Dominique Meyer defends himself in a candid interview with an Austrian magazine.

Dominique Meyer, the Director of the Vienna State Opera, has finally broken his silence following the sudden and publically acrimonious resignation of maestro Bertrand De Billy last week. De Billy quit just one week after the similarly abrupt departure of the Opera’s principal conductor Franz Welser-Möst but Meyer has accused the French conductor of having effectively thrown in the towel over a year ago.

Losing two high profile and internationally in-demand conductors in such a short amount of time has been a source of embarrassment and controversy for the State Opera, with replacements for many of the upcoming performances still to be announced. Despite an otherwise successful past season at the Staatsoper, with full houses and glowing reviews, Meyer’s reputation has been badly tarnished by a PR disaster, which was ignited after De Billy launched a scathing attack on the Director in an interview with the Kurier Newspaper on September 16.

Dominique Meyer

Responding to claims of “disloyalty” and a failure to “support” De Billy, Meyer said “I cannot understand these insulting allegations”. In a probing interview with Profil Magazine (given in German with excerpts translated here), Meyer claims De Billy “threw in the towel” following an irreconcilable disagreement during the rehearsals for the State Opera’s production of Lohengrin earlier this year. 

“At the time I tried everything to reach an agreement,” says Meyer. “I came to the conclusion that I should no longer risk De Billy conducting premieres at the State Opera. This was not a crazy decision, but a sensible one”. However despite this disagreement Meyer seems to have been shocked by the aggressive interview given by De Billy following his departure. “We went into the summer season at peace. Now these allegations. I cannot understand where they’ve come from.”

The Vienna State Opera House, the ‘Wiener Staatsoper”

Meyer refused to be drawn on the specifics of why Welser-Möst had also decided to leave his position as General Music Director of the State Opera, instead offering an evasive response when asked about rumors of disputes and grievances going back several years. “I’m going to say one thing and then close the door [on this subject] forever. If someone is given a slap, they get one back – and then you pay the price for it for years. This is a price the State Opera should not have to pay.”

Going on, Meyer seemed to wish to leave the door open in the future for Welser-Möst, a significantly warmer attitude than that exhibited towards De Billy. “I certainly hope that Welser-Möst will one day come back to our house,” he said. “This is where he belongs.”