Conductor Bertrand de Billy has walked out of the new Vienna State Opera Lohengrin just days before the premiere. After objecting to a third act cut requested by director Andreas Homoki during rehearsals, he asked Intendant Dominique Meyer to broker a compromise. But when Klaus Florian Vogt pitched in on Homoki's side, de Billy said he felt "let down".
It's not clear exactly what was disputed, but it could be an add-on to Lohengrin’s In fernem Land monologue. Wagner himself cut this tenor-punishing, dramatically redundant extra at the time of the premiere, and it's generally left out today. When Semyon Bychkov incorporated it into his recent ROH outing, he thought it might be the first time it had been sung at Covent Garden.
However "It's no longer about cuts, but mutual respect and cooperation," de Billy said. "There is a line, and it has been crossed."
The production was originally planned for Christian Thielemann, who had to pull out when he took over the Salzburg Easter Festival. To step into Thielemann's shoes, De Billy had to cancel a Parsifal in Munich and a Salome in Hamburg.
Meyer dismissed the dispute as "about two minutes of music in an opera which is four and a half hours long. " Mikko Franck will now conduct it.