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Culture

Salzburg Festival's Juergen Flimm to Head Berlin State Opera

German director Juergen Flimm leaves the prestigious Salzburg Festival to become the new general manager of Berlin's famed Staatsoper. He'll face two obstacles: a cash-strapped German capital and Daniel Barenboim.

Juergen Flimm speaking

Juergen Flimm is to head Berlin's Staatsoper starting in 2010

The German-born director Juergen Flimm has been appointed to the prestigious post of manager of Berlin's showcase state opera house starting in 2010.

Flimm is currently the artistic director of the world-famous Salzburg Festival in Austria. He will replace Peter Mussback who left the Staatsoper in May due to differences over programming.

Daniel Barenboim conducting

Challenge for Flimm: Staatsoper's musical director Daniel Barenboim

Mussbach frequently clashed with the house's musical director, the Argentinian-born Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim.

Berlin's own cultural state secretary Andre Schmitz had offered the position to Flimm -- they once worked together at the Thalia theater in Hamburg. A quick conversation with Barenboim followed when Flimm coincidentally met him in New York City. The two are said to have cultivated a friendship over the years.

Berlin's city government said Monday that Flimm will take on the job by Sept. 1, 2010. He will receive a five-year contract. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit praised him as a major force in the German-speaking theater world.

Disputes in Salzburg

Actors and orchestra at 'Romeo and Juliet'--performance in Salzburg

A performace of 'Romeo and Juliet' at the world-famous Salzburg Festival

Flimm told the supervisory board of the Salzburg Festival at the beginning of December that he would not renew his contract after 2011. Now he will even leave earlier than planned.

Flimm's decision to quit came after a bitter dispute with the festival's drama chief, Thomas Oberender, over the standing of spoken theater within the month-long festival of music, opera and plays.

Inner-city rivalry

Flimm's appointment is likely to increase tension between Berlin's three opera houses, the Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper and the Komische Oper. It is a costly holdover from the city's 28-year division.

But Flimm moves back into a familiar domain: from 1999 to 2003 he headed the stage union, Deutscher Buehnenverein, which accompanied the rearrangement of Berlin's opera houses.

As the Staatsoper's new manager, Flimm will also have to guide the opera house through a period of upheaval as it undergoes a major renovation which is scheduled to begin in 2010. For about three years, all Staatsoper performances will take place at the Schillertheater in the western part of Berlin.

Berlin's Staatsoper at historic Unter den Linden boulevard

Flimm's new workplace: Berlin's Staatsoper at historic Unter den Linden boulevard

In an added statement, Flimm will be available as an advisor starting next month, and will work with interim manager Ronald Adler to plan the opera's future.


Flimm has spent much of his career in Germany, with stints at Cologne's Schauspiel theater and the country's most successful theater, the Thalia in Hamburg. Although he made his reputation with spoken theater, he began a long love affair with opera in 1978, directing productions in New York, London, Berlin, Milan, Zurich and at the prestigious Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany.

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