Summer / Fall 2014
Summer / Fall 2014
The European Union and its member states strive to create a sustainable economic environment and a society low in emissions, resource-efficient and ecologically sound. Reflecting its commitment to these goals, Austria has been constantly increasing its funding for the Research & Development (R&D) and innovation sectors (2.8% of its GDP in 2014). This way, Austrian companies have been able to establish a remarkable lead in green technologies and positioned the country as one of the world leaders in ecological construction in general and in the technology of passive house building in particular.
To provide a better understanding of the matter, this issue of Austrian Information will give an inside look into the futuristic smart city projects taking place all over Austria, the country’s efforts in the fields of passive housing, including a reflection on Austria’s last year win of the Solar Decathlon, and will present 21st Austria, a successful venture that promotes and encourages constant dialogue with political, business and academic opinion leaders to strengthen the awareness of Austria and Europe as a business location, especially in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
In addition, we will feature exclusive interviews with and statements by experts in the above-mentioned fields, including Boyd Cohen, a respected urban & climate strategist, and Claus Raidl, president of the Austrian Central Bank and spokesperson of 21st Austria. For our Meet the Chef series we spoke to Michael Mikusch, owner of the Chicago-based Austrian bakery Cafe Vienna, and we also feature an interview with the Austrian Honorary Consul in Utah, Franz Kolb. We also would like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to Ms. Alice Irvin, former Editor in Chief of this publication, who has returned to Vienna, and to thank her for her guidance, her dedication and excellent work. Succeeding Ms. Irvin will be Mr.Thorsten Eisingerich, the new director of the Austrian Press & Information Service at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. We are very much looking forward to continue publishing Austrian Information, now in its 67th year. Thank you for your loyalty and dedication to this publication.
With kind regards,
Austrian Press and Information Service
Go Silicon Valley
Go Silicon Valley
The Austrian bridge to the IT center of the world
"Go Silicon Valley" is an international trade initiative by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (http:// www.en.bmwfw.gv.at) and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (http://www. wko.at). It offers selected Austrian SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) an opportunity to access the epicenter of IT innovation in Silicon Valley and its abundant sources of partnerships and risk capital. Every year, up to 18 companies are selected by a U.S. jury to spend three months in Silicon Valley at one of the partner business accelerators of the Austrian Trade Commission, Plug and Play Tech Center (http://www. plugandplaytechcenter.com) or NestGSV (http://nestgsv.com), to learn the ropes and get connected with the local business community.
Austrian participants profit immensely from the honest and constructive feedback they receive from VC (venture capital) partners, mentors and corporate development managers of top-tier tech companies, who know the ins and outs of the market. Contacts that would require months or years to cultivate from Austria happen within weeks in Silicon Valley. High-profile companies like Apple or Google become approachable once you receive personal recommendations, which are plentiful. "Go Silicon Valley" was founded in 2009 by representatives of the Austrian Trade Commission in Los Angeles. They administer the initiative, pay frequent visits to the Austrians during their stay in Silicon Valley, and conduct initial and final interviews to define and monitor goals. "It is always a pleasure to see our Austrian companies thrive in this ultra-competitive environment," says Sabine Schubert-Lee, who manages the initiative.
Now in its fifth year, the venture has already graduated over 70 companies, a fifth of which established a subsidiary in the U.S. as a result of their participation in the program. Even though every company has different goals and achievements, numerous strategic partnerships were formed and successful acquisitions took place. In 2012, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber won First Prize as the world's best Trade Promotion Organization when it entered the "Go Silicon Valley" initiative as a best practices example of innovative programs. "Many other countries have started to copy our initiative," says Deputy Trade Commissioner Tony Emsenhuber, who created the initiative and still oversees it.
Text courtesy of Austrian Trade Commission, Los Angeles
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Austrian Economist Joseph A. Schumpeter
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Austrian Economist Joseph A. Schumpeter
By Sigurd Pacher
"Surely, nothing can be more plain or even more trite common sense than the proposition that innovation [...] is at the center of practically all the phenomena, difficulties, and problems of economic life in capitalist society." So wrote the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who is often called the "father of entrepreneurship" or the "father of creative destruction," about innovation as outlined in his book "Business Cycles: Theoretical, Historical, and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process" which was first published in 1939. Innovation held a key role in Schumpeter's thinking which, again in his own words, "is the outstanding fact in the economic history of capitalist society."
Some contend that the ideas of innovation and entrepreneurship are most likely Schumpeter's most distinctive contributions to economics. Joseph Alois Schumpeter was born on February 8, 1883, in Třešť, Moravia (then part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire), a small town of 4,500 people, about 100 miles north of Vienna. His father died in a hunting accident when Schumpeter was four, and at the age of ten he moved with his mother, who had remarried to a high-ranking army officer to the imperial capital city of Vienna. He went to an elite high school before studying at the University of Vienna, from which he graduated with a doctoral degree in law in 1906.
Just five years later, after having finished his book on "The Nature and Essence of Theoretical Economics," he became professor of economics and government at the University of Chernivtsi (German: Czernowitz) in the Austrian crown land of Bukovina. (Bukovina, the most eastern province of the Habsburg Monarchy, today is part of Ukraine and Romania.) In 1911, Schumpeter became a tenured professor of political economy at the University of Graz, Austria. Shortly before the outbreak of WWI, in 1913/14, he was a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York. There, he met many highly regarded scholars such as Frank Taussig and Irving Fisher and also received an honorary doctoral degree.
In the aftermath of WWI and the break-up of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Schumpeter, at the age of 36, became Minister of Finance of the newly founded Republic of German-Austria in mid- March of 1919. (Under the provisions of the peace treaty of Saint Germain, signed on September 10, 1919, German-Austria had to change its name to Austria.) In sharp contrast to most of his compatriots, Schumpeter believed that the new Austria could survive economically without joining Germany. To restore Austria's public finances and to maintain Vienna's role as the financial center of Central Europe, he advocated for a capital levy.
Yet, after only seven months in office, having antagonized every other member of the cabinet, he had to resign from his post. Shortly thereafter, in 1921, he became the president of the private Biedermann Bank and amassed a fortune. When a severe economic crisis hit Austria in 1924, the bank collapsed and Schumpeter ended up bankrupt and was left with a mountain of debt. From 1925 to 1932, he held a chair in public finance at the University of Bonn, Germany. He then permanently moved to the United States (he became a U.S. citizen in 1939, a year after Austria had been annexed by Germany) where he taught and worked at Harvard University until his death on January 8, 1950, at the age of 66.
Schumpeter was married three times: First to Gladys Seaver, an Englishwoman, whom he later divorced, then to Anna Reisinger, an Austrian, who died in childbirth in 1926, and eventually to Elizabeth Boody, an American and fellow economist, who passed away in 1953. Schumpeter was a prolific writer. His theories and analyses have been published in more than fifteen books and pamphlets, over 200 articles, book reviews, and review articles. "Theory of Economic Development," which first appeared in 1911, is often thought to be his most original and most lasting book. He himself considered it to be his seminal work. It established his main theme on capitalism which postulates that its destructiveness is inseparable from its creativity.
Capitalism is a dynamic process of wealth creation and change, driven by innovation, not routine. Despite all its ups and downs, capitalism benefits not only the rich but all strata of society. In this book, Schumpeter also laid out the crucial role that entrepreneurs play in breaking up old structures and creating new ones. In his 1939 book "Business Cycles," he defines, "For actions which consist in carrying out innovations, we reserve the term Enterprise; the individuals who carry them out we call Entrepreneurs." Entrepreneurs, in his view, are the only ones who bring about long-term economic growth. They are not the "risk bearers," but the ones who continuously seek an innovative edge. Innovation drives progress and is itself driven by competition. It throws out the old and brings in the new. It unsettles the established order and brings with it turmoil.
"Times of innovation [...] are times of effort and sacrifice, of work for the future, while the harvest comes after," Schumpeter further observes in "Business Cycles." As entrepreneurs seek high profits, they hope to bring to the market new goods which enjoy, at least for some time, a non-competitive advantage. Thus, it appears that innovation is best carried out by (temporary) monopolies. (This also seems to be one reason why Schumpeter viewed big business in rather friendly terms.) In the long run, however, large firms – both the source and the result of successful innovation – start to dominate economic life. Over time, they become more bureaucratic and tend to constrain innovation which morphs into a matter of routine.
In the end, as Schumpeter elaborates in his book "Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy," originally published in 1942, automation and depersonalization takes root, capitalist motivation comes to a halt, and discontent rises. Intellectuals (and, contrary to Marx, not the proletariat) become the voices of disenchantment and capitalism perishes. Or, as Schumpeter put it reluctantly, "Can Capitalism survive? No. I do not think it can." Schumpeter's forecast that, due to its very success capitalism is doomed to death, has not come true by now. In fact, a quarter of a century after the fall of the Iron Curtain, capitalism has become the dominant economic force around the globe.
Even in one-party-states like China the economy is based firmly on capitalist principles. Yet, some might argue that the sub-prime banking crisis in the U.S. and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe that shook the global economy not long ago has given ample proof of the rather rocky times capitalism currently encounters. Further, five years after the end of the "Great Recession" in the U.S., the U.S. unemployment rate is still above average, thousands of homes are still "underwater," and the median household's net worth (in real terms) is below the level reached in the late 1990s. Some European nations continue to face significant economic problems, and the economic growth rates of major emerging countries seem to be slowing.
In contrast, the number of university graduates continues to rise. While in 1995, the OECD average of first-time college graduation rates was about 20%, this number has now almost doubled to roughly 40%. With capitalism in turmoil and the number of intellectuals rising, do we witness the beginning of the end of capitalism as Schumpeter feared? Even if Schumpeter has erred (so far) in predicting the end of capitalism, his ideas of innovation and entrepreneurship as the driving force behind economic growth are still valid. In his analysis, he distinguished inventions from innovations and pointed out that innovations go well beyond inventions as innovation also includes new ways of production, new products, and new forms of organization.
While inventions lay the groundwork, it needs entrepreneurs to bring them to the level of innovation and thus to the level of production and marketability. Innovation causes old technologies, skills, and equipment to become obsolete while, during the course of this process of change, it creates new ones and ensures progress and growth. Perfect competition, in contrast, is seen as less important as, by itself, it does not contribute to newness. The traditional or classical factors of production (inputs) of land, labor, and capital are also not sufficient to explain the output; it needs entrepreneurial activity.
Schumpeter’s focus was not on arriving at a (static) equilibrium, but on elaborating on the dynamic disequilibrium that is essential for capitalist markets and as such for a healthy economy. He insisted that – without innovation – there was no economic development and no wealth creation. Schumpeter had his doubts about the free market, and he was not an absolute non-interventionist like his fellow Austrians Ludwig (von) Mises and Friedrich (von) Hayek, both members of the Austrian School of Economics, but he disagreed with the systematic stabilization policy advocated by John Maynard Keynes for fear it would minimize the crucial disorder and bring progress to an untimely and premature end.
In fact, during his lifetime, Schumpeter was always overshadowed by Keynes, his contemporary (he shared with him the same birth year) and intellectual rival, who had risen to widespread eminence after the publication of his “General Theory” in 1936. There seems to be hardly any doubt that Schumpeter felt that, as his work initially received rather little acclaim, he never became (at least in the public eye and mind) the great economist that he had always aspired to be. Failure, disaster, and disappointment were key elements of Schumpeter’s later adult life. He sought glamour, but never became as renowned as Keynes. He did not create a new theory or school named after him.
He failed as both finance minister and bank president. Allegedly, he was not a good teacher either; to some of his students, he seemed unorganized and unsystematic. And late in life, he battled depression and despair. Yet, despite all those troubles and difficulties, he is said to have generally managed to display a semblance of good cheer and confidence. He had a fine sense of humor, he could be charming, and he is also said to always have behaved in public like a Continental European bon vivant. But he was also a “loner,” a controversial figure and for some an unprincipled opportunist. It seems that the time at the elite school in Vienna, during the last years of the waning Habsburg Empire, had a huge impact in shaping his character.
In no time, he imitated and mastered the manners and behaviors of his aristocratic classmates which might explain why a friend of his later remarked that he “never seemed to take anything in life seriously.” He was considered arrogant, egocentric, and cynical. He was brilliant, but also obsessive. Some called him a dandy, a snob, or a showman. For sure, Schumpeter had his part in contributing to this assessment. As the story goes, he fondly used to remark that he had had three ambitions in life: to be the world’s greatest economist, Austria’s greatest horseman, and the best lover in Vienna. In one of them, he added, he had failed, but he never elaborated any further. According to a different source, he admitted to failure only with the horses.
In any case, coming from a middle-class background, but filled with tremendous ambition, he was a man who sought glory and liked to behave like an aristocrat. With an ego as big as his, he had to be both wrong and right. No surprise the Austrian novelist Karl Kraus, internationally well-known for his masterpiece “The Last Days of Mankind,” blamed Schumpeter for a lack of convictions and once noted satirically that he had “more different views than were [even] necessary for his advancement.” And John Kenneth Galbraith remembered, “Given the choice between being right and being memorable, Schumpeter never hesitated.” In retrospect, there is no doubt that Schumpeter, a man of many interests and talents, was one of the foremost thinkers of the 20th century.
During his years at Harvard University, he taught many students who later rose to prominence. Among them, just to name a few, were Paul Samuelson, who not only served as an adviser to two U.S. Presidents, but also, in 1970, was one of the first to receive the newly created Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, and James Tobin, who, in his lifetime, served on the Council of Economic Advisors and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. In his works, Schumpeter not just focused on economics, but also explored interrelations between sociology, history, law, literature, and psychology. He liked to surprise others, he enjoyed paradoxes, and he loved to toy with ideas. Unsurprisingly, his work shows some tensions and inconsistencies.
Yet, he was a true intellectual, who unquestionably took pleasure in pursuing intellectual debates and winning intellectual battles. Like his entrepreneurial theory which is hard to fit into formal mathematical models, so is he difficult to classify under any particular school of thought. In fact, he feared becoming the orthodoxy himself. Still, his ideas on innovation and entrepreneurship which placed technological change at the core of economics have fascinated the human mind for decades and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. Or, to quote Forbes magazine which wrote in 1983, on the occasion of the centenary of Schumpeter’s birth, “Schumpeter […] had wisdom. [And] wisdom endures.”
Made in Austria
Made in Austria
The guiding principle behind sustainable construction is the awareness that the economy, ecology and society are interlocking systems.1 With its 40% share of energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the building sector throughout the EU is well ahead of traffic and industry.2 The use of new technology means that there is an enormous potential for savings and this is where the Austrian economy has a lot to offer. The brilliant success of the Austrian team in the "Solar Decathlon" competition in 2013 in Los Angeles (http://www.solardecathlon.at) shows impressively how important sustainable construction has become for the Austrian economy, and what a good reputation Austria has been able to gain in this area.
The combination of future-oriented technology, the consistent implementation of the latest scientific findings and the firm belief that future generations have to be considered in today's planning are fundamental parameters of action for many Austrian companies. Sustainable construction has many facets, and in addition to special planning, the choice of the right materials and expert workmanship, the used products must also be applied correctly. Austrian companies play a leading role in all these areas. A sustainable building is characterized by an exceptionally high ecological, economical and socio-cultural quality. The accumulation of these three aspects provides added value for the environment, but at the same time also for society.
Austrian companies are not only active in the conception of new sustainable buildings; rather it is more often the case that the energy efficiency in existing buildings can be increased to such an extent through renovation and refurbishment that the running costs are considerably reduced. In order to extensively minimize the impact of construction on the environment, Austrian building companies significantly contribute to the protection of the environment and climate with their wide range of offers – beyond complying with environmental laws and regulations and official requirements. As early as in the planning phase of construction projects, Austrian companies concentrate on the resource-friendly use of energy and raw materials and on the reduction of emissions and waste materials.
The European Union aims to improve the energy efficiency of buildings by 2020, while increasing the use of renewable energy for heating, hot water and air conditioning. 3 In EU member states alone, buildings use up 40% of the total energy: from 2020 onwards new buildings should therefore hardly need any energy for heating, hot water, ventilation and cooling. New governmental buildings should already meet these requirements from 2019 onwards. Austrian companies also play a leading role here. In the last twenty years, Austria has developed into one of the leading countries in the field of building technology.
The portfolio ranges from highly modern windows and doors to ventilation systems suitable for passive houses and automated biomass heating and solar systems. Domestic companies generate an annual turnover of around 32.6 billion Euros through environmentally oriented production and services.4 The growth driver in environmental technology and the environmental services industry are exports. While Austrian environmental technology accounted for around 50% of the turnover in foreign markets in the mid- 1990s, it is almost two thirds today. The "new" member states of the EU and the Southeast Asian region are becoming increasingly important here.
In particular, companies which produce technology to monitor the environment, technology for renewable energy and measurement and control technology, are leaders in the export markets. The proportion of renewable energy compared to the gross amount of energy consumption in Austria is exemplary. With a share of 32.2%, Austria is in third place behind Latvia and Sweden. The fields of hydro power (38.9%), solid biomass (31.5%), and district heating (10.3%) are the prime contributors to the total volume of renewable energy. The Austrian environmental technology and services industry is characterized by a very high degree of innovative activity.
Companies in the manufacturing sector have an average research intensity of two to three percent, compared to the field of environmental technology, where it is around 6.5%. Austria is also a leader in the field of environmental patents. Here, particular mention should be made of the developments in passive house technology, waste management, renewable energy technology and energy efficiency. Furthermore, special focus should be put on the state subsidy programs. The Green Electricity Act, the environmental support for companies and the climate and energy funding pools, as well as the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG – https://www.ffg.at/en) should be quoted as prime examples.
© ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA - Austrian Federal Economic Chamber Read more about Sustainable Building in Austria here: http://www.advantageaustria.org/zentral/publikationen/ae/153_Sustainable_Building_ part_1.pdf
To Victory and Beyond
Moving Forward after LISI's Success at the U.S. Solar Decathlon
To Victory and Beyond
Moving Forward after LISI's Success at the U.S. Solar Decathlon
On October 12, 2013, cheers rang through the Solar Decathlon village in Orange County Great Park as the verdict was read aloud: "The first-place winner of this Solar Decathlon, the sixth in history in the U.S., is Team Austria." Last year's biennial competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), began with the DOE selecting twenty teams from among the 130 university applicants. For the next several months, these teams prepared for the weeklong competition. In the event itself, nineteen student teams designed and built energy-efficient homes (Team Tidewater from Virginia dropped out due to funding difficulties), which were evaluated by a jury.
The overall goal of the competition was to create houses with a focus on design, structure, and the ability to operate as solar-powered facilities. The decathlon evaluates teams in ten categories, assessing the performance, livability, and affordability of their buildings. Each category can earn a maximum of 100 points; therefore, the maximum possible score is 1000. Participating for the first time in the competition, Team Austria were awarded a score of 951.9.They earned extra points for their building's focus on affordability, design elements, and quality of energy production. "Winning was an unbelievable experience," said Marcus Jones, one of the participating students and researchers with Team Austria.
"It's been such a journey, not only in time. We've been involved with this project for two years and have traveled all the way from Austria. It's really been such an honor." Nearly 50 students from 18 subject areas, including architecture, engineering, design, and media, created the winning Living Inspired by Sustainable Innovation (LISI) House. They came together from five provincial capitals of Austria and represented the Vienna University of Technology, St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences, the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, and the Austrian Institute of Technology. The core project coordination began in Vienna, then moved to Weissensee, Carinthia.
There, over the course of three semesters, Team Austria students designed and developed everything from floor plan layouts to communications strategies for the house. The highest-scoring groups not only built an impressive structure on-site but also did considerable prep work. Kent Peterson, a P2S Engineer and one of the Solar Decathlon's engineering judges, said: "[The teams] actually built some of their electrical and mechanical systems ahead of time, lab tested these systems, and tweaked them to see how they could get the most performance out of the house before they came to the competition site." As one of the four international teams, the students from Austria confronted the additional task of transporting their materials to California.
The LISI House consists of three zones whose materials required specific international shipping methods: the service core, a living area and adjacent patios, and a flexible sliding façade surrounding the building. After six trucks moved the supplies to Salzburg, the house was transferred to a freight train headed for Bremerhaven, one of the larger cargo ports in Europe. The wooden house was then shipped to North America, cushioned by moisture-absorbing bags to reduce the risk of component damage. The majority of the renewable supplies consisted of wood, with timber from Austria used as a raw resource for construction and insulation.
As a natural product, it was the ideal material for a prefabrication of the house, being easy to use and to transport. Wood was chosen for its carbon-neutral properties as well as its effect on indoor climate and comfort. From the perspective of conscious handling of raw materials, the LISI House was designed to utilize all parts of the tree from heartwood to bark, with builders using it in everything from walls to ceiling panels to furniture. "I do hope and also presume that there will be an impact and that 'business as usual' will change in the design and construction area, especially in the U.S., but also in Europe," said Karin Stieldorf, project leader and faculty advisor for the team.
"In Austria, LISI will, hopefully, work as a wellknown demonstration building and motivate consumers as well as designers and civil engineers to rethink their strategies." Stieldorf believes that companies currently have a lot of interest in building LISI or similar buildings, but it is not easy to predict how this will develop in the near future. The results of the decathlon generated interest among developers located in areas with climates similar to California, since LISI was customized to suit warmer climates in the States. "Climate always has an impact on the thermal behavior of buildings," Stieldorf says, "and therefore has to be regarded as an essential influence on the design and performance of buildings."
Team Austria has chosen not to compete in the 2015 Solar Decathlon, but most of the students have stayed with the project to help reconstruct the house in the Blue Lagoon, an Austrian exhibition center for prefabricated homes. The team was invited to present LISI at Austria's biggest model home exhibition site, where approximately 100 manufacturers present prefabricated house designs and potentially attract investors to the LISI model. In addition, the LISI House will be available for further research and study by future generations of architects and engineers, allowing the design to be assessed according to the environmental requirements of U.S., European, and Asian standards for state-of-the-art, energy-efficient buildings.
By Rosemary Grant
Moving Forward after LISI's Success
Office of Science and Technology Austria
Smart Urban Development
European and National Initiatives
Smart Urban Development
European and National Initiatives
Today more than half the world's population and two-thirds of Europeans are living in cities or urban areas; the figure for Austria is 64%. The global trend in urbanization is upwards; the process will continue in the future, and the city will become the dominant environment in social and economic terms throughout the world. Europe's cities generate the bulk of our affluence although, at the same time, they face huge economic, ecological, and social challenges.
Climate change, migration, secure energy supply systems, and sustainable mobility are among the issues calling for pioneering strategies and solutions. The hallmark of Smart City is an intelligent system design, bringing together new technologies and services for buildings and infrastructure, generating and distributing energy, mobility, industrial production, and trades. In the future, all relevant sectors should be linked and attuned to one another with the help of integrated planning and modern communications technologies. Tomorrow's cities will combine climate protection with a high quality of living, making them attractive as business locations and contributing to a permanent reduction in energy and resource consumption. At the EU level, the issue of sustainable urban development plays a key role in the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), in the Horizon 2020 framework program for research, in the European Innovation Partnership Smart Cities and Communities (EIP SCC), in the transnational Joint Programming Initiative JPI Urban Europe, and in various transnational cooperation schemes and initiatives.
Austrian Activities Since late 2010, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) and the Climate and Energy Fund have collaborated on funding the development of strategies, technologies, and solutions for climate-friendly, energy-efficient urban economic activities and lifestyles. In step with EU initiatives, a pilot called "Smart Cities Demo" has been launched in Austria to support trendsetting pilot projects. In addition, the BMVIT successfully started the JPI Urban Europe in 2010, a transnational research program under the aegis of the EU Council of Ministers, which tackles basic system-relevant issues related to urban development. Within the framework of Building of Tomorrow, BMVIT supports flagship construction projects, and the recently launched BMVIT program City of Tomorrow is intended to accelerate the development of new technologies, technological (sub)systems, and urban services.
In this program, Austrian towns and cities are developing strategies and arrangements for the Smart City and have already started to successfully implement these in specific pilot projects. Here are some examples of the initiatives mentioned above that show the wide range of Austrian activities: Smart City Vienna: Model for Intelligent Urban Development in Europe All over the world, the city of Vienna with its 1.7 million inhabitants is seen as an example of exceptional urban quality of life. The city aims to secure this status in the long term by means of comprehensive measures for a sustainable future in terms of energy and climate. Under Mayor Häupl's aegis, the department responsible for urban development and urban planning launched "Smart City Vienna" in 2011. As part of the Climate and Energy Fund's program Smart Cities Demo, Vision 2050, a Roadmap for 2020 and beyond, and the Action Plan for 2012-2015 have been implemented in a stakeholder process.
Vienna's Smart City activities are embedded in various transnational and European programs. Vienna cooperates with other European cities and international business and research partners, e.g. in the project TRANSFORM (Transformation Agenda for Low Carbon Cities, partially funded within the EU's 7thFramework Program for Research). "TRANSFORM plus" pilot projects are implemented in "smart" city districts, and the overall urban strategy is advanced with the support of the Climate and Energy Fund. Aspern – Vienna's Urban Lakeside In Aspern, a 240-hectare site, once an airfield, is being developed into a brand-new, multifunctional city district with residential accommodations, offices, and a section for small-scale businesses, science, research, and education.
The Aspern Urban Lakeside is one of the largest urban development projects in Europe, where affordable accommodations for 20,000 people, plus 15,000 jobs, and top-rated public transport and infrastructure are underway. As part of the BMVIT funding program Building of Tomorrow, the central project Aspern – Vienna's Urban Lakeside addresses the issues of open space and microclimate, inter-building energy distribution and consumption, implementing specific demonstration buildings to surplus- energy standards, and monitoring systems to evaluate the buildings' performance. As a first pilot project, the Vienna Business Agency's Aspern IQ Technology Center went up in 2012. Liesing Mitte – Zero Emission and Urban Farming The Liesing Mitte project connects three dissimilar urban areas ("In der Wiesen," the Liesing Industrial Zone, and Atzgersdorf Zentrum) to create a model Smart City district.
The focus, among other things, is on deploying intelligent building technologies in new construction and renovation and on setting up smart grids, thus making it possible to tie in surplus-energy buildings as suppliers of energy. The goals are to reduce the district's carbon-dioxide emissions step-by-step to zero by 2050; to lower energy and raw-material consumption by a factor of 10; and to shift to 100% renewables as sources of energy. Social considerations, such as making these innovations affordable for low-income households, play a key part here. Around 100 different individual projects have been slotted into a road map. One important aspect is designing the open spaces as areas that the future residents can use.
Urban farming projects in subsidized housing construction are intended to improve the quality of the surroundings, dissuade people from moving to the country, and to re-establish their awareness of what makes good food. TRANSFORM plus: Smart Urban Labs For Aspern Urban Lakeside, a "Smart Citizen Assistant" is being developed – a tool to provide data to (mobile) terminal devices about residents' energy consumption and important local information. In the pilot project "e-delivery on demand," a low-cost logistic pooling model for electric-powered vans is being thought out for the Liesing Industrial Zone. Smart Future Graz: "Urban building blocks" Self-Sufficient in Energy Graz, Austria's second largest city, is fast-growing with limited space for settlement.
That is why urban development in Graz is focused on packing more into parts of the inner city with excellent infrastructure. These areas are to be made into energy-efficient, resource-conserving, low-emission residential areas with a very high quality of life. In the strategic project I live Graz, future actions have been defined for the Smart City Graz in the areas of the economy, society, ecology, mobility, energy, and facility management. Apart from providing grade-A accommodations, the city's main aims are to provide attractive public spaces to set up a network of attractive routes for walking and cycling, to mesh development with public transport facilities, and to reduce motor traffic's share of travel.
Smart City Project Graz Mitte A new urban district self-sufficient in energy is to take shape in the heterogeneous area (once an industrial zone) near Graz's main railway station. Here, energy technologies for the intelligent "Zero Emissions" city will be demonstrated for the very first time via an inclusive planning process.
The project involves:
ECR Energy City Graz Reininghaus As part of the flagship project Building of Tomorrow, an overall energy strategy has been worked out for Graz Reininghaus, as well as strategies for structuring, building, and running the district as an urban region self-sufficient in energy. Here, pilot facilities are intended to become internationally trail-blazing "building blocks of urban sustainability." The overall energy strategy is primarily focused on linking up surplus-energy buildings (which produce more energy than they consume) and feeding the surplus energy into a communal grid. Energy consumption, supply, and distribution, building services engineering, and urban development aspects (e.g. geothermal energy, suitable orientation of a structural shell, solar exploitation of roofs and facades, using process heat, CHP facilities, etc.) have been investigated for the energy framework plan.
The surplus-energy cluster Reininghaus Süd was one of the first construction projects to be implemented. Here, twelve separate blocks of apartments have been coupled together into a multifunctional cluster of buildings. An office and shopping complex in front screens the project from a nearby busy road. The surplus-energy approach dividual buildings have been designed to take maximum advantage of renewables (geothermal energy tapped via energy piles, and photovoltaics), while synergies have been created between the blocks of apartments and the office complex. To even out peaks in generation and consumption, the power centers in the individual blocks of apartments have been linked and power sharing with the office and shopping complex has been implemented.
Salzburg – from Smart Grid to Smart City: New energy strategies for urban living quarters As a Smart Grid Model Region, the city of Salzburg has a large repertoire of emission- reducing initiatives for climate protection. Building on this, the city has defined its vision for 2050 in a master plan and established a roadmap for developing into a Smart City. To restructure the energy system, it is essential, among other things, to expand and optimize the district heating grid in line with city development strategies, make more use of renewable energy sources, massively reduce energy consumption in buildings, and provide new options for mobility. Innovative use of solar energy in the Lehen district One of the flagship "Building of Tomorrow" projects is the restructuring of the Lehen district in Salzburg, where numerous building projects have been in progress since 2007.
Parts of the overall project are being implemented within the framework of the EU initiative Concerto II "Green Solar Cities." On premises once occupied by the municipal utilities company, 287 rental apartments, the new city gallery, a student hostel, and a nursery school have been built. The existing office block has been renovated and equipped with modern offices, laboratories, and conference rooms. The far-reaching renovation of the adjacent old neighborhood, Strubergassensiedlung, has been carried out using the most up-to-date technologies. The showcase project Stadtwerk Lehen, with its sustainable energy strategy, represents an important Austrian contribution within the research cooperation framework of the International Energy Agency (IEAEBC Annex 51/ Energy Efficient Buildings and Communities).
Energy on the premises is provided through a system which complements district heating with solar energy. The building Stadtwerk Lehen was equipped with a thermal solar facility with a collector area of 21527.8 square feet. The heat is collected in a central storage facility with a capacity of 200,000 liters. A solar heat pump enhances the system and increases the output by another 15 to 20%. The heat is distributed via a low-temperature microgrid to apartments and offices, as well as to renovated apartment blocks nearby. On the roofs of the apartment blocks, a photovoltaic facility with an overall rating of 20.16 kW provides electricity for the shared facilities. The next step was to conduct a building structure analysis in Salzburg to identify further neighborhoods in need of comprehensive renovation with sustainability in mind.
Rosa Zukunft – Smart Grid technologies in the field Internationally, Salzburg is a front-runner in the development of intelligent solutions for electricity distribution grids. In a close cooperation between researchers and industry, new technologies for tomorrow's electricity grids have been developed and put to the test since 2009 in Austria's first Smart Grid showcase region. In the pioneer project HiT (buildings as interactive participants in a Smart Grid), all relevant Smart Grid low-voltage elements are linked up in an integrated building strategy. The project encompasses planning, constructing, running, and monitoring an apartment complex with 130 units (rented and owner-occupied) for various groups of occupants. Here, key issues related to generating energy from renewable sources, building technologies and storage facilities, and electric-powered mobility, are investigated under real- life conditions.
The apartment complex has an intelligent energy management system able to control energy production and consumption (e.g. through automatic load redistribution) and to make use of existing storage facilities (e.g. batteries in electric vehicles). Environmentally friendly energy production from photovoltaic units and cogeneration are just as much a part and parcel of the overall strategy as sustainable mobility for residents Smart Future Graz Project manager Interview with Kai-Uwe Hoffer "Smart City" refers to a city that combines a high quality of life with climate protection and resource efficiency. What specific measures does the planning department envisage to push the "Smart City" approach in Graz? To do this, we deploy a variety of packages (energy, mobility, quality of architecture, providing public open space and parks, citizen participation ...), which are defined in line with the specific requirements of the project in question; for implementation they are subsequently incorporated in binding contracts.
Consuming less energy but maintaining quality of life, consumption, and mobility – how is that supposed to work? Research shows that if a residential area is developed compactly, with adequate public transport links and proper infrastructure, this has a favorable effect on the modal split (how people move around). The technological innovations tested in the pilot projects are intended to improve energy efficiency considerably. Involving local agents alongside this is meant to spread awareness of the opportunities available with these new technologies. Which pioneering technologies and services will be particularly important in the future when "smart" urban districts are taking shape? User-friendly technological applications make a sustainable modal split possible (car-sharing fleets, electric bicycles, information management in public transport). Applications for building services lower running costs. Monitoring functions (apps) reveal how much each separate measure can contribute to saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions.
Text courtesy of Energy Innovation Austria, BMVIT
And He Saw It Was Smart
Interview with Climate Strategist Boyd Cohen
And He Saw It Was Smart
Interview with Climate Strategist Boyd Cohen
The world population is growing, andmore and more people are moving into the city. In 2050, two thirds of the citizens of the world will live in conurbations. The adaptation of these cities for the future is one of the greatest challenges today. During the 2013 Vienna Tourism Conference, wien.at spoke with climate strategist Boyd Cohen, inventor of the Smart City index, which ranked Vienna as the smartest city worldwide. Cohen talks about abandoned suburbs, full underground trains and why being smart is also clever.
Definition of Terms
Martin Schipany: Modern cities are supposed to be "smart," and the term "smart city" is being bandied about all over the media. Is this a fashion trend or something more permanent?
Boyd Cohen: A "smart city" is one that exploits technology and innovation to make efficient use of resources and reduce the size of the ecological footprint. This idea is here to stay. The term has a technological origin, but it is also a question of being innovative. What services can be offered to citizens to increase their quality of life? Technology is just one aspect. A high-tech city is not necessarily a smart city. Many urban planners have realized that cities are about people not technology. I don't know whether the term "smart city" will endure. Perhaps it will become "future city" or "innovative city," but the idea is the same.
You illustrate this complex theme with a wheel divided into six segments. Can you explain that to us?
I studied existing models for a long time. For example, it was the University of Vienna that produced the first European smart city ranking in 2007. It used the same six categories as I do: environment, living, government, mobility, economy and people. But all the models I have found to date were difficult for the average person to understand. I wanted therefore to develop a more understandable model and chose a simple wheel for that purpose. Each of the six segments in the wheel has three subdivisions containing indicators and actions to enable cities to improve their performance.
As the creator of this wheel, do you believe that it is because of you that technological aspects are now combined with social and economic factors in the definition of a smart city?
I don't claim the credit for myself alone. Like many others, I wanted to remove the "smart city" fromthe private technology sector and foster a comprehensive approach. What is a city; who are its customers; and how can "smart cities" benefit people? It's not a question of businesses selling us new services, but rather of what a city should look like in the 21st century.
Sustainability Everything today is moving in the direction of sustainability. Will it continue to do so?
Absolutely. We have a rapidly increasing world population, which will grow from the present seven billion to almost ten billion by the year 2100. Added to this is a strong trend towards urbanization with more and more people moving to the cities. There is enormous pressure on the resources of a city: food, energy, water, jobs, etc. We therefore need to use existing resources efficiently. Climate change is also an ongoing challenge. And citizens have become much more active – politically committed or interested in the developments in their city. The public is highly critical in particular when it comes to sustainability.
Calculation Model A few years ago Vienna was number one in the list of smart cities. In the most recent study it had dropped to 4th place. What must Vienna do to gain back the top spot?
I should point out at the outset thatmy calculation model has evolved over time. In 2011, I was still working out exactly what a smart city should be. In the original index I used only four categories; now there are six. Vienna has not dropped down because of specific shortcomings but because the calculation model has become more robust. This year there will be new indicators again. For that reason I contacted cities directly to explain measures in connection with 28 further factors required to qualify as a smart city. I should be receiving the replies from Vienna soon.
Best Practice Examples What examples are there of current best practices?
Boyd Cohen: With regard to smart economy, there is a need above all to stimulate businesses and innovation. Barcelona is a good example in this regard with its innovative district 22@. In this area start-ups are encouraged to create new jobs in the technology sector. Another example is Singapore, which has always had a shortage of drinking water and was largely dependent on imported water. The city is now concentrating on obtaining and recycling drinking water from rain. Thanks to this technical innovation they now have around 100 companies specializing in water technology. A weakness has been turned into a strength. Copenhagen is also working impressively to make the city CO2-neutral by the year 2025.
Vienna is definitely keeping pace with the cities you cite. The second phase of the Vienna energy efficiency plan will be launched in 2015. Then there is Aspern Seestadt, where living space is being created for 20,000 people. A living lab has been set up in cooperation with the private sector to study technological developments under realistic conditions. Vienna also has one of the most advanced public transport systems and is seeking to increase the proportion of bicycles. Do you think that there could be resistance to bicycles in a city in which the public transport system works so well?
I don't think that public transport and bicycles are in competition. The best cities in the world find solutions to link these two means of transport. Public transport doesn't deliver you door to door. That would be too expensive. Cycling is also useful: the inhabitants of a smart city are healthy. They need to be encouraged to cycle - not to mention the fact that ongoing urbanization puts a strain on public transport capacities.There are cities in which it is impossible to enter the underground at rush hours because it's so full. Cycling is one way of dealing with the massive demand at peak periods.
You are a scientist, university lecturer and writer. Isn't the subject we are talking about too complex? If you ask an average man on the street to explain the concept of a smart city ...
... he couldn't do it.
But what is the problem? Is the subject too elitist?
Good question. It's not simple. In my experience you have to present people with subjects in a way that interests them. The key issues are the same all over the world: traffic, environmental pollution or internet access. The approach should therefore be molded into topics that affect people directly and then gradually introduced. In a broader context the solution is then a component of a smart city.
Two of the core concepts are sustainability and innovation. One can encourage but can one coerce?
It's always a balancing act. On the one hand citizens should be involved, but on the other there is a need for actions that are good for the future. These two approaches don't always coincide. In Vancouver, where I have lived for some time, I have experienced the discussion on bicycles and cars. The challenge is to do what's best for the city but also to get the support of its inhabitants. Sometimes it doesn't work.
Role of Cities Let's talk about the role of cities in the next decades. Many people move to the city, and in Vienna many of the new arrivals settle in built-up areas outside the city core. What will the role of cities be?
It depends on whom you ask. In the United States the suburbs are dying. I read recently that in twenty years the suburbs will be slum areas. Why? Because people ask themselves about their standard of living and note that it drops as they move away from the core. Most people want to be near their work, restaurants and shops. Of course there will always be a few who want to live in the country, but more and more people appreciate what cities have to offer.
You travel all over the world, have checked Vienna and are now here. What do you think of this city?
It's beautiful and has fantastic architecture. In general, I'm a fan of European cities and lived a long time in Madrid and Copenhagen. The city has the best possible basis for being regarded as smart. Vienna encourages innovation, has an excellent transport system, a new car-sharing program, great universities and a dynamic middle class. It will continue to play a leading role in Europe. But the competition is hard for the top position. It's fun to watch the developments.
Source: Vienna City Administration, Municipal Department 53-Press And Information Services
Take the Curtain Calls!
Take the Curtain Calls!
The good news: Austria's companies are successful all over the world. The bad news: hardly anyone knows about this. A couple of years ago, I thumbed through The New York Times and a headline caught my eye. It read: "If it wasn't for the Umlaut..." Coming from a country that poses an obstacle for many American tongues to be pronounced correctly because of such anUmlaut – "Österreich" – (it is also sometimes confused with the country down under), I immediately felt that this article must be about Austria. Of course, I was right! To be precise, the article was about Grüner Veltliner and actually praised the quality and richness of flavor of this Austrian wine.
The author acknowledged its increasing popularity in the U.S. and that Grüner Veltliner nowadays can be found on restaurant lists across the country, even to the author's surprise who wrote: "That's one of those happily inexplicable things." Actually, such an assessment happens to Austria quite often. Austria has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe; our country is the second richest within the European Union; we enjoy higher growth rates than most of the other European Union member states, and managed to overcome the financial crisis of 2008/09 rather quickly. If observers take notice of our solid fundamentals, they come up with titles like "The Austrian Miracle" (Foreign Policy, November 2012) – suggesting that these excellent basic indicators are also "one of those happily inexplicable things".
While this asssessment might be fine for Austrian wine, it is definitely not a reliable basis for a country and business location to explain the foundation of its competitive position. Austrian companies are masters of globalization. Foreign trade is of central importance to Austria – and this trend is unbowed. Whereas exports (goods and services) only made up 37.1% of GDP in 1990, by 2000 that figure had already risen to 46.2%. During the past years, there has been further growth in this sector at a lightning speed: nowadays exports make up almost 60% of the entire economic output. The international competitiveness of Austrian products and services is no accident. In Austria, 2.8% of GDP is spent on Research and Development. In the Eurozone, only Finland and Germany achieve a similar level. In 2013, Austrian companies and universities filed 2,395 patent applications.
In proportion to its population size, thus, Austria ranks fourth within the monetary union. Creativity, intelligence and quality are the trademarks of Austrian products, as shown by the structure of Austrian exports, which mostly consist of complex or high-tech products, the manufacture of which requires a great deal of knowledge and expertise. Export successes are also the reason behind the important role that the industrial sector plays in Austria. In the years between 1990 and 2013, the industrial quota rose from 17.1% to 22.5%, contrasting the international trend. Austria now has the fourth highest industrial quota among the EU-15. Many of these Austrian companies that successfully conquer global markets are actually global champions; that is world market leaders in their respective fields. Yet, many international investors and analysts, but also economists and business commentators are quite simply unaware of the extraordinary performances of these Austrian "hidden champions".
The term "hidden champions" was actually coined by the German author and strategy consultant Hermann Simon, who has identified more than 2,700 of these barely known market leaders worldwide. According to his long-term research, the Germanspeaking area (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) is home to more than 55% of all hidden champions worldwide. Although this area has a population of less than 100 million (1.5% of the world population), there are more small and medium-sized world market leaders located there than in the rest of the world. Hermann Simon attributes the success of hidden champions to some distinctive factors:
Austria's hidden champions feature all of these traits. They have managed to excel in industries that often look extremely competitive on the surface – such as the steel industry or automotive supply sector – but due to their high-degree of specialization, they have achieved global market leader positions in their respective niches. Considering these hard facts, Austria's solid economic position and the achievements of its companies do not come as a surprise or as "one of those happily inexplicable things." However, it is our task as members of the business community to convey this message to international stakeholders. For this reason, some of the largest and most innovative companies in Austria, together with the Vienna Stock Exchange and Austria's Central Bank, have joined forces under the 21st Austria initiative, in order to start a dialogue with opinion leaders around the world.
By the means of in-depth discussions and conferences in financial hubs such as New York, London or Hong Kong, we want to initiate a fruitful exchange about strengths and challenges that Austria and the wider region face as a business location and feed the learnings of this conversation back to Austrian decision makers. As a privately- driven initiative we simply apply the lessons learned from our hidden champions to Austria: constant improvement and ongoing innovation is the best prerequisite for sustainable success.
By Dkfm. Dr. Claus J. Raidl
Spokesperson of 21st Austria
President of the Austrian Central Bank
The Hidden Champions
The Hidden Champions
"Hidden champions" as a term was first conceptualized and published in a German journal for business administration in 1990 by Hermann Simon, a German business professor and management consultant. The concept refers to highly sucessful companies, often market leaders in their respective fields and not known to a wider public. According to Simon, three criteria must be met in order to be considered a hidden champion; (1) the company either has to be positioned in the top three of the global market or take the top spot on its continent in terms of market share, (2) the company's revenue must not exceed $4 billion, and (3) the company must have a low level of public awareness.
Given the third condition, hidden champions often are small and medium- sized enterprises, they often are part of the so-called Mittelstand. What is more, Simon found that these companies provide a high vertical integration of manufacture, they focus on niche markets and show willingess and high ability to globalize in those markets. Together, Austria, Germany and Switzerland boast the world's highest concentration of small and medium-sized businesses that have a global market leader position in their respective industries. Their remarkable success is derived from a variety of factors, including a strong focus on manufacturing and production or strong in-house research and innovation capabilities, but also from a highly skilled labor force, a function of Austria's dual system of apprenticeship and vocational education.
Here, we briefly introduce just a few hidden champions from Austria - many of their products and services can already be found at work here in the United States. Doppelmayr - Graventa Founded in 1892, Doppelmayr is the world quality and technology leader in ropeway engineering. Products include cable cars, ski lifts, gondolas, as well as urban people movers and material handling systems. Doppelmayr products can be found all over the world; recent examples include the Hogwarts Express (think Harry Potter) at Universal Orlando Resort, or the world's biggest urban ropeway network currently constructed in La Paz, Bolivia, while the company's Cable Liner upgrades the urban traffic network in Caracas. Doppelmayr trains reliably move people in places like Las Vegas, NV and at airports from Toronto to Mexico City and Doha.
Kapsch Kapsch TrafficCom is a worldwide provider of intelligent transportation systems (ITS), its core business focuses on the construction and operation of electronic toll collection systems for multi-lane free-flow traffic. Kapsch systems are at work from Austria to Australia; in the United States you will find Kapsch at the New York MTA bridges and tunnels, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, as well as at the George Washington Bridge in New York City and the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel. In Sydney, Australia, the company provides operations management and control systems for the Eastern Distributor (EA), while Kapsch has been tasked by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to design, build and support a new and advanced Traffic Managment Software (TMS) to manage the entire New Zealand state highway network.
Frequentis Frequentis is the world market leader in control center solutions and provides safety solutions ranging from air traffic management to public safety applications and military applications. Customers include NASA, the Canadian Coast Guard, London's Metropolitan Police (Scotland Yard), the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the Swiss Armed Forces or Changi airport in Singapore, to name just a few. BWT (Best Water Technology) With its more than 2,700 employees, BWT is Europe's leading water technology company and offers products and services for water in both personal and industrial applications, ranging from drinking water to pharmaceutical water applications, water for swimming pools, as well as water for air conditioning and heating applications to water in gastronomy.
AT&S Austria Technologie & Systemtechnik is a leading manufacturer of circuit boards and a major supplier to the mobile industry, to automotive and industrial electronics, as well as to medical technology. Geislinger Geislinger is a worldwide innovation leader and leading supplier of couplings and dampers. Geislinger products are used by shipbuilders around the world and increasingly find their way into other areas, wherever torsional vibrations must be kept to a minimum, like Diesel locomotives or power stations.
For more information on Austria's hidden champions and to learn more about 21st Austria, make sure to visit: http://www.21st-austria.at
Meet the Chef
Michael Mikusch in Chicago
Meet the Chef
Michael Mikusch in Chicago
Dear Mr. Mikusch, when did you first realize you wanted to become a baker and pastry chef?
When I was six years old, I went to the village bakery on a school field trip and was intrigued by all the smells and all the different things the baker showed us. I saw all of the things you could do; all of the creativity involved in the process, and I knew that was what I wanted to do.
How did you come to the U.S. and why did you settle in Chicago?
I first came to theU.S. on vacation and liked it a lot. I said to myself that if I was ever given the opportunity, I would come back. Chicago was always on my list of cities I wanted to visit. So, after initially arriving in New York, I eventually made my way to Chicago and began working for Backaldrin, a manufacturing company for Austrian baking ingredients.
How did the idea of opening your own bakery shop and café come about?
From a very young age on, it was a goal of mine to own my own place and be my own boss. Cafe Vienna is the realization of that dream, and I am continually striving to come up with new ideas and ways to improve the café.
What challenges did you face during the process of opening your café?
From the business side, it was not that difficult. The difficult part was to convince customers and to establish a group of regular patrons coming to the store. Another challenge was finding the ingredients here to make the same products that I made back in Austria.
Can you tell us a little bit about Cafe Vienna?
In addition to our large variety of breads and pastries, Cafe Vienna has room for about 40 customers to dine-in and features an expansive menu that includes breakfast, lunch, soups, salads, and dinner items. Our breakfast is hugely popular, particularly on weekends, and we always have large crowds come in for brunch. The menu features a number of traditional Austrian dishes, as well as my take on some traditional American items.
How did the people in the city receive your Austrian bakery goods and sweet treats?
Once we had the customers convinced to come in and try our stuff, it was a hit. The people very much appreciate our pastries, which are unique and not as sweet as typical American pastries. Our dark European rye bread is also different from the rye bread that people in the U.S. are used to, but is generally very well received and is one of our most popular loaves.
Are there any pastries that your guests love in particular?
The Altwiener Apple Strudel, the Esterhazy Torte, the Sacher Torte, and Cheese Pocket are our big sellers.
Do you have any favorite Austrian dish?
My favorite dish is the Austrian beef goulasch, which is one of the featured entrées on our menu.
Are you in contact with any Austrians in the area? Is there an expat community in Chicago?
Yes, we are in regular contact with the Austrian Trade Commission and the Austrian representatives in the area, and we host a monthly Austrian Stammtisch, a friendly get-together and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy good food and have a great time. We have a number of Austrians, Germans, and other Europeans from all over Chicago frequenting the bakery.
Do you often go back to visit Austria? Is there anything about Austria that you miss in particular?
Yes, of course! I go back once a year to see my family and friends. Some of the things I miss the most about Austria are skiing and ballroom dancing.
What are some of your favorite places and restaurants in Chicago?
I like to go out for sushi. One of my favorite sushi restaurants is Saí Cafe. I also like to go to the Chicago Brauhaus. How do you see the future of Cafe Vienna and what is in store for you personally? As far as Cafe Vienna goes, I would love to open up a second location. Personally, I am proud to have come so far. Starting with nothing, opening Cafe Vienna and seeing it do so well has been an incredible achievement and a goal that I have always dreamed of accomplishing.
Meet the Consul
Franz Kolb in Salt Lake City, Utah
Meet the Consul
Franz Kolb in Salt Lake City, Utah
Dear Mr. Kolb, can you tell us a little bit about where you are originally from? Where did you spend your childhood?
My parents are from the Kainach valley, west of Graz in Styria, Austria. In the 1950's, they moved to Riedersbach in Upper Austria, where I was born. Riedersbach is about 25 miles north of the city of Salzburg. We have never forgotten our Styrian roots though. As children we would spend our vacations in the beautiful Kainach valley and mountains surrounding the area and we would visit our wonderful relatives. After the summer break we would return to Upper Austria.
How did you come to the United States in the first place?
After my discharge from the Austrian army in Vienna, I moved back to Salzburg. During an outing with friends we met American students from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. They came to Salzburg on an academic exchange program to study German andMusic – some of them at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg. We developed a wonderful friendship with the students and one of them eventually invited me to her native Wisconsin six months later. I ended up bringing her back with me to Salzburg and we married nine months later. We lived in Salzburg for three years before we decided that my wife would go finish her education at Brigham Young University. Therfore, we moved to Utah where I also continued my studies. When I saw the beautiful mountains, the ski resorts and the safe environment and met all these kind and welcoming people, we decided to stay and raise our family there.
Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?
I have worked as the director of international services at Ernst & Young helping many U.S. and European clients to internationalize their businesses. Eventually, however, the travel became unbearable and taking my family into consideration, I made the decision to work for the state of Utah as the director for Europe in the International Business Development Office. In addition to that, I began teaching international business at local universities and have taught over 3500 undergraduate and graduate students to date. I am still working for the state of Utah – now as the director of diplomacy and protocol in the Governor's office of Economic Development.
Can you name some of your personal professional highlights?
One highlight was in 1995 when we organized a delegation to travel from Utah to Budapest to bring the Winter Olympic Games to Salt Lake City. Before going to Budapest, we visited Vienna with over 400 Utahns. There, we had many key meetings and receptions. We were told this was the largest American delegation to come to Austria since WWII. We built many bridges between the U.S. and Austria on this trip. In Budapest, the city of Salt Lake City was eventually awarded the XIX Winter Olympic Games for the year 2002.
For how long have you been serving as the Austrian Honorary Consul and how did that come to be?
I have always been proud of my Austrian heritage. I founded the Austrian Club of Utah – Freunde Oesterreich and served as its president for many years. I have always been the main point of contact in Utah for the Austrian Consulate General Los Angeles and the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. So whether it was Ambassador Friedrich Höss, Ambassador Türk, Ambassador Moser, or Consul General Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal or others, when they came to Utah, I was always privileged to help. When the XIX Winter Olympic- Games took place in Salt Lake City, I was asked to formally become the Austrian Honorary Consul to help Austrians and the Austrian government. Ambassador Peter Moser came to Salt Lake City in 2002 and officially inaugurated me as the first Austrian Honorary Consul in Utah since it became a state in 1896. It has been an honor and a privilege for me to officially represent my homeland.
Is there a big Austrian community in Utah? Are you in regular contact with the expats living in the area?
We have a small but vibrant Austrian community in Utah. Many Austrians came here during the 1950's for economic and other reasons. We have Austrians who came because of educational and employment opportunities. Some Austrians work in one of the fourteen world class ski resorts in Utah. Every February, the annual Vienna Ball event takes place, which also serves as a fundraising opportunity for the Salt Lake Symphony. On average, about 400 Utahns and Austrians have attended the event over the last 30 years. And of course the guests' favorite dance is the waltz. Furthermore, there are various educational institutions that have Austrian-themed events on a regular basis. I would also like to mention that we have two Austrian bakeries in Utah. This might not seem important but to have fresh "Semmeln" (rolls) in the morning and real "Schwarzbrot" (dark rye bread) is a taste of the homeland for the many Austrians residing in this state.
Do you go back to Austria at all? Is there anything about Austria that you miss in particular?
I try to go back once a year – sometimes I go back more and sometimes less often. All of my relatives now live in the beautiful Kainach valley. With many I communicate via electronic media. I have kept my Austrian dialect over the many years since I have always maintained that the beauty of a language can be found in the dialect one speaks. I have lived in the United States for over three decades. I have raised my children here, who are Austrophiles. Austria will always be "meine Heimat" (my home). My Austrian roots give me identity, my Austrian values give me tolerance and my Austrian upbringing gives me perspective.
Are there any special stories that you would like to share with our readers?
One of the highlights in my career was the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. I had the privilege to serve as the Austrian Olympic Attaché and to walk with the Austrian athletes in the opening and closing ceremonies. The first Sunday of the games was the Alpine downhill – the most important event. I will never forget the moment when Austrian skier Fritz Strobl won the gold medal. The celebration at the Austrian House, which was known to have the best hospitality of all the 23 hospitality houses, was unforgettable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all ambassadors, consuls general, consuls, all other Austrian public officials as well as all Austrian citizens visiting Utah and living in Utah for their support and kindness. In all these years that I have been working with my fellow Austrians, I have not had one rude or insulting comment from anybody. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the Republic of Austria in Utah.
Born in Riedersbach, Upper Austria, Franz Kolb was educated both in Austria and the United States. He received an Associate, Bachelor, and Master's degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Besides serving as the Austrian Honorary Consul in Utah, he is the Regional Director for International Trade and Diplomacy responsible for Europe, India, Middle East, and Africa in the State of Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development. Mr. Kolb assists Utah companies on a daily basis in their expansion through international growth.
Innovation @Upper Austria
Exhibit at the Embassy
Innovation @Upper Austria
Exhibit at the Embassy
Albeit small in size, Austria, in the heart of Europe, is a country full of diversity and charm. Though it might not first be associated with cutting-edge innovation and technology but rather with classical music and chocolate cake, the Alpine republic has a lot to show for. In 2013, the Australian innovation agency "2thinknow" ranked Vienna as the most innovative city in Europe; on an international level the Austrian capital ranks third behind Boston and New York City.
While Austria as a whole and Vienna in particular are frequently mentioned as business and innovation hubs, one should not forget the regional success in the field. Upper Austria, a state in the northwestern part of Austria, altogether produced 742 new inventions last year and, given the successful output, vowed to double the state budget for research and innovation by 2017.
To showcase what the state has to offer in terms of technology and research, the exhibition Innovation @Upper Austria was put together. In June of this year, the governor of Upper Austria, Dr. Josef Pühringer, traveled to Atlanta, GA, to participate in the 7th Regional Leaders Summit, alongside representatives from Bavaria, Georgia, Québec, São Paulo, Shandong and Western Cape. Altogether, these regions are home to 177 million people and represent a gross domestic product of more than $3,000 billion.
During the summit, the Austrian governor had the opportunity to present Upper Austria as a modern, innovative, and future-oriented state, and highlight its successes in the fields of economy, research, sciences and culture on an international scale. To adequately showcase these aspects, the exhibition is divided into four different categories, "power regions (representing the other regions participating in the summit)," "economy," "sciences," and "culture."
All participating partners, including various companies and academic institutions in Upper Austria, could submit eye-catching photos that were subsequently printed on high-quality acrylic glass. The information accompanying the individual photos also include QR-codes leading back to the websites of the respective companies. That way the exhibition provides a first glimpse into the diverse world of innovation and technology in the Austrian state, and offers the companies to showcase their efforts. Innovation @Upper Austria made its debut at the Landesdienstleistungszentrum in Linz (capital city of Upper Austria), before relocating first to Atlanta and eventually to the Austrian.
The Wiener Festwochen
An Inside View of the Vienna State Opera
The Wiener Festwochen
An Inside View of the Vienna State Opera
very year during the month of May, the space in front of the city hall in Vienna is transformed into a festive outdoor music venue, providing the Viennese as well as countless tourists the opportunity to listen to some of the world's most famous classical music pieces and to watch theater plays and opera performances. The Wiener Festwochen (the Vienna Festival) were founded in 1951 to newly invent post-war Vienna as a cultural metropolis.
Over the years, the festival has established itself as a fixture in the busy Austrian events calendar, and each year attracts over 180,000 visitors. The opening ceremony of the festival, which is free of admission, takes place in May in front of the Viennese city hall and kicks off six weeks of concerts, theater plays, opera performances, and other cultural gems. These event highlights are spread out over multiple venues including the MuseumQuarter, the Kunsthalle Wien, and the Wiener Konzerthaus and offer something for everybody's taste.
The yearly conception of the program primarily aims to offer the local public as well as the international audience outstanding productions and guest performances for which regular operating funds usually do not suffice. On its website, the Wiener Festwochen are described as "a metropolitan festival that sets particular accents, enters into dialogue with artistic creations from other cities of Europe and the world and presents spectacular productions while at the same time upholding and showcasing Viennese creativity." Last year, The Washington Post correspondent Dr. Cecelia Porter traveled to Vienna to get an insight view of the making of and the preparation for the festival. On the following pages, find her intimate backstage report of the of the Wiener Festwochen 2013.
by Dr. Cecelia Porter, Classical Music Critic, The Washington Post
The preparation of an opera performance is one of the most involved, complicated, and even perplexing assignments in bringing an art form to the public. For opera entails joining together many musical and visual forces—solo and choral singers, dancers, orchestras, conductors, composers, librettists, lighting, stage plans, sets, props, and costumes.
And all of this must be focused on the creation of beautiful musical sound and consideration of intensely interacting human emotions. And today, to prepare for performances—as I observed at two private dress rehearsals (Hauptproben) of the Vienna State Opera—opera production requires an ever-increasing use of technology, as displayed by the computers and their technicians set up in the opera house’s orchestra section and elsewhere around the house. All these aspects give a good view of opera on the inside.
As a listener ataHauptprobe of the Vienna State Opera (VSO), I became even more aware of the complexities of opera production than I ever had before. During Vienna’s Festwochen in June , I enjoyed unique inside views (virtually from the ground up) of the complexities involved in producing operas. It was a personal, intimate experience, as well as an absorbing and enlightening one. (General audiences in Vienna can attend certain public Generalproben, which also give opera lovers fascinating previews of performances.)
The VSO Hauptproben that I attended included a premiere production of Richard Wagner’s wrenching epic Tristan und Isolde, a work that Friedrich Nietzsche called “the most metaphysical of all the arts.” Tristan was conducted by the brilliant Austrian conductor Franz Welser-Möst, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra. I also attended a Hauptprobe of Vienna’s brilliant revival of its 2008 production of Richard Strauss’s buffo-manic satire Capriccio, conducted by the esteemed German conductor Christoph Eschenbach, the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.
I enjoyed a dazzling performance of Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola, conducted by Jesús López-Cobos. In June 2013, I attended the Hauptprobe of Tristan und Isolde. The atmosphere before the rehearsal began was intense, but exciting, throughout the opera house. It enlisted the cast and orchestra in fine-tuning of musical details involving the singers, conductor, and orchestra, in addition to final maneuvering of sets, checking on full costuming and even make-up, and refining the final details of lighting, staging, and the placement of props.
Nevertheless, Welser-Möst soon signaled that he was ready to begin. (For the day I was there, the Vienna State Opera also listed almost two dozen other rehearsals (for various performers in the opera) on its schedule. Complexity at its height. Wagner’s Bicentennial Year Performances of Wagner’s operas during this bicentennial year of the composer’s birth have reached around the globe again.
The Vienna State Opera’s breathtaking premiere production of the composer’s wrenching Tristan und Isolde, composed and premiered in 1859, was among seven of theVienna StateOpera’smammothWagner works presented during the 2012-2013 season on Vienna’s historic Ringstrasse. (This year, the VSO also presented the four-part “Ring Cycle” (Der Ring der Nibelungen) series (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung) Die Feen, Der fliegende Holländer, and Parsifal. Of course, Vienna also gave this year a multitude of operas by Wagner’s exact contemporary, Giuseppe Verdi, who, too, was born two hundred years ago.
The Vienna State Opera’s 2013 Tristan was directed by David McVicar in his State Opera début; conducted by the Opera’s General Music Director Franz Welser-Möst; and singers Peter Seiffert (Tristan); Nina Stemme (Isolde); Stephen Milling (King Marke); Janina Baechle (Brangäne); Jochen Schmeckenbecher (Kurwenal); Eijiro Kai (Melot); Carlos Osuna (the shepherd); Marcus Pelz ( the ship’s pilot); and Jinxu Xiahou (voice of a young sailor); plus the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Chorus, and Stage Orchestra. Not until 1865 was Tristan premiered— but by the Munich State Opera.
Vienna first saw Wagner’s work in 1883, as produced by the Vienna Court Opera, followed since then by four hundred and twenty-five performances. (The VSO once struggled through seventy-seven rehearsals of this opera, ultimately giving up its attempt to present the premiere.) Before the June  rehearsal of Tristan began, the staff focused on two symbolic circular objects of the set: the rising and fallingmoon, and a brilliant ring of lights, both changing color according to the story.
To bolster all this, in Act Three, Isolde suddenly appeared on stage in a flashing red dress (with a train) to reinforce the red-orange of the moon. All these changes of color intensified as reflections of the characters’ evolving emotions, transforming these seemingly ordinary objects into dominant pillars of the plot. Clearly such a work required stringent coordination in maneuvering even the smaller details of the set. Another day brought a Vienna Hauptprobe of Capriccio by Richard Strauss, again allowing me the opportunity to closely watch the staff members scurrying around the stage or sitting intensely poised at computers—the tools of today’s technology. At the Capriccio Hauptprobe, I noticed a heated but civil discussion ongoing between production staffers, the orchestra and some of the cast.
One fellow guest suggested that the commotion involved the time for a break in the rehearsal. Strauss intended the opera to continue without intermission for all of its two hours and fifteen minutes, or more. During the pause agreed upon, I moved closer to the orchestra pit to hear conductor Eschenbach rehearse the ethereal string sextet that opens Capriccio. Simultaneously, a young dancer silently practiced her solo on stage, her motions seeming to reinforce the parody element of Capriccio. As for Tristan und Isolde, Wagner’smain literary source was Gottfried von Strassburg’s thirteenth-century epic poem of the same name.
The tale is even older, going back centuries to Celtic origins. In Gottfried’s Middle High German “courtly romance,” Tristan reigns as the hero. (Other medieval versions of this story likewise view Tristan as the supreme hero including Thomas of Britain’s Anglo-French Tristan dating from c. 1160, and a number of versions in Old French and Middle High German.) But somehow, through Wagner’s electrically intensifying music—for singers and orchestra alike—the composer transcended Gottfried’s epic, Wagner elevating Isolde to the most heroic, albeit tragic, position above all the other protagonists.
The Staatsoper’s enthralling June, 2013, production made this all the more evident due to Nina Stemme’s enormously spellbinding voice, climaxing in the Liebestod, which affirmed Isolde’s ultimate transfiguration from a victim into a tragic heroine. Welser-Möst’s magnificent, even regal orchestra far exceeded its role as support for Stemme’s singing. For Wagner, the essence of operatic heroism in Tristan (as in many other works) is musical, making both voice and orchestra not only equal but merging into one overwhelming sound.
Stemme is a “trueWagnerian singer,” as the world-famous soprano Evelyn Lear would have phrased it. (Lear, who died recently, coached young singers preparing for Wagnerian roles in a program, “Emerging Singers,” sponsored by the Washington [D.C.] Wagner Society. For several years, Lear invited me to attend some of her private lessons, training young Wagner-aspiring singers).
At the June Hauptprobe, Stemme—with overwelling confidence— virtually became Isolde, singing with true Wagnerian splendor and volume to her sound, climaxing with her electrifying Liebestod. Peter Seiffert, a well-known Heldentenor, was an imposing Tristan with a voice of stunning magnitude and depth, well-balanced with Stemme as in their unbelievably spellbinding Love Duet “O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe,” in Act Two. Also Kurwenal, (Jochen Schmekenbecher), Brangäne (Janina Baechle), King Marke (Stephen Milling), and Melot (Eijiro Kai) and all the supporting cast were powerful and compelling.
But, as heroic figures, both Tristan and Isolde were destined to be victims of conflict in their role as legatees of medieval social norms and an anonymous Fate. In Wagner’s version of the tale, Fate took the form principally of passionate desire, fueled by Brangäne’s trick, which, in a sense, makes Brangäne (beautifully sung by Baechle) a symbol of wisdom and caretaker for Isolde. Following the chivalric code of courtly love, Gottfried’s poem claims the same motive for love as Wagner does: the potion made love rule supreme; as with both Gottfried’s medieval outlook and Wagner’s romantic-era heritage, the potion leaves Tristan and Isolde no option.
Consequently, it draws a veil of ambiguity and uncertainty clouding their love. Fluidity in Tristan und Isolde In Tristan, the atmosphere of overwhelming uncertainty implies that there is no end to this story, most tellingly because of Wagner’s “Tristan chord” (essentially a conglomeration of seemingly incompatible notes and its harmonic implications) and its multiple, ever-changing resolutions (movements from this chord).
This harmonic fluidity causes the music’s textures to continue refiguring themselves, a fluidity creating amassive tone-poem flowing on in seemingly perpetual fluidity. Magically, the Tristan chord serves as a kind of Leitmotiv throughout the opera. (Wagner’s celebrated contemporary, fellow-romantic composer and pianist Franz Liszt, virtually created the technique of continual thematic transformation as a way of developing the structure of his tone-poems.)
Further, Tristan, too, is propelled in continual evolution—not just of the music, but also of the text and plot. The set reinforces this effect, for the moon’s cyclic rise and fall—the centerpiece of the set— and the ring of fire are circles, the symbols of cosmic infinity, another kind of fluidity. And Wagner’s music perfectly adheres to its medieval model, which follows the course of an inevitable Fate flowing endlessly toward an infinite destiny. At the same time, despite the opera’s musical fluidity, the extreme simplification and condensation of the action results in a totally inner action, where human emotions lie deep.
Due to this concentration on human feeling, Tristan und Isolde requires little, if any, stage spectacle. Welser-Möst conducted from beginning to end with infinite flexibility in his hands, arms, and entire body, “fluidly” preserving Wagner’s endless orchestral and vocal motion. (In a similar fashion in Das Rheingold, with its overriding symbolism of the Rhine River and the Prelude to his Ring Cycle, the composer continually unrolls his E-flat major chord, this chord forming the principal source for the Leitmotivs throughout the cycle.
It is interesting to note that Wagner was in the midst of composing the Ring Cycle, when he interrupted it to compose Tristan und Isolde. Conductor Welser-Möst summoned the Vienna State Opera Orchestra to produce a sound that kept flowing “eternally.” Unifying his forces, Welser-Möst kept all the voices and orchestra totally focused. (The English horn, one of the solo instruments that Wagner emphasized in this opera, was played with superb liquidity and foreboding resonance, the insrument’s sound steeped in the tragedy at hand.
The rich elegance of the strings, their well-known Klangstil (tone quality) was met equally by the brilliant woodwinds and brasses, and punctuated by dead-accurate percussion. In Act Two, the offstage “hunting horns” sounded as enchantingly morbid as Wagner’s English horn is foreboding. Richard Strauss’s Capriccio, a “Conversation Piece” In another Hauptprobe in June , I attended the Vienna State Opera Hauptprobe of Richard Strauss’s late opera Capriccio, a manneristic parody that combines humor and seriousness.
Based on the opera’s chief ideas contributed by Stefan Zweig, the libretto of Capriccio was written by Clemens Krauss and Strauss himself. The opera was premiered in October 1942 at Munich’s Nationaltheater. First given in Munich in 1942, Vienna’s 2013 version was a revival of its 2008 production, but conducted this time by Christoph Eschenbach making his Vienna State Opera début. The conductor lent Capriccio his own beautifully exacting style. The underlying subject of Capriccio text is the word-music relationship in opera, while simultaneously revealing Strauss’s own approach to stylistic fluidity.
Preceded, to some degree, in Strauss’s Prologue to Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), Arabella (1933), and Intermezzo (1924), the composer’s continuously melodic, conversational, but conventional Italian recitative style in Capriccio is raised to a fine art. In this late work, Strauss’s orchestral as well his vocal lines breathe a sense of eternal continuity, from the opera’s beginning to end—explaining, at least partly—why Strauss allowed no intermission in this opera, an opera that he himself labeled a one-act “conversation piece.”
Reinforcing this sense of continuity, an atmosphere of “pastoral” lyricism reigns consistently throughout the opera. Strauss’s music fuses simplicity and richness with the temper of the countryside, although the opera is set in an luminous aristocratic salon in a Parisian chateau in the mid-1770s. This elegant mindset is artfully expressed in Vienna’s staging—different ever-revolving columns and bright pastel colors, as well as in the frilly costumes. Like Capriccio, Strauss’s Feuersnot, Salome, and Elektra— are one-act operas, stage equivalents of his ever-flowing orchestral tone poems composed between 1888 and 1898. (Interestingly, Strauss’s music includes quotations from his and others’ works.)
At one point, I heard Wagner’s giants Fafner and Fasolt stomping through Vienna’s orchestra. As in 2008, the 2013 production underlined Strauss’s subtle, enigmatic realization of Capriccio visually, structurally, and philosophically. As the Hauptprobe began, one was pleasantly enchanted by one of Strauss’s most inventive orchestral sonorities: a stunning, silken string sextet that opened the opera, chamber music replacing the traditional full orchestra overture. It sounded wonderful. As the rehearsal continued, the orchestra’s woodwind and brass playing fortified the unique Klangstil of Vienna’s inimitable strings. (All the State Opera’s instrumentalists are drawn from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.)
As the rehearsal continued, Eschenbach skillfully sustained the opera’s delicate ambience and complex emotional innuendos, complicated textures and sophisticated orchestral timbres that slowly but continuously intensify the opera up to its very last notes. Capriccio is a charming period romance: a score dotted with wistful humor, Strauss’s characters metaphorically revealing the issues underlining the complexity and elements of creating an opera, as well as depicting real people and situations.
The most prominent question in Capriccio is the ancient topic of the relationship between words and music. (Compare, for example, the theories of “painting” the words through the music were also primary issues guiding the “birth” of Florentine opera in 1600.) Capriccio director, Marco Arturo Marelli sums up his guiding view of the opera: “it is through the music that a text is emotionally defined.”
Marelli continues, Capriccio “is a retrospective piece, a wistful farewell. It is a review of a composer’s life, with very profound knowledge of this profession; perhaps for this very reason it has no disingenuous pathos, no exaggeratedly facile emotions. Incidentally, what we have essentially in Capriccio is not only Strauss’s last opera, but the last opera in music history in the traditional sense—his lovely farewell.”
The celebrated lyric soprano Renée Fleming was perfectly cast as the Countess in Capriccio (in 2008 and 2013), one of her signature roles. She has a versatile voice capable of the brightest coloratura and lighter spinto. She manages high notes easily but can also sound comfortable down towards a mezzo range. In the Hauptprobe of Capriccio that I attended, she combined moments of broad comedy with an underpinning of farewell to her role as a delicately fetching heroine.
Her voice had a ravishing, glistening timbre, perfect for role because she knows all the infinite dramatic and musical nuances at the heart of this opera. Angelika Kirchschlager (2008 and 2013) was aptly cast as Clairon; Bo Skovhus equally so as the Count (2008 & 2013).The superb cast also included Benjamin Bruns as the Italian Tenor (2013); Kurt Rydl as La Roche (2013); Michael Schade as Flamand (2008 & 2013); Íride Martinez as the Italian Singer (2013); and Markus Eiche as Olivier (2013).
A Vienna State Opera premiere production: Gioachino Rossini, La Cenerentola ossia La bontà in trionfo (or Goodness Triumphant): Dramma Giocoso in Two Acts. The June 2013 Festwochen also included the Vienna State Opera’s premiere of Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella), using the libretto of Jacopo Ferretti. Conductor Jesús López-Cobos delicately but clearly underlined Rossini’s fusion of traditional 18th-century Italian opera buffa style with opera seria pathos and romanticism’s sentimentality.
La Cenerentola, in fact, belongs to a succession of his finest operas that mix the semi-serious with the comic, such as Il turco in Italia, Il barbiere di Siviglia, and La gazza ladra—all dating from 1814 to 1817. They clearly display Rossini’s inventive approach to structure, as well as his love of lavish orchestration and gift for breathtaking vocal writing. López-Cobos called on all his forces, both on stage and in the pit, to combine all these elements into a captivating whole.
This Vienna State Opera production assembled a well-balanced cast of singers who updated the old fairy tale of Cinderella with acting that gave zest and energy to the story’s basic theme of jealousy. Other stock opera buffa expressions of this temperament were intensified by constantly contorted facial expressions and gestures that satirized the old operatic themes of spells such as “evil” and “nastiness.” It was a performance to remember.
The outstanding cast included Don Ramiro: Dmitry Korchak; Dandini: Vito Priante; Don Magnifico: Alessandro Corbelli; Angelina (Cenerentola): Rachel Frenkel; Clorinda: Valentina Nafornita; Tisbe: Margarita Gritskova; Alidoro: Michele Pertusi; also: the Vienna State Opera Orchestra; the Vienna State Opera Chorus, directed by Martin Schebesta; the Vienna State Opera Stage Orchestra; the Vienna State Opera Ballet.
The stage director was Sven-Eric Bechtolf. The Vienna State Ballet: DON QUIXOTE For the Vienna Festwochen of 2013, the Vienna State Ballet presented its own splendid version of the old tale of Don Quixote. Based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes’s well-known novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, Marius Petipa first choreographed the ballet, set to Ludwig Minkus’ music.
The work was premiered in Moscow in 1869, an expanded version being presented in St. Petersburg two years later. (Don Quixote as a ballet is rooted in even earlier versions given in Vienna dating back to 1740 and 1768.) For June 2013, Kevin Rhodes conducted the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera in a splendid, precise version of the ballet epic. Under the Vienna State Ballet’s director, Manuel Legris, the performance continued the tradition of using the music of Minkus as arranged by John Lanchbery.
The choreography was originally created in Paris by the legendary Rudolf Nurejew and Marius Petipa. Thomas Mayerhofer generated high energy and dramatic conviction to his role as Don Quixote, while Christoph Wenzel was an agile, perfect fit as Sancha Pansa. Maria Jakovleva lent brilliance and astounding accuracy to her assignment as Kitri. The Vienna State Corps de Ballet offered never failing support with truly astonishing technique, even when the tempo resembled a racing competition.
Such “athletics,” along with costumes painted in deeply colored mauves, reds, and greens further enlivened the brilliant performance. Finally, I briefly note three outstanding concerts I attended in June as part of The Wiener Festwochen 2013: a brilliant night of Johann Sebastian Bach by the Concentus Musicus Wien; the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Brahms and Berlioz; and the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle in an all- Schubert program.
Certainly one of the highlights of Vienna’s Festwochen in 2013 was the performance of cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach at the Grosser Musikvereinsaal of the city’s Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The celebrated conductor Nicholas Harnoncourt led his Concentus Musicus Wien (which he and Alice Harnoncourt founded in 1953) in three of these works. Wearing suggestions of costumes such as hats and wigs dressing up their routine concert attire, and cleverly portraying Bach’s “characters” in each cantata, the singers transformed these cantatas into one-act operas.
The magnificent soloists were the established opera and concert stars soprano Martina Janková, countertenor Andreas Scholl, tenor Michael Schade, and bass Luca Pisaroni, who can jump from one musical genre to another with seeming ease. On another evening at the Musikverein, conductor Tugan Sokhiev led the Vienna Philharmonic in deeply expressed performances of Johannes Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin (Folkhard Steude) and Cello (Péter Somodari) in A minor, Op. 102. Sokhiev cleanly articulated even the most subtle phrases and maintained a finely coordinated partnership with the stunning soloists.
For the second half of this concert, the conductor offered a visionary interpretation of Hector Berlioz’ dramatic and sonorous Symphonie fantastique: “Episoden aus dem Leben eines Künstlers, Op. 14. Sokhiev kept the orchestra on a straight course never lagging in impetus, while beautifully bringing to life the dreamy, yet wildly varying character of each movement. The Festwochen of 2013 also included a captivating and waltz-infused all-Schubert performance by the Wienerhofmusikkapelle, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst at the Musikverein.
Consisting of members of the Vienna Philharmonic, the orchestra opened the concert with Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 7, D. 759, the “Unfinished.” From the opening pianissimo tremolos there was instantaneous communication between conductor and orchestra. Particularly remarkable was the perfect coordination of the dynamic changes in Schubert’s emotional innuendos.
And Welser-Möst forged that perfect union of musical intellect with intense expressivity that underlies Schubert’s path-breaking Lieder. The evening also included Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major, D. 950, with soprano Olesya Golovneva, mezzo Hermine Haselböck, tenors Peter Lodahl and Rainer Trost, and bass Robert Holl. The soloists were joined by the Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Choirboys) in their signature “sailor-boy” uniforms; and singers and orchestra combined in an exhilarating, Based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes’s well-known novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, Marius Petipa first choreographed, moving performance of the Mass.