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Regime change at Madrid's Teatro Real

26 September 2013, Madrid, Spain

Gerard Mortier (above) will stay on as an artistic advisor to his successor Joan Matabosch (below)
Gerard Mortier (above) will stay on as an artistic advisor to his successor Joan Matabosch (below)

(Photos: Javier del Real)

Madrid’s Teatro Real has announced the immediate appointment of Joan Matabosch as the company’s new artistic director, ousting Gerard Mortier three years before his current contract was due to expire.

The decision followed hot on the heels of a row sparked by the Belgian-born Mortier, who suggested in a published interview that no Spaniard would be good enough to succeed him. He further warned that if the government imposed a candidate of whom he disapproved, he wouldn't see out his term.

Mortier, 69, told El País: ‘The government wants a Spaniard. That's no problem for me, so long as they're a good candidate. The important thing is not their nationality, but their quality … [but] I don't see any good candidates in Spain … this country has a number of extraordinary museum directors. But it's not the same in opera. There is no tradition here.’

Mortier took charge of Madrid’s opera house in 2010 after resigning early from his previous post at the New York City Opera. Known for shaking things up wherever he goes, his artistic agenda in Madrid has been characteristically bold, including staging Messiaen’s Saint François d'Assise and commissioning world premieres such as Glass’s The Perfect Amercian and (coming up in January) Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.

Matabosch, who has held the post of artistic director at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu since 1997, said his goal at the Teatro Real would be ‘not to copy literally what Mortier has done, but it will be a project of continuity rather than trying to do the opposite and undermine the extraordinary legacy that he has left in Madrid.’

Matabosch will combine his existing role in Barcelona with his new role in Madrid for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Mortier has been named as an artistic advisor to the Teatro Real, though the exact nature of his future involvement with the company remains unclear – a situation further complicated by the recent revelation that he is undergoing treatment for cancer.


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