A year before Paris' ambitious new opera house is to open its doors, a Socialist government appointee has fired its director, prompting threats by a host of international musical talent to cancel performances.
Opera chairman Pierre Berge fired Daniel Barenboim as artistic and musical director of the multimillion-dollar complex on the Place de la Bastille, site of the prison whose storming launched the French Revolution.Berge, named to head the state-run opera by the Socialists, said he had problems with the contract Barenboim reached last year with the conservative government of then-Premier Jacques Chirac.
The chairman said, first of all, that Barenboim's $1.1-million annual salary over four years was too much money for the four months a year the 46-year-old Israeli conductor and pianist would spend in Paris.
His move prompted threats from Patrice Chereau, director of the Opera-Bastille's first production, to leave, and a host of world-class performers - including Pierre Boulez, Jessye Norman, Herbert von Karajan and Sir Georg Solti - sent a petition to Culture Minister Jack Lang saying they might cancel their performances.
"If Daniel Barenboim is not maintained as artistic and musical director, we regret to inform you that the conditions of our participation in this project are also subject to question," the petition read.
Boulez subsequently announced he would resign his post as vice president of the Association of Theaters of the Opera of Paris, headed by Berge, which helped to get the Opera-Bastille project off the ground.
"I find (people) have acted in a completely inconsistent manner and now there is the most total lunacy," he told Radio Monte Carlo.
In an interview published last Sunday in the Paris weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Berge said he was only 80 percent sure the opera house could open Jan. 10, 1990 as scheduled.
- Elaine Ganley (Associated Press)