has no involvement whatsoever with the finances of the theatre, which were the responsibility of the General Director, Joan Francesc Marco, who was indeed seen by many as incompetent and on who originated the redundancies, cuts and cancellations that have plagued the theatre in the last few years, the result of which is Mr. Matabosch departure to pastures (hopefully) greener.

  4. Well said, Kurt. I agree completely. Mr. Matabosch leaves the Liceu functioning under an ERE, fighting for its existence financially. Just a year ago a large group (12, as I recall) of tenured Liceu musicians, some with seniority of over 20 years, were abruptly fired. This is unprecedented in Spain. Liceu is hardly a shining star of good management.

    The Spanish govt. wanted a Spanish candidate and what they don’t seem to understand is that are no good choices, which is what Mr. Mortier tried to explain. The only positive here is that at least the all powerful Hallfter family did not prevail and manage to get Pedro named. Can you imagine Pedro Hallfter replacing Mortier?!

    This is the thing: Spaniards seem to be going into a backlash against foreign talent, a kind of Franco redux, demanding opportunities for home grown managers and conductors.The good ones are few and far between and often have chosen to work outside of Spain. Spain is effectively knocking themselves out of the international music scene when they do this. OK, Mortier abused his power and influence in Madrid, but he put Teatro Real on the map internationally. Who cares what Teatro Real will do now under this Joan Matabosch? Who has ever heard of him? He inspires little or no interest in the international music scene.

    Spain is so intent on preserving opportunities for their own citizens that they’re isolating themselves from the rest of the world just as they did under Franco. It’s especially unnerving when they empower unqualified managers in the music business simply because they are Spanish. This is what they’ve done in replacing Mortier with this Matabosch.

    And when scandals surface because of these poor or inexperienced Spanish managers, as with
    the Festival Internacional de Santander (FIS) scandal unfolding now, fingers are pointed at non-Spanish figures, as they are doing with Mr. Melint of Bucharest, who was FIS’s concert organizer. It’s xenophobic and backwards. The people responsible in this scandal are all Spanish.

    Everything that Mr. Mortier said in his interviews about this situation is true. Spain does not have a history of opera. There’s a shortage of qualified opera managers in Spain. There is a severe shortage of qualified orchestra managers in Spain. Politicians are naming unqualified candidates and then huge scandals, like the one in Santander, erupt. As long as Spain exhibits this xenophobic nationalism about only hiring Spaniards, the problem will continue.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Everything that Mr. Mortier said in his interviews about this situation is true. Spain does not have a history of opera

      …As opposed to the legendary contribution made to the genre by Belgium.

  5. Oy. Check out this tidbit in today’s news – Pedro Hallfter is now being considered for the position of Artistic Director at the Teatro Real. Heaven help us.

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