Thursday, June 19, 2008

Baden-Baden Festpielhaus goes private

In the heart of art-subsidizing Europe, the Baden-Baden Festpielhaus, in the Black Forest, a 2,500-seat concert hall, has found success as a nonprofit that (save for long-term payoff for the construction of the hall 10 years ago) gets not a cent of government money. It took a while. At first they just overcharged for tickets for top-drawer attractions and drew meager audiences. Then a new director (Andreas Moelich-Zebhauser) took over and started producing innovative events, and lowered ticket prices and balanced the budget. The haus has developed relationships with conductors like Valery Gergiev, Thomas Hengelbrock, Claudio Abbado and others. The NY Phil comes over every year for a concert series. The place has developed a reputation for quality, which makes it attractive to music lovers in a country where almost everything else is subsidized but (as you might expect from a bloated public-sector enterprise) "inevitably produces much mediocrity," as this NYT story puts it. The upshot is that private financing gives it more artistic freedom and incentives to be innovative in a high-quality way. There's accountability.


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