Director Elisabeth Sobotka on tough tests and the difficulty of surviving the year with almost no income.
Bregenz Basically what keeps the Bregenz Festival alive is the opera on the lake. And that’s when it is artistically and economically successful. That is, if the interest in the spectacular productions is so great that they can be played for two summers in front of the almost fully crowded, almost 7000-person grandstand. That would have turned out very well with “Rigoletto”. This year, however, not only are these revenues missing, around half of the 180,000 tickets already booked will have to be rebooked in the summer of 2021 and numerous music fans will be refunded the admission price. A good 1,000 visitors are currently admitted to events during the Covid19 pandemic. Developing a format for this on the lake does not work, explains Elisabeth Sobotka, the director of the Bregenz Festival in an interview with the UN: “Not artistically and certainly not economically.”
The real task
The festive season, which now takes place after the festival program is canceled in August, will cost a little less than one million euros. “We know that we cannot make this sum.” It is difficult to communicate that the festival works under completely different conditions than, for example, the federal theaters, the operation of which is paid either way. So she was happy and proud that the board of trustees did not insist that it was not time to spend money and approved her program for the festive season. “Because we have done so well, it is going to work out.” The fact that the company survives despite the fact that it has been down for a year is the real task that needs to be tackled. Elisabeth Sobotka, who successfully headed the Graz Opera and worked at the State Opera in Vienna and Berlin before her position as director in Bregenz, is optimistic: “Of course I hear that the federal theaters are getting additional money. We can do it without. “
Corona test for everyone
And yet she has worries. The rehearsal work for the premiere of the opera “Impresario Dotcom” could only work because the entire team is embarking on the adventure. Almost normal work is now possible on Austrian stages. The personal responsibility that has been imposed on cultural companies also means keeping an eye on the danger. It is currently being considered to subject all participants to a corona test. “We have to expect a lot, including a further ban on events. That would be a disaster. “
The city of Bregenz, the state of Vorarlberg and the federal government subsidize the Bregenz Festival with a total of almost seven million euros. A significant part of this is spent on rent and operating costs. If you add the personnel costs, there is not much left to play, as President Hans-Peter Metzler confirms. This makes it clear once again what the floating stage has to do that cannot be used this year.
“Because we did so well, things are going well.”