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The results are there to be heard. Beautifully as the ROH or ENO orchestra may play on occasion, regular attenders are aware of small imperfections, lapses of accuracy and intonation. And once people start listening out for flaws the suspension of disbelief is gone, along with the assurance that they are sitting in a world-class establishment.

This is not rocket science. Of all James Levine’s achievements in 41 years as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, the greatest is his establishment of a permanent, proud, well-paid pool of orchestra players who play as much for each other as they do for the audience. At La Scala, where an in-house academy grooms the next generation of players, the music director, Riccardo Chailly, takes the orchestra on tour as the Filarmonica della Scala. That esprit de corps, that swagger, is what gives an opera house the consistency of high performance.

Why London has refused to understand that principle is not just down to budgetary pressures. At root, it’s a question of class. In Vienna, a Philharmoniker member has social status. A principal player or concertmaster is treated in downtown cafés with respect verging on deference. Sacher’s, fully booked, will always find a table for a Philharmoniker (I can vouch for this from recent experience). The Austrian Republic requires the Vienna Philharmonic to play at presidential inaugurations. The orchestra is a premier state asset.

London’s opera houses are governed by bankers and bosses, adorned by a few relics of the landed gentry. These boards regard the orchestra and chorus as service workers, subject to contract and cuttable as required. The idea that the pit players are more important than the stars is anathema to the City’s bonus culture, risible even. When respect is denied, confidence sinks. The musicians do their best, but that’s why London can’t be like Vienna.

Which is not to say that all is as sweet as Sachertorte on the Ringstrasse. A socialist minister of culture, Thomas Drozda, has decided to interfere with the management of the opera. Drozda, a former Burgtheater executive, told the Staatsoper chief, Dominique Meyer, that he will be replaced in 2020 by a Sony record boss, Bogdan Roscic, a man with no experience in casting an opera. Meyer, an affable French-Alsatian, has over the past ten years nudged the Vienna Philharmonic towards gender equality and achieved a ticket sales record of 98.7 per cent. Roscic, confrontational to a fault, has already indicated that he wants to reduce the repertoire and, if possible, the payroll.

The Vienna Opera is entering a new age of uncertainty. Its future is taking on the authentic colour of the swirling, muddy Danube. These are testing times. Accustomed to abrupt regime change, the Philharmoniker believe they will ultimately prevail in the years ahead. One can but live in hope.

On which sombre fermata, I bring down the curtain on my Standpoint residence after five happy years. The magazine and I are moving apart, politically and creatively. It has been good to know you.

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