One of the stranger ongoing legal cases of the music world was resolved last Thursday - and seems set to clear the way for a new opera house in the bijou Swiss town of Lucerne, the site of one of Europe's finest concert halls and a renowned festival.
A flexible-space opera house was planned for the city years ago - an idea spearheaded by Pierre Boulez, no less - and one of the festival's major donors, Christof Engelhorn, pledged more than $100m to back its creation, but died before the donation could be made from his family's trust in Bermuda (the fortune was made in the pharmaceutical industry). The festival sued for the money, in Bermuda - and now it has won. Here's a little more background on the case. There's a long way to go still, of course, and the Salle Modulable's next hurdle will be a feasibility study. But it's a valuable green light and the space will be watched with interest.
Not that one needs an excuse to visit Lucerne, of course (pictured); ever since 1938, when the festival launched as an antidote to the hideous developments in Nazi-era Bayreuth and Salzburg, it has been a flourishing hub of first-class musical activity. The first concerts were held on the lawn outside Tribschen, the former home of Richard Wagner.
Monday, December 08, 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
If you're in the know about the Lucerne Festival, you may have heard that its director Michael Haefliger's plans to build a new opera house, the Salle Modulable, for the Swiss lakeside town looked set to turn into fairy dust upon the withdrawal of necessary funds. This has been challenged in court and the opera house has won. We hope that in due course opera amid the mountains will become as vital a highlight of the European musical calendar as Lucerne's existing festivals are today.
Salle Modulable Foundation wins its case: withdrawal of funds was unlawful
Lucerne/Hamilton, 21 February 2014 – The judge of the competent court in Bermuda has ruled that the withdrawal of funding for the Salle Modulable in Lucerne took place unlawfully and that Butterfield Trust (Bermuda) Limited must fulfil its obligations.
The Salle Modulable Foundation has won its case before the Supreme Court of Bermuda: the withdrawal of funding for the Salle Modulable by Butterfield Trust (Bermuda) Ltd. (Butterfield) in October 2010 has been ruled unlawful. The presiding judge has found that a contract of donation governed by Swiss law was entered into in the summer of 2007 and that Butterfield must meet its obligations arising from it. If the Salle Modulable Foundation submits a feasibility study, adapted to the new circumstances, for a venue with flexible arrangements for experimental music theatre in the City of Lucerne, Butterfield is bound to honour the promise of finance it originally made in the amount of up to CHF 120 million. The feasibility study will be updated and adapted as part of the New Theatre Infrastructure Lucerne (NTI) Project.
Butterfield’s counter-claim was rejected in its entirety. The judge has not yet made any final pronouncement on other questions. This will entail a further hearing. The judgment may yet be referred to the Bermuda Appeal Court.
Hubert Achermann, Chairman of the Salle Modulable Foundation, says: “Naturally we are very pleased with the outcome and believe that justice has been done. Our expense and effort have paid off, and I thank everyone who has supported us in these lengthy proceedings. Still, we remain far from our objective. First, we expect the opposing party to accept this judgment and desist from further time-consuming and costly legal proceedings. Then we have to produce an updated and authoritative feasibility study, in co-operation with the Canton and City. For this purpose, we can build on the work done so far. We have a fine opportunity to create something unique for Lucerne, as the City of Culture and Festivals, and for its institutions, not least in memory of the great patron, Christof Engelhorn.“