Dokumentation: Læs hele Keith Warners tale (engelsk)

Fakta, kultur

I think we can all agree that we have been through a war together in

these last weeks. And I want to make quite clear from the start that

ANYTHING I am about to say now is not on the same dimension of what

some here are facing or coping with. Nor does it have the same heroic

stature of what some here have achieved in the face of extreme

adversity. It is my personal response – albeit one that has taken

immense consideration and reflection. One last battle then....

I am resigning from the post of artistic director of the Royal Opera.

In fact, the truth is, I actually resigned from this post back in late

November. Informing the management. And I am afraid here some

background detail needs to be said.

First, never lose sight of the fact that the government cuts to the

Royal Theatres are the catalyst of my actions, however not at all the

whole motivation.

The cuts are a meaningless act of vandalism – the equivalent of taking

a flick-knife to the Mona Lisa. So tiny in any national picture: so

devastating to us. And so cynical in view of what culture can achieve

and give a community in trouble. Also in the particular case of opera

these cuts are ignorant in their immediacy. I opposed and still oppose

these openly and vocally. But I think we share all this view.

I felt impelled to resign in late November when I really saw what

these cuts meant in terms of human cost. I found it hard to live with

myself being an agent of something I so profoundly disagreed with. I

have only ever sacked one singer in my long career, and my only

philosophy was that life is divided between the creators and the

destroyers – and I had always counted on myself as a creator.

The human cost I could see was in two forms: the redundancy and

downsizing, AND the effect this would have on our provision on top

class art for this community, city, country. No outreach, no foyer

activities – all of which I have been shouting my mouth off about for

months and less performances of less operas. Anyway it would always

seem wrong to me to be spending money outside the house on projects

(which anyway should be the responsibility of any real government’s

education programme) while making people unemployed within the house.

The outreach had to go first, but was something this company

desperately needed. And I wanted for the company.

There seemed to be so few choices of what to cut and yet over and over

again I would present the possibilities of more radical lasting

change, most of which were never examined or simply blocked. Whole

areas that as the boss of the opera I simply could not touch – or even

were allowed to consider, let alone dabble with.

For example, I asked for a financial study to be done looking at us

turning to a “Stagione” system; purely as a money saving measure. And

although our brilliant planning office here at the opera did a half

season draft proposal – never did I get any financial study.

I asked for the right to look at the orchestra playing for less ballet

evenings. This would internally save overtime costs; I asked,

remember, as the head of the orchestra, not head of the opera and was

told it couldn’t be considered. Despite us facing Armageddon.

At the beginning of the cuts, I was assured that everything could be

on the table for discussion, in the end very little was – certainly

not at anything I was party too.

I wanted to look at the costs of our production house in producing

sets, which sometimes seems alarming to me, and despite one

discussion, and my providing some proof by comparing two wildly

contrasting quotes, I was basically ignored.

At the moment, the whole technical staffing of the house is being

re-drawn, re-arranged and despite the fact I have worked for over 30

years in over fifty opera houses, on 120 productions, in 17 countries

– the only person in the Royal Theatres with anything like this kind

of experience or any experience outside the Royal Theatres – I have

never been consulted or asked, and I have offered, questioned,

demanded continually. In fact, I have not even now been told what the

results are.

I ask: Why on earth am I here?

When Kim Bohr recently left the organisation, I – and the other 2

artistic directors – pleaded to appoint 2 people to fulfil his

overloaded post. One, please, a great administrator, especially in

the technical theatre field, and a second, international class fund

raiser in view of the cuts. Our pleas were ignored. In fact, the only

new foundation money which is on the horizon – from Nordea - was found

by me (an outsider who knows no-one in Denmark) through a chance

meeting in my apartment block. No major new avenues have been opened

in this entire year for the opera at least. Some have closed.

Why would I not resign? I have to front to you and the world endless

decisions over which I am given shallow choices, little real control

and absolutely no respect.

An example of my frustration, on such a silly, petty level that I am

embarrassed almost to mention it. I have two tickets to each

performance – if we have special guests, as recently happened with a

world class composer who was visiting us – and I am sitting in my

seats, I have to make a special application to get permission to have

more seats. Can you imagine what that feels like – when you are

nominally supposed to be head of the opera house. And this nonsense

goes from this, which I could laugh at, right up to the planning of

next season which is now being made by offices in the Royal Theatres,

solely due to the financial situation, without my leadership. I fight

it all, go to meetings and usually get nowhere.

So I talked of my resignation last November, finally knowing that the

cuts in light of the restrictive power I am given made the job

impossible to realise in a way that I could live with. And, to be

honest, to face you as a real rather than a puppet leader.

And in case you now hear to the contrary, I am certainly not afraid to

make cuts, we have been cutting since the first day I arrived, nor am

I fed up with being here in Copenhagen and have always wanted to

leave; this decision is a financial disaster for me, but I would feel

even worse to be taking part in something with which I didn’t approve.

I just wanted what I was promised, to be in charge of an opera

company. A job with the recognisable framework clear from a hundred

other European Opera Houses. Then I would be happy to face anything

with you and accept responsibility for their consequences.

In fact, this was why although resigning then, I’ve kept it quiet

until now. I really felt and know that you needed someone who did a

few things to see you past these tough measures – even though not

always agreeing with them. But although I feel shamefully that I

didn’t do much to divert some of the horror, I do also know that it

would all have been far worse if I had not been around. I can see

this in the decisions that were in some instances actually snatched

away from me - they are all bad moves.

These are only a few instances of my discomfort – there are many, many

more in the same vein….. Don’t even get me started on publicity for

our performances – another area I have no effectual control over.

I left the announcement until now because in this I agreed with Erik

that we needed to settle your life here before I dealt with mine. I

even promised Erik not to talk about the cuts to the press, not to

tell my agent, nor to tell Jakub. So much has only happened in the

Artiklen fortsætter efter annoncen


last days. I did exactly what I was told. Until now.

I think you will hear a lot in the coming days about my leaving summed

up as not being able to fulfil my international aspirations. Apart

from the fact that this “internationalism” was mentioned over and over

again in my interviews and is a phrase that echoes more than any other

in the four year agreement, it is meaningless removed from you.

It was always the potential, the readiness, the standards that I knew

and saw here that attaches in my mind with the words “international

standard” – so, not my aspiration but your right. I could have helped

you become more apparent, not to train you up. What we needed – all we

needed – is help to fly. Yes, financial help foremost but also

backing, expertise, and vision – vision manifested in the dedication

of all who control decisions here to the art form and systems

implemented within the management that enable and support growth.

There is no limit to what I believe this company can and could still

achieve……. To do it without the money is hard – damn near impossible

- but I would have had a go. To do it with a management structure and

an air of ignorance is an endless uphill struggle and a huge pain in

the arse but it also possible. But to succeed without both, I have to

admit, it is beyond me.

If you look at the ideas and schemes I’ve tried to introduce: the

people I’ve attracted here, the programming I’ve made, the Edinburgh

Festival, the joint productions, the people in the opera business who

are now considering us a major player, the man here on my

____________, I do believe I have delivered on my part of the bargain.

I think I have merely asked others to do the same….to play fair and

give me an opportunity to really run this house. Like other Intendants

and Artistic Directors do all over Europe.

From the point I announced my resignation, no-one from the management

has ever asked, “what would it take to make you stay?” Strange, when

so much effort was put into getting me here. But if in this place, you

collectively or individually, are really to be given a chance to reach

your brilliant, clear potential, then now you must be given the

opportunity to demand your future by asking questions internally and

provoking clear answers. This opera company must be given and allowed

its own unique voice. The administration must work for you and

understand the specific demands of the Art form. They owe you their

living. They should be interested enough to ask you,

"what will it take to make you stay?". Get your answers ready.

I also really now believe that NO Artistic Director/Intendant of the

standard, ambition and quality you deserve will ever take this job, if

on top of the financial restrictions they fully understand the

organisational straightjacket before they come. And please, before

anybody starts on about ruining the tradition of the umbrella of the

Royal Theatres, I see nobody outside caring a jot how much autonomy

each art form enjoys under the umbrella – which is, of course, a

uniquely beautiful thing. But it must work for you, not against you

and your growth. We are a great art’s institution, not a bloody civil

service bureaucracy.

Once I was allowed to tell my great friend and esteemed colleague

here, and after I tried to persuade him now to carry on here without

me, it made me stop short and reflect that my interests as erstwhile

artistic director of the opera now were not simply to allow a polite

press release and an awkward goodbye just to happen tonight, but to

tell the opera the truth from my point of view, and even now, at the

eleventh hour, use that to initiate a fight for your future.

In this whole sad business, when often I erred between an allegiance

to the official über-management and to you, MY opera company, I have

truly made the mistake of faltering too much, compromising too often,

and believing that I could work on and slowly change things in my own

way. But I could not. It was wrong of me not to have blown the

whistle on my discontent way, way back. But I truly didn’t want to

Artiklen fortsætter efter annoncen


leave you. I should have been able to change more. If I had taken you

more into my confidence, we, together, probably could have. You still


I will miss you terribly.

My admiration for you all in the Opera has never diminished for a

moment. My love for this art-form has never waivered and never will.

I really believe that I was the right man for the job, but the job I

believed in itself proved to be a mirage. I only believe now at this

crossroads moment, bad and good, for the opera and the orchestra, for

the world stage that I never did run, that the future lies in your

hand. There have been murmurrings and mutterings and strong waves of

discontent in almost every meeting I have had with you since I

arrived. Please now examine these deeply and see if I am right, wrong

or even justified.

Jakub and I are both united in our endless trust and belief in you,

and your abilities and so we decided to make our protest together.

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