11 September 2013

Madrid's Teatro Real Dismisses Artistic Director Gerard Mortier, Announces Liceu's Joan Matabosch as Immediate Replacement

Madrid's Teatro Real has dismissed Gerard Mortier as the company's artistic director, and immediately replaced him with Joan Matabosch, who since 1997 has served as the artistic director of Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu. 

The decision, made by the executive commission of the Teatro Real, will result in Matabosch initially assuming the artistic directorship of the Madrid theater for a six-year term. A statement issued today by the Teatro Real noted that Matabosch will "continue to collaborate with the Liceu until a suitable substitution has been found for this theatre."

Mortier's contracted tenure with the Teatro Real was expected to last until 2016, but public disputes with the house's executive commission appear to have hastened his departure. Since his appointment in 2010, Mortier has repeatedly quarreled with the Comisión Ejecutiva del Teatro Real about the company's artistic endeavors, as well as the Real's funding amidst austerity efforts implemented by the Spanish government that resulted in the house's budget being cut by 33 percent.

Earlier this month, the Belgian-born Mortier, 69, revealed to El País that he is undergoing cancer treatments in Germany, and simultaneously leveraged criticism at the Teatro Real's management for searching for a Spanish successor rather than giving consideration to a spate of what he reportedly characterized as more talented international administrators. Mortier also reportedly threatened not to complete his term at the Real if the government appointed a successor of whom he didn't approve. "The government wants a Spaniard. That's no problem for me, so long as they're a good candidate," Mortier is quoted as saying. "The important thing is not their nationality, but their quality … [but] I don't see any good candidates in Spain … this country has a number of extraordinary museum directors. But it's not the same in opera. There is no tradition here."

The Teatro Real's statement seemed to confirm the point of conflict, noting that the decision to replace Mortier, "has been made following of his recent public announcements in which he made clear his decision to leave the Teatro Real if the final candidate was not one of those he proposed."

Mortier previously held administrative posts at Brussels' La Monnaie/De Munt, the Salzburg Festival and the Opéra National de Paris. In 2007, he was announced as the new general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera, but ultimately reneged on that agreement after NYCO failed to raise the $60-million budget specified in his contract. He is only the second non-Spanish administrator to lead the Real in the company's 160-year history.

Matabosch, who has made a point of incorporating twentieth century composers into the Liceu's repertory during the span of his tenure, was the founder and president of Opera Europa and regularly serves as a judge in international opera and classical music competitions. "The Artistic Project presented by Joan Matabosch contemplates a balanced artistic proposal which is coherent with the present project of the Teatro Real, especially in relation to the high standard of musical quality and international renown," the executive commission noted in the statement issued. spacer 

More information can be found at the Teatro Real, ABC.es, the Guardian, and Europa Press.

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