VPO Rejects Government Offer

Sent to various lists August 23, 1999


Earlier this month the VPO held an orchestra meeting which lasted several hours.   As usual, it was reported to be tense and emotional.  The Austrian government has offered the orchestra 30 million Schillings (ca. 2 million dollars) for its services at various governmental functions on condition that the orchestra offer equal employment opportunity to women.  The orchestra rejected the offer.[1] 


In effect, this confirms that the Vienna Philharmonic has reneged on its agreement to admit women into the orchestra.  It has been  three years since they agreed to admit women, but none have been employed--excepting women harpists which they have always used.  They are now openly rejecting subvention from the government connected to the employment of women.


The Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Vienna Philharmonic also receives special pensions which are more lucrative than the normal governmental pensions in Austria.  The government has now changed this policy.  All new members of the Opera Orchestra/VPO will receive only normal pensions.  The orchestra Chairman, Clemens Hellsberg, has said this will create a "two class system" within the orchestra: the older members with special pensions, and the younger members with normal pensions.  Apparently it does not concern him that the discrimination against women is a much more egregious two class system.


Further meetings are scheduled.  A more complete update will be in the next issue of the IAWM Journal, but I wanted to add this latest news.  Thanks to Regina Himmelbauer for her assistance.


William Osborne

[1] "Kein Okay der Philharmoniker zu Wittmanns Angebot", _Der Standard_ (August 4, 1999).