A planned appearance at the Kennedy Center next fall by the Vienna State Opera under conductors including Herbert von Korajan, Leonard Bernstein and Karl Boehm has already hit a snag.
The visit, not yet officially announced, would be the first trip to the United States by the company, one of the world's finest, and the opera would perform only in Washington. After the appearances here, the pit orchestra - which is the Vienna Philharmonic - would tour in other cities.
Agreements on reportory and the signing of a contract had been expected when Kennedy Center Executive Director Martin Feinstein visits Vienna in early October. But a snag arose this week when Egon Seefehlner, the opera's director, called Feinstein with the news that $440,000 to cover travel expenses had been withdrawn from the opera's proposed budget for next year. The proposal had been that the Austrians would pay for the trip and the Kennedy Center would pay the company a fee on costs and per-diem expense while here, Feinstein said.
The budget cut is the result of increased expenses affecting all Western European governments as a result of quadrupled oil prices in the wake of the Arab oil embargo. The Vienna Opera, which maintains probably the largest active repertory of any company, had a budget of $22 million in 1974 and is 75 per cent state-subsidized.
Feinstein said he will not be able to fully assess the situation until he reaches Vienna. He said that during a recent Washington visit Austrian Channcellor Bruno Kreisky had assured him that the money would come through.
But Kennedy Center Chairman Roger L. Stevens said he understands that "a bit of maneuvering" is possible. And it was understood that officials at the Austrian Embassy are optimistic about an accommodation.
Among the productions planned are Beethoven's "Fidelio" under Bernstein, Strauss' "Ariadne auf Naxos" under Boehm and a concert verison of Verdi's "Don Carlos" under Karajan. Also, orchestra concerts both with and without chorus are being discussed, says Feinstein.
If the negotiations are successful, it will mark the third time the Kennedy Center has engaged a major European opera company for exclusive appearances here. The others were Milan's La Scala and the Berlin Opera! The only other North American performances by the Vienna company were in Montreal at Expo '67.
The company would arrive next Sept. 11 with a force of 325. Opening night would be in three of four days and the performances would go on for about two weeks. The trip across the Atlantic requires the transport of between 20 and 30 large crates of sets and costumes.
This financial situation differs considerably from the occasion in 1976 when La Scala canceled its engagement here, because of the Iira's devaluation, on less than 6 months' notice (with subscription tickets already sold).
After almost two months of shuttle diplomacy by Feinstein and fund-raising by Stevens, that situation was saved, and La Scala opened on time of raves. Salvaging the La Scala trip required about $1.4 million from the Italian government and from American private sources.
In the present case, Feinstein said that all performers already committed to the Vienna Opera's performances here have been asked to keep their dates open.