Tulln’s towering talent

The journey Egon Schiele has undertaken in his short life has been nothing short of miraculous. “Ich ewiges Kind. Das Leben des Egon Schiele” is taking us back in time to Austria around 1900, a period of poverty and starvation under a glamorous surface.

Gregor Mayer recounts not just Schiele’s stormy relationship with lover Wally Neuzil and how Gustav Klimt and other pioneering artists of the era inspired him. The author also takes a closer look at the famed painter’s childhood in the Lower Austrian town of Tulln: observing arriving and departing trains from a windowsill, becoming a notorious troublemaker at school, trying to cope with his father’s death.

Mayer has analysed numerous letters and publications to illustrate how Schiele became an outstandingly innovative and truly game-changing artist. Schiele created a completely new kind of nude studies and self-portraits. Painting with urgency and passion, the artist was constantly confronted with financial bottlenecks and sexual offence accusations. He was eventually incarcerated for more than three weeks.

Schiele – who died from the Spanish flu just days before the end of World War One – is still one of the most powerful assets of Vienna’s holidaymaking business as thousands visit the Leopold Museum and the Belvedere gallery each week where a substantial part of his phenomenal legacy is on display.

Ich ewiges Kind. Das Leben des Egon Schiele
By Gregor Mayer
Published by Residenz Verlag (www.residenzverlag.at)


Swiss spies, Sacher cake … and anti-Semitism

It was a pivotal moment for Austrian baking traditions when a young apprentice had to step up and creative something extraordinary to please notorious Chancellor Klemens von Metternich. Franz Sacher boldly took this opportunity of a lifetime to create a chocolate cake which has become a globally celebrated delicacy.

The copyright quarrel concerning the original recipe of Vienna’s Sachertorte is one of the finest parts of Charles E. Ritterband’s new book “Grant und Grandezza”. The Swiss journalist reflects on his experiences with Austrian mentality – this obscure concoction of charming courtesy and thorough grumpiness – ever since he settled in Vienna nearly 20 years ago.

Ritterband can be a dazzlingly entertaining writer when he tries to analyse the characteristics of the average citizen of Vienna: unfriendly and dissatisfied, but at the same time aware of the outstanding infrastructure of the city – from its excellent tap water to the magnificent cultural opportunities. Ritterband also proves being a sagacious connoisseur of life in (upper class) Vienna when musing about winning over the city centre’s infamously eccentric waiters.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung journalist certainly has a point as he meticulously documents the most recent anti-Semitic scandals involving high-ranking representatives of government party FPÖ. He does not shy back from underlining the dark legacy of Austria in World War Two including repression and persecution of the local Jewish community.

However, this is probably not what readers came for. They are without a doubt longing for other subjects when a book named “Grant und Grandezza” has a caricature depicting a grumpy fellow on its cover.

Thankfully Ritterband provides enough material to please them – going to the opera with his Viennese grandmother, a bizarre Swiss-Austrian espionage controversy, sarcastic analysis of Austrian meals, plans to get Austrian charm on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Subjects as these are certainly the special appeal of “Grant und Grandezza”.

The only lamentable aspect is that the terribly vapid caricatures of Michael Pammesberger cannot keep up with the author’s wit.

Grant und Grandezza. Randbemerkungen zu Österreich
By Charles E. Ritterband
Published by Ueberreuter (www.ueberreuter-sachbuch.at)

Exit trolls

A play documenting an election frontrunner’s inner struggles is about to hit the stage for one last time at Vienna’s leading theatre.

“Der Kandidat” (Le Candidat) by Gustave Flaubert from 1874 portrays Mr Russek, a shrewd retired banker who decides to engage in politics in a desperate attempt to earn recognition from friends, family and enemies. After having accepted one party’s offer, the notorious egomaniac secretly agrees on a deal with a rival faction.

Audiences have been spellbound as leading actor Gregor Bloeb, Sabine Haupt and Sebastian Wendelin prove being on top of their game in a play which could not be more relevant.

Populists who got that I’m-just-like-you quality voters really seem to appreciate have sent shockwaves through Europe’s moderate political establishment. Donald Trump’s US election triumph was somewhat of a pivotal moment in times of aggressive campaigning and the widespread determination to produce attention-grabbing stories aiming at tarnishing political competitors’ reputation.

Visit http://www.burgtheater.at for information on ticket availability for the performance of “Der Kandidat” this Thursday (9th of May) and other acclaimed Burgtheater productions such as Ödön von Horvath’s “Glaube Liebe Hoffnung” and “Die Ratten” starring Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Marie-Luise Stockinger and Roland Koch.

Photo: © Georg Soulek / Burgtheater

The long and winding road

The incoming Burgtheater director has underlined his intention to bring in some fresh spirit.

“I’m interested in the Burgtheater’s long-term future. The decisive question will be how such a tradition-rich institution can gain some new, fresh meaning,” Martin Kusej told magazine Profil.

The Viennese city centre stage is still regarded as one of the finest places for performance in Central Europe. However, a soaring number of critics have recently claimed that numerous venues in Switzerland and Germany have managed to catch up. Kusej’s task is considered challenging but doable.

Kusej, 57, pointed out: “I’ve started preparing my five-year term calm and professionally. It will be a long, long walk.”

The Carinthian will take over from Karin Bergmann in autumn. Bergmann managed to end the full-scale conflict which had broken out concerning spending volumes and artistic direction.

Kusej reportedly managed to convince award-winning movie actress Birgit Minichmayr to return to the Burgtheater while several popular current members of the theatre’s line-up including Christiane von Poelnitz and Petra Morzé must leave.

Asked by Profil whether some of the plays introduced at the theatre during Bergmann’s term will remain on the bill in the upcoming season, Kusej said: “Yes. I need a solid foundation for my repertoire. There are several popular plays which I do like. Around 13 productions are set to stay.”

>> http://www.burgtheater.at

The boy is mine

One of the most popular plays by famed playwright Johann Nepomuk Nestroy is to be performed for the 50th time at Vienna’s Burgtheater.

“Liebesgeschichten und Heiratssachen” is a turbulent rollercoaster ride featuring a handful of notorious characters. While some of them are trying to ensure that their pristine reputation remains unaffected, others are busy backstabbing.

Nestroy was a shrewd observer of 19th century society. His hard-hitting plays have been delighting audiences with absolutely unimaginable twists and turns. Director Georg Schmiedleitner has created a thoroughly beguiling exhibition of self-centred individuals.

Television star Gregor Bloeb – who has controversially been given the leading role – is really pulling it off as quick-tempered Florian Fett. Markus Meyer – who plays Nebel, a witty crook – is also causing some show-stopping moments. Regina Fritsch and Marie-Luise Stockinger excellently muddle through this big maze of romantic confusion.

It is just a shame that the brilliant Alexandra Henkel – her “Girls & Boys” monologue is this season’s sensation – is featuring in just a vacuous supporting role in this astutely arranged two-and-a-half hour delight.

On 18th May, Schmiedleitner’s adaption of the play Nestroy penned in 1843 will be performed for the 50th time. Visit http://www.burgtheater.at to purchase your ticket.

Photo: © Georg Soulek / Burgtheater

Green-white déjà vu for Hartberg

Rapid face Hartberg another time just days after the Green-Whites celebrated a convincing away victory.

The Green-Whites performed poorly in the first half on Tuesday but upped their game to cruise past Hartberg 4-2. Due to reformed Bundesliga schedules, the tradition-rich team from Vienna play the Styrian side once more this weekend (Saturday 5pm, Allianz Stadion).

Hartberg are threatening to be a killjoy once more. In March, Markus Schopp’s team achieved a 2-2 draw in Vienna after having been 0-2 down. This result kept Rapid out of the championship playoff featuring Red Bull Salzburg, LASK and Sturm Graz among others.

Especially Thomas Murg earned praise on Tuesday – even from Rapid’s opponents. “It’s almost impossible to get a hold of him when he’s got the ball. He’s an excellent player, that’s why he’s at Rapid – the question is how much longer this is the case,” Hartberg keeper Rene Swete said in a post-match statement.

The midfield strategist – who recently named Juventus star Paulo Dybala as his idol – said: “I don’t like talking about myself. I prefer talking about the team. I think we didn’t play well in the first half. Our performance improved after the break.”

Typifying the determined player, Murg has been a joy to watch recently – despite a high percentage rate of missed chances. With seven goals, the former SV Ried ace is Rapid’s most prolific scorer this season.

Murg recently extended his contract until 2022. Confronted by Rapid Magazin with speculations concerning a possible move abroad, the 24-year-old underlined: “I’m supporting Dortmund. Joining BVB one day would be a dream come true. I also like Spanish and Italian league soccer. But now I got to focus on what’s important – and that’s Rapid.”

>> http://www.skrapid.at

>> http://www.tsv-hartberg-fussball.at

Burgtheater ‘beaten by Basel and Munich’

The Burgtheater’s reputation has dipped alarmingly, according to critics.

Der Standard claims that venues such as the Theater Basel and Munich’s Kammerspiele have gained the edge over Vienna’s most famous stage.

The newspaper also criticised Karin Bergmann – who will leave the Burgtheater shortly after having been in charge for the last five years – for not having done enough about the number of female directors and writers. According to the Viennese newspaper, just 28 women have directed plays during her term. This is a sharp contrast to their 79 male counterparts. Der Standard deplores the fact that just 16 plays were written by female authors. Ninety-one were penned by men.

Bergmann has however also earned praise from the newspaper. In its review of her term, Der Standard underscores that the Burgtheater currently has a remarkable rate of 83 per cent as far as ticket purchases are concerned. Furthermore, Bergmann managed to keep the institution from sliding back into chaos. It was anything but plain sailing when she took over from Matthias Hartmann. The repercussions of his term – from slanderous accusations against executives to financial irregularities – were felt for a long time.

“Die lächerliche Finsternis” and “Die Welt im Rücken” have been named by Der Standard as the most outstanding plays at the city-centre stage in recent years, while “Willkommen bei den Hartmanns” has been branded as “racist”.

Meanwhile, Martin Kusej has hinted that the Burgtheater could become a loud opponent of political developments in Austria and Europe. Asked by national broadcaster ORF to define his relationship with Culture Minister Gernot Blümel of the conservative ÖVP, Kusej – who will take over from Bergmann as head of the Burgtheater – explained: “We are in touch. There has been communication. But I’m sure that the minister is aware that I see certain things in a different way.”

>> http://www.burgtheater.at