The Vienna Philharmonia Chorus is a professional opera and concert chorus that performs all over the world.
Founded in 2002 at the initiative of Gerard Mortier, former director of the Salzburg Festival, it was originally known as the Ruhr Triennale Chorus and/or the Baden-Baden Festival Chorus, being associated with those two festivals.
In 2006 the renamed "Vienna Philharmonia Chorus" started performing as an independent choral society, working with renowned conductors including Claudio Abbado, Marc Minkowski, Kent Nagano, Thomas Hengelbrock, Zubin Mehta, Christian Thielemann and Riccardo Muti and making guest performances in opera productions at the Bremen Music Festival (L'Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles)), in Reggio Emilia and Ferrara (The Magic Flute), Baden-Baden (Parsifal, The Magic Flute, Tannhäuser) and at the Ruhr Triennale (Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute).
In April 2008 the Chorus appeared in the Salzburg Festival guest performances of The Marriage of Figaro in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo. January 2009 saw the Chorus perform Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose) at Baden-Baden Festival Theatre under Christian Thielemann, with subsequent concert performances in Paris and Munich.
At Whitsun 2009 the Philharmonia Chorus appeared at the Baden-Baden Festival in Robert Wilson's new production of Der Freischütz (The Marksman), conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock, which was repeated in a concert version at the Lucerne Festival in August 2009.
In January 2010 the ensemble appeared in Elektra under Christian Thielemann at Baden-Baden Festival Theatre. At the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2010 the Chorus gave a staged performance of Mozart's Betulia liberata (The Liberation of Bethulia) and a concert performance of Jomelli's Betulia liberata, conducted by Riccardo Muti. These two works were also performed at the Ravenna Festival in early July 2010.
The Philharmonia Chorus returned to the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2011, this time with Saverio Mercadante's opera I due Figaro (The Two Figaros) and the Cherubini Requiem, both under Riccardo Muti. I due Figaro was also performed at the Ravenna Festival in June 2011, as well as at the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre) in Madrid in March 2012 and the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theatre) in Buenos Aires in August/September 2012.
Following its involvement in the Salzburg Festival guest performances of The Marriage of Figaro in Japan in 2008, the Chorus made its Salzburg Festival debut at Whitsun 2010 in Mozart's Betulia liberata (The Liberation of Bethulia) under Riccardo Muti. At Whitsun 2011 this was followed by a production of Mercadante's I due Figaro (The Two Figaros) – again conducted by Muti – which was subsequently reprised at the Ravenna Festival, at the Teatro Real (Royal Theatre) in Madrid and at the Teatro Colon (Columbus Theatre) in Buenos Aires. At the 2013 Salzburg Festival the Chorus appeared in Falstaff under Zubin Mehta and a concert performance of Giovanna d'Arco (Joan of Arc) under Paolo Carignani. The Salzburg Festival of 2014 saw it in Don Giovanni under Christoph Eschenbach and concert performances of La Favorite (The Favourite) conducted by Roberto Abbado.
The Chorus's most recent engagements also include concert performances of Rienzi under Alejo Pérez in Madrid and Bellini's La Straniera (The Foreign Woman) under Pietro Rizzo at the Vienna Musikverein.
Since 2014 the Vienna Philharmonia Chorus has also appeared at the Baden-Baden Easter Festival in Manon Lescaut, Der Rosenkavalier and Tristan under Sir Simon Rattle, and at the Baden-Baden Whitsun Festival in Faust under Thomas Hengelbrock and, in 2016, Mefistofele under Stefan Soltesz.
The Chorus celebrated its most recent successes at the Salzburg Summer Festival of 2016, appearing in productions of "Faust" under Alejo Pérez and "Don Giovanni" under Alain Altinoglu, a concert performance of "Thaïs", and in "Prayer Wheel", an Armenian mass for choir and jazz quartet by Karen Asatrian.
The Vienna Philharmonia Chorus is also a sought-after concert chorus led by its founder, Walter Zeh.
Founder and Choral Director: Walter Zeh
Walter Zeh was born in Vienna, where he studied at the Conservatory and at the University of Music and Performing Arts. In 1970 he was admitted to the Vienna State Opera Chorus as a soloist, and remained a member for 32 years. Throughout this entire period he also made guest appearances as a soloist at numerous great opera houses, including the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, La Scala in Milan, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and the Opéra Bastille and Palais Garnier in Paris, as well as at the Salzburg Festival and Easter Festival and in Japan.
He also enjoyed a busy career as a Lied and concert singer, both at home and abroad, and made CD recordings with some of the world's leading conductors.
Walter Zeh has worked for many years as a singing teacher and voice coach for opera productions at the Opéra Bastille and at the Salzburg Festival and Easter and Whitsun Festivals, among others.
Since 1997 he has been the Artistic Director of the Vienna Neubau Choir. In his capacity as a freelance choral director he has been involved in various productions since 2002, inter alia for the Baden-Baden Festival Theatre, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Ruhr Triennale, the Salzburg Festival, the Bremen Music Festival, the Lucerne Festival, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the Concert Hall in Dortmund, St. Pölten Festival Theatre and the Vienna Musikverein.
He was also invited to rehearse and conduct a concert programme with the China National Chorus in Beijing.
In Memoriam: Honorary Member Gerard Mortier
Some words of remembrance from Walter Zeh, founder and artistic director of the Vienna Philharmonia Chorus:
I would like to pick out three key milestones in our long-standing collaboration with Gerard Mortier: I got to know Gerard Mortier in 1989 in my capacity as President of the Vienna State Opera Chorus Concert Association, and was fortunate enough to work with him at the Salzburg Festival in the extraordinary period from 1992 to 2001.
In 2002 he invited me to form a chorus for the first Ruhr Triennale, the new festival he had founded in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia; it was from this that the Vienna Philharmonia Chorus later evolved.
In 2012 he invited the Chorus to take part in the productions of "I due Figaro" and "Rienzi" under his directorship at the Teatro Real in Madrid. It was during this period that we had the honour of making Gerard Mortier an Honorary Member.
We shall continue in our endeavour to live up to the great faith Gerard Mortier showed in us, carrying on our work inspired by his spirit. He will forever remain in our thoughts.
- Wolfgang Hampel (President)
- Werner Dubowy (President 2014-2015)
- Wolfgang Hampel (President 2008-2013)
- Dr. Inge Piffl (President 2006-2007 and Co-Founder)