A major scandal is brewing in Mozart's home town. Austrian newspapers today report that both Salzburg Festival technical director Klaus Kretschmer and former Salzburg Easter Festival Managing Director Michael Dewitte have been implicated in a financial scandal said to have cost the Easter Festival €650,000 per year.
Last year, concerns about the increasingly high costs of the Easter Festival (which is run as a separate enterprise from the main summer festival) prompted its backers to organise a special audit at the end of 2009. The Kurier reports that "financial inconsistencies and excessively high administrative expenses were discovered, whereupon Michael Dewitte was dismissed without notice in mid-December". The full scope of the problem has not yet been revealed, but one of the accusations is that Dewitte pocketed €50,000 commission on a €1m Easter Festival sponsor payment. It's not clear from newspaper reports whether all of the €650,000 per annum 'office expenses' total is considered suspicious, or just part of it.
Kretschmer meanwhile was summarily dismissed a few days ago by his employer, the main Salzburg Festival. It is alleged that in supplying his expertise to the Easter Festival, he effectively charged them twice for work he did - once via the summer festival, and once via fees paid to his own company. In an interview with Salzburger Nachrichten, conducted via his lawyer [always a giveaway], he claims he has done nothing wrong. Asked about the fees he received for his Easter Festival work, he makes the classic comment that "Bill Gates would regard the number as small".
Eliette von Karajan, widow of the Easter Festival's founder Herbert von Karajan, is still heavily involved with the festival and personally made a large donation in 2009 to secure its future. She commented "I am deeply disappointed. I could absolutely not have dreamed that such a thing could happen to 'my' Festival".