Last Monday, 20 September, the Nederlandse Reisopera presented its programme for the upcoming season. The speaker was Josef Fuchs, who was introduced as the company's new artistic director by its general director a.i. Nina Hiddema. A festive occasion, which caused slight surprise in the small gathering (a few journalists and some colleagues). In an interview (to be listened to below), Fuchs says that he had actually been in the role of artistic director for a few years, because Nicolas Mansfield, his then boss, was "more concerned with the lobby".
Yet the programme and its still-new general manager were considered more important. So it can be heard in the audio report I made of it:
But so there is shit to do. In the dark car parks of the internet (aka Facebook and Whatsapp), the chain-smoking people morphed, and not the least of them. For instance, they appeared quite upset about the appointment of sorcerer's apprentice Josef Fuchs as artistic director of the country's second Opera House. Why had no figurehead been appointed, as we have a few here in the country? We mention heavyweights like Anthony Heidweiller, a Jorinde Keesmaat or Sjaron Minailo. Even famous foreigners like Mary Miller of the Opera in Bergen, Norway, could just be in the market for the prestigious position. Yet the Nederlandse Reisopera preferred to take someone from its own stable.
Now there is something to be said about that, because this extremely engaging man (listen to the podcast), was himself on the application committee, which had to decide who would be the successor to his artistic boss. So somehow nobody was suitable (we don't know who all applied), so in haste it was just decided to appoint the assistant as the new leader.
Not a big name, then, and it remains to be seen whether subsidisers like the Culture Council are really happy about this. When the uproar surfaced via Facebook today, it took about an hour for the Nederlandse Reisopera to respond. The webpage containing the staff's positions disappeared from the net, only to reappear moments later. With a different design, but otherwise the same names and functions. Except one: behind Joseph Fuchs' name was no longer 'Artistic Director/Artistic Director', but 'Deputy Director of Artistic Affairs'.
That looks very different. Whether that removes the unrest? I fear the opposite has been proved. Because what potential artistic figurehead is now going to become general director, with a 'deputy artistic affairs' under him? It is to be expected that - as with the NPO - someone with rich management experience from the business world will be sought.
Or did they have a 'function elsewhere' in mind for someone from The Hague?