Salzburg Easter fest looks to revive from scandal

Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:39am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The Salzburg Easter Festival of opera and music, where the top ticket price is 1,230 euros ($1,706) for four events, is awaiting the final curtain on a scandal which hit a sour note in the fairytale Austrian town.

Just before the opening of last year's week-long season, the Austrian press was filled with reports that two of the festival's longtime managers were being investigated over the alleged disappearance of more than 2 million euros.

The reports had more the makings of soap opera than grand opera, but the message from the festival today is straight out of the Gloria Gaynor 1970s disco songbook: We have survived.

"The whole thing is now in the hands of the Justice Department," said Peter Alward, the 60-year-old Briton brought in on short notice to replace the festival's former director.

"Basically, there's no new information, everything that happened has been raked over...and publicized, unfortunately too greatly, because to a certain extent it stands in the way of what we really want to talk about, which is the music," Alward told Reuters in a telephone interview from Salzburg, where rehearsals were in full swing.

That, of course, is something any cultural institution that has been embroiled in scandal would dearly wish for. But in the festival's case, it seems that apart from the slow workings of the wheels of justice, a corner has been turned.

"I have to tell you that thank heavens we've been able to count on extremely loyal patrons and extremely loyal sponsors and they haven't jumped ship," Alward said.

"They remain on board because -- I've said this before, and it's true -- if you have a barrel of apples and a few have gone bad it doesn't mean the rest of the apples are bad."   Continued...