The visionary head of the Teatro Real Gerard Mortier is fighting cancer, he has revealed as he prepares for his fourth season in charge. He has already undergone surgery, and expects to be treated at a German clinic until at least the end of November. His interviewer in El Pais describes him as "noticeably thinner".
In what sounds like a grisly twist, Mortier is assisting the powers that be to find his successor. In fact it's independent of his diagnosis. It was agreed long ago that he wouldn't seek a second term when his contract expires in 2016, at which time he will be 73.
But some things don't change. Once again, Mortier finds himself in conflict with his employers. Mortier has drawn up a shortlist of six candidates to carry on his progressive vision for Madrid. They are Viktor Schoner, artistic director of the Bavarian State Opera, Alexander Neef of Toronto, Serge Dorny from Lyon (who appears ready to put pen to paper with Dresden), John Berry of ENO (take him! take him!), Pierre Audi of De Nederlandse Opera, and Bernd Loebe, the Frankfurt Intendant.
The government, on the other hand, want a Spanish boss. Their shortlist is just three names long: Antonio Moral (Mortier's predecessor at the Teatro Real), Pedro Halffter (a conductor who is artistic director of the Maestranza in Seville) and Joan Matabosch (head of Barcelona's Liceu). Mortier can find compelling arguments against all of them.
Mortier says he won't see out his contract if he doesn't agree with the candidate eventually chosen. Otherwise, he contemplates his successor assisting him from 2014 before taking on the role full-time. That option would suit Schoner or Neef, both of whom have worked for Mortier in the past.
Mortier has already pretty much planned out the 2014-15 season, and is well on his way with 2015-16 too.
Here's a peek at what's coming up.
Don Carlo directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Teodor Currentzis.
La Traviata, a Bob Wilson production conducted by Alejo Pérez .
El público, a new opera by Mauricio Sotelo based on a Lorca text. It will be directed by Roberto Castro and conducted by Pablo Heras Casado.
Die Frau ohne Schatten. This will come in 2015-2016 season, possibly with the Fura dels Baus directing.
El otro, a new opera by Alberto Posadas, also for 2015-2016.
Parsifal. The Salzburg Easter Festival production, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
Unfortunately, Mortier's Ring project, for which his original contract was extended by one year, has been shelved.