Vienna’s Volksoper gets its first female director

Dutch opera director Lotte de Beer takes over on Thursday as artistic director of the Volksoper opera house in Vienna, the first woman to hold the post.

Vienna's Volksoper gets its first female director
Dutchwoman Lotte de Beer, the new director of the Vienna Volksoper opera house, poses for pictures in Vienna, Austria on August 27, 2022. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

De Beer, 41, won the International Opera Award in the Newcomer category in 2015 and has been sought after ever since.

She co-founded Amsterdam company Operafront, which seeks to introduce opera to young people, and told AFP in 2021 she hoped to use her five-year stint at the helm of the Volksoper to “set my own rules”.

“I want to build bridges,” she wrote on the opera house website.

“I want to leave behind this strange distinction between high art and entertainment and instead make music theatre that connects.”

Art, she said, was more relevant now than ever.

“Music theatre that touches the head, heart and belly in equal measure plays an important role in coping with the turbulent times we are all living in right now.”

De Beer plans to stage several projects per year, including, this autumn, a fusion of Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanthe and his ballet, the Nutcracker. 

The Volksoper opened in 1898 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph I’s accession to the throne.

It is less high-brow than the Vienna National Opera House and stages operetta and musicals in addition to opera and dance.

It has had 23 artistic directors over 124 years.

De Beer takes over from Germany’s Robert Meyer, who led the theatre for a record 15 years.

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All churned up: Austrian oat milk ad draws farmers’ ire

Austrian farmers were left fuming after an advert for winter tourism featured oat -instead of cow's- milk, in what industry representatives sourly slammed as an "affront to Tyrolean farmers".

All churned up: Austrian oat milk ad draws farmers' ire

The commercial was to promote Austria’s western Tyrol region, renowned for its rolling pastures and rugged peaks that are a magnet for winter sports lovers.

In the ad, a hairy, horned mythical figure called “Percht” — known for driving out winters in Alpine folklore — is invited into a Tyrolean mountain hut for a warming drink after returning a young girl’s glove that he found in the snow.

But it is the next scene that had farmers in a froth — when the “Percht” creature orders a “latte macchiato with oat milk”.

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“It can’t be that a promotional video for Tyrol features ‘oat milk’ and not the very own, genuine Tyrolean milk,” Josef Hechenberger, president of the Tyrolean Chamber of Agriculture said in a statement.

The ad is an “affront to Tyrolean farmers”, he added. 

Another regional Chamber of Agriculture and the Tyrolean Farmers’ Union had also voiced complaints, arguing that dairy-related names such as “oat milk” were banned by the European Union in adverts because they do not contain dairy products.

The uproar led to the advert which runs just over one minute long being pulled.

Tourism marketing organisation Tirol Werbung that commissioned the promotional video said the aim was to portray local hospitality and open-mindedness.

But it acknowledged that the underlying message that every preference and lifestyle is welcome in Tyrol had been lost on some viewers.

The ad called “Come as you are — in Tyrol everybody is welcome” was originally designed to cater to “modern, urban” clientele, for whom “climate protection is important” and who might be lactose-intolerant, Tirol Werbung’s communications chief Patricio Hetfleisch told AFP Thursday.

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The punchline was that “every lifestyle and each preference, ranging from gender to food” would be welcomed with hospitality in Tyrol, Hetfleisch said.

“Obviously the punchline could not be decoded by some,” he added.

The commercial only aired for around 10 days before being suspended earlier this week due to criticism, Hetfleisch said.

Hashtags and memes surrounding the row are still trending in Austria.

It was originally shot in 2019 and produced by a Berlin-based creative film production agency.