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Culture minister fires Burgtheatre boss Manfred Werner

Culture minister fires Burgtheatre boss

By Samantha Mitchell,

The director of Vienna's Burgtheater is taking legal action after Culture Minister Josef Ostermayer sacked him for financial incompetence.

The decision by Ostermayer to remove Matthias Hartmann from the position of director of the Burgtheater comes after a series of scandals including the revelation of huge debts despite massive state subsidies, bookkeeping irregularities, and outrageous salaries for Hartmann and his key staff.

He was told his dismissal was with immediate effect and was ordered to clear his desk and leave the same day.

The last time a director of the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna was removed from his position was when the Nazis marched into the city in 1939.

And Hartmann has said he is not prepared to accept the decision, and has hired lawyers to launch a multi-million euro claim against Austria for wrongful dismissal. As well as the €222,000 a year salary and €52,000 that he gets for each production, he is also claiming that the unfair dismissal will have a disastrous effect on his future career.

After the Comédie Francaise, the Burgtheater in Vienna is Europe’s second-oldest theatre, and it remains one of Europe’s largest theatres and plays a seminal role in the German-speaking theatrical world.  Every season, the Burgtheater and its affiliated venues welcome approximately 400,000 theatre-goers to some 800 performances.

It was created on 14th March 1741, when the theatre manager Joseph Selliers was authorised by Empress Maria Theresa to let a vacant banqueting hall next to the Hofburg palace to theatrical companies. The theatre once saw the premiere of three Mozart operas as well as Beethoven's first symphony.

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