Former National Opera director working for Viimsi municipality

National Opera (Rahvusooper) Director Aivar Mäe.
National Opera (Rahvusooper) Director Aivar Mäe. Source: Meeli Küttim ja Martin Dremljuga

Former director of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) Aivar Mäe is now project managing a new cultural center to be established in Viimsi, just outside Tallinn. Mäe resigned from the National Opera in August following media allegations he had engaged in sexual harassment of staff at the Opera house, over an extended period of time.

"We will continue to cooperate with Aivar Mäe, who from mid-September this year has been involved in the establishment of the Artium cultural center, as project manager on behalf of the Viimsi rural municipality, with the task of helping to build and complete the center, using his expertise," Martin Jaško, the rural municipality's PR manager said.

Mäe's previous work in overseeing the Jõhvi and Pärnu concert halls' construction, along with the Vanemuine Concert Hall in Tartu, St. John's Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, Russia, and at the Estonia Theater, home of the National Opera, were pluses in his getting the job, Jaško says.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) opened an investigation into Mäe on June 26, a few days after an article appeared in investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress alleging that Mäe had behaved inappropriately towards women employees at the theater, over a lengthy time period.

He was fined an undisclosed sum by the PPA in October, after the latter had found him culpable in the reported acts.

Viimsi municipality had already started cooperation with Mäe in autumn 2019, when the center was still at design stage, and when then-municipality mayor Laine Ranjärv set up a three-month contract, with a €5,000-per-month wage.

Mäe's task as a consultant was to provide expert assessments for the builders of the construction project, and to make design proposals.

Once the design phase ended, in spring, the municipality's administrative firm, Viimsi Haldus OÜ, took over the coordination, followed by a procurement process to find a construction firm.

Actual work began a month ago, for the planned 500-seat concert hall along with smaller halls, which should host top-class musicians, theater performances and other cultural events.

The center is due to open in spring 2022 and should also host the Viimsi hobby center (Viimsi huvikeskus) and other music, art and science education facilities.

Viimsi schools will also be able to make use of the center.

An external mediator had been brought in to be available to staff at the Estonia Theater/National Opera, if they wanted to talk, as well as to working practices at the opera house, which comprises two main auditoria - the opera and ballet house, along with the main concert hall.

Defense counsel for Aivar Mäe Paul Keres said after the fine was issued in October that an appeal would be launched.

Mäe's replacement as National Opera director has yet to be announced, but is likely to be so before year end.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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