Alberto Vilar

A city of 50,000 in southwestern Germany is basking in its reputation as a music center. Baden-Baden opened Germany's largest opera house in 1988, with a capacity of 2500. This year's top events include the premiere of a staging of Mozart's "Idomeneo" during the Herbert von Karajan Festival, which takes place from June 9 to 21. However, the success has come at a price. Only a few months after its opening, the so-called "Festspielhaus" was near bankruptcy because there were not enough visitors coming to the remote city of Baden-Baden. The government stepped in to rescue the hall that had initially been privately funded, but its survival was probably not secured until a few weeks ago. On March 31st, five private donors established the "Cultural Foundation Festspielhaus Baden-Baden," with a start capital of five million German marks. Four donors are German, and the fifth lives in New York. Alberto Vilar says he distributes 15 to 20 million dollars per year among opera houses and other music institutions all over the world. The unusual generosity of this philanthropist is the result of a suppressed childhood dream, as Georg Hirsch reports.

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