One of the points of the Schubertiade — the music festival held in a tiny Austrian village each August — is that little about its ethos changes from year to year. So when, this week, an audience member shouted at a British singer that he should “learn German” it made headlines across Europe.
The festival is a staid affair. Gone are the days when Schubert’s were the only notes allowed within the walls of the pretty wooden concert hall in Schwarzenberg, in the Bregenzerwald region of Austria. But the audience — quite a few dressed in traditional dirndl and leather — are a sober crowd. They clap, they don’t shout.
And then, out of the blue, a stoutly built member of the audience did just that, bellowing at the British tenor, Ian Bostridge: “Bitte lernen Deutsch.” Bostridge continued with his final encore and then did something equally unprecedented at Schwarzenberg — jumping off the stage to confront the heckler before marching him on to the platform and inviting him to speak. The man did not get very far: his own performance was drowned out by boos.
“I don’t believe you. You’re a liar.”
Don’t know the reference? Read this.