These are the latest updates about the integration of women and people of color in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vienna Philharmonic.  For the main body of this article click here.


December 18, 2006

A large article in German about the orchestra appeared today in the Austrian magazine profil.  It discusses the lack of change in the orchestra and the experiences of Iva Nikolova. See: Nadine Dietrich, "Eine Frau im Herrenhaus", profil (December 18, 2006) pgs. 62-63. The article is not on their website, but you can find a PDF version of the article here.


I've also put the article from Der Standard on my website from December 11, 2006 entitled "Eine Philharmonikerin, Viele Philharmoniker."  It contains an excellent chronology of the Philharmonic's gender problems dating from 1994 and continuing to today.  To see it click here.   The article is on the website of Der Standard, but they do not list individual URLs for articles, so I can't link it.  You can, however, find the article by using the search function on their website with the keyword Staatsoper.


December 19, 2006


The Vienna State Opera has once again decided not to allow Iva Nikolova to re-audition for her position.  They said the reasons are “technical and bureaucratic.”  According to the audition rules, all candidates must be given six weeks notice that they are invited.  At the same time, they are to be told what music they will be required to play.  The opera said that since Ms. Nikolova had not been given six weeks notice, she cannot play.


This decision was made by Ioan Holender, the Director of the Vienna State Opera, who said he had taken the matter under advisement.  The news was relayed to her by Orchestra Inspector Tauscher.  Ms. Nikolova offered to sign an agreement releasing the orchestra from the notice requirement, but they refused to accept it. 


This leaves open the question of why she wasn’t invited in the first place.  As mentioned in my report,  she was excluded earlier this year using new audition rules that will not be in effect until January 1, 2007.  The orchestra applied them retroactively to keep her out, but the Director of the Opera said that was illegal.  They are now excluding her because she wasn't given an invitation six weeks in advance, even though this was due to their own misuse of the rules.


Mr. Holender's contract at the Staatsoper expires in 2010.  He has been negotiating to extend it by two years to 2012.  Musicians at the Staatsoper have told me he is avoiding the problems surrounding Ms. Nikolova because he fears conflicts with the Philharmonic and possible scandals might compromise his contract negotiations.  


Mr. Holender had scheduled an appointment with Ms. Nikolova on December 12th, but cancelled shortly before it was to be held.  His office said they would reschedule it.  It has been a week since then, and so far they haven't set a new date.  


December 21, 2006  

The audition to replace Ms. Nikolova was held yesterday, but no one won the audition.  The jury decided that none of the candidates were qualified. 


Now it is even more ironic that they have fired a violinist that the section still wants in the orchestra when they can't even find a replacement.  They would not even let her re-audition.  


Since the two first violin positions are still free, yet another audition must be held.  The big question is whether or not Ms. Nikolova will want to re-audition, and whether she will be invited.  Will they use the new auditions rules to exclude her?  What will Mr. Holender have to say if she is once again excluded from the audition?  He has already spoken very clearly about the "stink" he senses surrounding the whole situation.  


And most of all, how could one possibly expect that the Trial Year Jury would treat Ms. Nikolova fairly if she did re-audition?  The screen is removed for the last round.


Ms. Nikolova's supporters in the orchestra are being put under massive pressure not to speak to the press.  It has been difficult to keep everyone quiet, because the orchestra is very divided.  Many musicians have been speaking out.  The orchestra's usual secrecy seems to have developed more holes than Swiss cheese.  Austrians love to talk about their Kunst und Kultur, and about the cultural politics surrounding it.  If the functionaries were not doing some questionable things, they would probably not be so concerned with secrecy.


And finally some positive news.  A woman won the oboe audition yesterday, though I do not yet know her name.  It is unusual for women to enter the wind section of an orchestra before it has ten or twelve women string players.  The Wiener oboe is not used anywhere else.  The new oboist is probably well-known to the orchestra, and has likely studied with its members.  Will she pass her trial year?  Will she complete the tenure requirement and become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic?  Only when these questions are answered, will we know this is a completely positive development.


It should be remembered that 66% of the women hired have either been fired or had their entry into the Philharmonic delayed.  Will the new oboist be used as an alibi against the other women the orchestra has already abused?


When I learn more about her, I will post the information here.


March 2, 2007


The new woman oboist hired by the Vienna State Opera is 25 year-old Helene Kenyeri.  She is a recent graduate of the Vienna Conservatory.  You can read a little about her here.  And here is her picture:



Congratulations to Ms. Kenyeri!


Two additional women won temporary contracts as substitutes with the State Opera Orchestra:


Karin Meissl, 23, percussion.
Konstanze Brosch, 27, Oboe.


This means that at times the oboe section might have two women in it, a very unusual situation for an orchestra with only four women with regular, permanent contracts.


This is also an example of how women's activists such as Regina Himmelbauer have been of great service to the cultural life of Austria, and the preservation of the Vienna
Philharmonic's unique sound.  The Wiener oboe is not played anywhere else in the world outside of Austria.  It characterizes the special sound of the orchestra more than almost any other instrument.   Austria is a very small country, which greatly reduces the pool of candidates, especially for such a unique instrument.  Without access to women players, the Vienna Philharmonic would not have been able to find a genuinely qualified new member to play the Wiener oboe. 


March 2, 2007


Justin Davidson, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, has written an excellent commentary about the Vienna Philharmonic's employment practices for Newsday.  It is one of the best I have read about the social issues surrounding the orchestra.  Mr. Davidson's argument that the true tradition of the Vienna Philharmonic is much more one of innovation than tradition is very interesting.  It was only after the orchestra’s Nazification during WWII that it became increasingly associated with conservatism and tradition.  It would be worthwhile if the orchestra could somehow rediscover its history of innovation.


March 2, 2007


I have seen several commentaries that say the Vienna Philharmonic doesn't receive subsidies from the Austrian government.  That is incorrect.


The Vienna Philharmonic does receive public funding from the Austrian Federal Government. Those who read German can find the details on the orchestra’s own website here.

From 1962 to 1996 the subsides ranged from 1.8 to 2.7 million Euros. The VPO renounced subsides from 1997 to 2001 in protest against the government’s attempts to force it to accept women. The orchestra began accepting subsides again in 2002. Since then they have received on average about 2.15 million Euros per year (2.83 million dollars.) 

By funding an orchestra that discriminates against women, the Austrian Federal Government is breaking both its own and European Union law.


March 5, 2007

In the last week there have been three very interesting radio boradcasts about the Gender Politics of the Vienna Philharmonic and Women in Orchestras:


WDR5:  Ein "herr-liches" Orchester (Auf Deutch, 20 minutes)

Über die schwierige Lage von Frauen bei den Wiener Philharmonikern


Deutschlandfunk:  Die Schürzenjäger von Wien (Auf Deutsch, 50 minutes) 

Sinfonische Orchester und die Gleichberechtigung


WNYC:  The Vienna Philharmonic's Glass Ceiling (In English, ca. 10 minutes)


The WDR5 program is very pointed, and at times absolutely hilarious.  I really recommend it.  The DLF program is very detailed and very factual.  It contains many very interesting interviews with women in German orchestras.  The WNYC interview is shorter, an informal discussion with a music critic who explains why he does not want to attend any more of the Vienna Philharmonic's concerts until they begin genuinely admitting women.


Click here to find links where you can listen to the broadcasts.



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