Salzburg Festival Responds to Allegations of Unpaid Work

By Francisco Salazar

The Salzburg Festival has released a statement denying the allegations that workers were unpaid for their work.

The Festival said, “the Salzburg Festival denies the accusations levied by Mr. Ablinger-Sperrhacke, among others, in the press release dated November 11, 2022. The facts are as follows: the Salzburg Festival was the only major festival in the world to take place in the summer of 2020, thereby giving hundreds of artists employment. The Festival’s directorate also managed to present almost all the productions originally planned for 2020 during the 2021 or 2022 seasons. To this end, modification contracts were concluded by mutual agreement with the soloists, choruses, and orchestras.”

The statement added, “for the productions ‘Intolleranza’ and ‘Boris Godunov,’ both originally scheduled for 2020, the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus) had organized rehearsals in Vienna during the spring. For these rehearsals, the Salzburg Festival’s directorate and the Konzertvereinigung agreed on an advance fee which was paid out immediately. The Festival has had a framework agreement with the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor for decades, according to which the Konzertvereinigung selects its singers in its sole artistic discretion and ensures that the chorus is adequately rehearsed in Vienna. Therefore, it is outside the Salzburg Festival’s sphere of influence to determine which choristers are employed for which productions. Furthermore, the framework agreement features detailed regulations covering the remuneration of the Konzertvereinigung’s regular choristers and such additional choristers as may be necessary. For rehearsals and performances taking place in Salzburg, these choristers are employed with social benefits by the Festival and remunerated accordingly.”

It concluded stating, “Following the 2020 season, the Festival agreed its own coronavirus regulations with artists’ managements, orchestras and choruses, which governed advance payments in case of potential future cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, the framework agreement with the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor was also amended. This now includes a fee for the preparatory rehearsals in Vienna which are undertaken independently by the chorus, a fee which is also to be paid out in case of subsequent cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, the accusations are entirely unfounded.”

The festival’s response comes after lawyer George Strait made an announcement during a press conference in Vienna stating that he would file a legal complaint on behalf of several artists for the lack of payment to hundreds of workers by the festival. Tenor Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke also told the that the Festival owed freelance artists around 10 million euros for canceled productions in 2020.