First Head of Berlin's Opera Foundation Resigns Following Tensions With Mayor

Classic Arts News   First Head of Berlin's Opera Foundation Resigns Following Tensions With Mayor
Michael Schindhelm, the first director of the municipal foundation established in 2004 to oversee Berlin's three opera houses, will step down next April, the Associated Press reports.

Schindhelm was appointed in late 2004 as head of the foundation, which was created to maintain Berlin's three opera houses — the Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper and Komische Oper — while cutting administrative and labor costs for the bankrupt city government.

According to the AP, Schindhelm has had an uneasy relationship with Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who was elected to a second five-year term in September. The mayor reportedly described Schindhelm's decision to leave as "a personal decision."

A statement from the mayor's office said, "It is increasingly clear that the creation of the opera foundation so far has not contributed sufficiently to solving the fundamental problems. It is now time to shape calmly and thoroughly the future of the opera landscape. It is the city government's stated aim to maintain all three opera houses."

Mayor Wowereit wants the German federal government to assume responsibility for the Staatsoper (whose music director is Daniel Barenboim, a revered figure in Berlin), because the house represents the whole country. He argues that a federal takeover would permit Berlin to dedicate more funding to the other two houses. Federal officials have resisted Wowereit's request, however, on the grounds that they already support the arts in Berlin sufficiently, spending more than $3.9 billion on culture in the city since 1999, according to the AP.

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