The Salzburg Festival, one of the world's top classical music events, was in disarray on Monday after the conductor of one of the centrepiece performances for the next three years withdrew in a huff.
Franz Welser-Moest said that he would not perform Mozart's opera Cosi fan tutte after discovering that it was going to be performed five times in 10 days, including once starting at 11am. The schedule, the Austrian conductor said, was "impractical", and starting at such an early hour "would mean the singers would have to wake up at 3am in order to be ready".
He also withdrew from conducting performances of Mozart's two other operas scheduled for 2014 and 2015.
The decision is a big blow to organisers since works by Mozart, who was born in Salzburg, have always formed the core repertoire of the Austrian city's summer festival, which runs from July 19 to September 1.
The event's artistic director, Alexander Pereira, said his proposal to start rehearsing Cosi fan tutte several weeks before the planned premiere on August 21 had been rejected by Welser-Moest "because he simply had to go on holiday".
"The real reason for cancelling is probably that two people who at one time worked very intensively together over many years have now grown apart," Perreira said. The two men worked closely and successfully in the past at the Zurich opera, where Perreira was general manager and Welser-Moest the general music director.
Perreira said he would soon be able to present a replacement for Welser-Moest. * AFP