Shkëlzen Doli is maybe one of the most famous artists in Vienna. He is part of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and this is easy to confirm. But it is equally easy to find online that he is member of the Philharmonic Ensemble – Vienna, a group consisting of several virtuoso musicians that are part of the Vienna Philharmonic. Their concerts are well attended and loved by the public, and certainly their arrival in Tirana will be a great success.
But precisely this fact makes on place some question marks in relation to the concert that was so enthusiastically announced by Prime Minister Edi Rama as the “Vienna Concert in Albania.”
Why does someone need to lie about the name and number of instrumentalists that will play in Tirana on January 2? Why is the name of one of the most dignified musical institutions in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, abused? And finally, why is there no transparency about the funds for this concert and the sales of the tickets?
Let’s take these issues one by one.
The Vienna Concert in Albania
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is not coming to Albania. This is now clear from the official response of the General Director of the Vienna Philharmonic, Harald Krümpock, in its response to an inquiry by Opinion.
The clear response of Krümpock also woke up the Austrian Embassy in Tirana, which was forced to publish a declaration in which it was clearly stated that Shkëlzen Doli will come to Tirana with a group of 36 musicians from his ensemble, among whom current and past members of the Vienna Philharmonic and other Viennese musicians.
So clearly the announcement about the “Vienna Concert” in Tirana is longer a truth but rather a lie hidden by terminology that is difficult to understand for the majority of the Albanians.
While two (non-Albanian) institutions rushed to clarify their positions, the Ministry of Culture in Albania still didn’t respond to our requests about the number of players coming from Vienna Philharmonic will actually be in the concert.
What is very clear, however, is how much the Albanian state is paying for them to coming, and what the procedure has been to sell the tickets.
In fact, the silence of the Ministry of Culture doesn’t manage to hide the financial details and companies involved, which are freely available online.
For example, a few days ago, the Ministry of Culture has wired a sum of about €100,000 to the account of AGE Art Production, the general sponsor of the event. Interestingly, the company was only registered in August 2016, with Shkëlzen Doli being one of its owners.
The other owner is Sadik Llapashtica, is the main owner of the AGE Group, which operates a number of hydropower plants in Kosovo, and since 2014 also in Albania.
How can it be that the Ministry of Cultures transfers €100,000 for the organization of such an important event to a company that has only existed for four months? And if AGE Group is the general sponsor of the event, why does the Albanian state need to pay a sum that is as large at the annual budget of the Theater of Opera and Ballet?
We tried to reach the company for a comment, but they still haven’t responded.
Meanwhile, the tickets have sold out in record time for prices between 3000 and 7000 lekë. A simple calculation shows that profit from their sales is around €80,000.
So without counting the contributions of other sponsors, Shkëlzen Doli and his business partner have already profited €180,000 from their enterprise.
As I am not an expert in classical music, I am not sure how much it would cost to bring 36 instrumentalists from Vienna to Tirana to play for an Albanian audience. Maybe it’s even more expensive than that.
But what I sure about is that an entire audience, thirsty for cultural activities in a country submerged in cheap entertainment, has been openly misled for a concert that isn’t what is claimed on its posters around the city or on the Facebook wall of the Prime Minister.
I can also say with certainty that the interest of the Albanian public would have been as big of Shkëlzen Doli would just have come with his violin to the Palace of Congresses, just as I can say with certainty that these won’t be the first funds (unfortunately) that Albanian governments spend for their make-up.
They forget that you cannot become European with “fake” concerts from Vienna when the Parliament is still filled with criminals and traffickers, when the hospitals look like concentration camps, and when liberated criminals can sit on the first row of the concert with the music of Strauss.