Aivar Mäe named Vanemuine Theater director for one-year term

Aivar Mäe.
Aivar Mäe. Source: Magnus Markus Lutter / ERR

Former National Opera chief Aivar Mäe is to become director of Tartu's Vanemuine Theater, on a temporary basis, replacing Kristiina Alliksaar, who is stepping down from the post.

Mäe had previously managed the Vanemuine, one of several major state-run theaters, two decades ago, at a time when it was going through a tough time.

"This time around, I'm coming to manage a theater which is already in very good shape - a theater with great creative potential and packed auditoria full of people - things can only get better," Mäe said of his new appointment.

Mäe had been Mayor of Põhja Pärnumaa Rural Municipality since last summer.

Urmas Klaas (Reform), Tartu mayor, in his dual role as Vanemuine Theater Supervisory Board Chair, said that Mäe brought a strong vision to Vanemuine, which will enable it to become a multi-genre cultural institution.

Klaas said: "The theater has done a very good job so far, and it is good to continue developing a unique and very important multi-genre theater in Estonia going forward."

Vanemuine was seeking a replacement for Kristiina Alliksaar, who is leaving at her own request and whose last day at work is set to be June 30.

Mäe is taking on the position for one year only, from August 15. This means he will have to step down as Põhja Pärnumaa mayor.

A new competitive public process will be held in summer 2024 to find the next full-term director. Whether Mäe will enter this round is not reported.

A previously held public competitive process, whose deadline for applications was April 16, did not yield any suitable candidates, in the supervisory board's opinion, meaning it was declared null and void.

Mäe hit the headlines in summer 2020 after allegations of sexual harassment were directed at him, in respect of his time as National Opera (Rahvusooper) director.

Mäe resigned from that post in the wake of the media allegations, which first surfaced in investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress, and, while he received a fine from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in October of that year, this was annulled by Harju County Court on Mäe's appeal.

Between then and becoming Põhja Pärnumaa mayor, Mäe project managed the construction of the Viimsi cultural center. He was also one of the applicants for the post of ERR board manager, last year.

Urmas Klaas obtained authorization, via the supervisory board, to find a replacement for Kristiina Alliksaar on a pro tempore basis, granted by the Minister of Culture on the basis of the Performing Arts Institutions Act.

This is as noted under the terms of a one-year stint with no competitive process.

Located on the street of the same name, Vanemuise 6 on the downhill approach to central Tartu, the Vanemuine Theater directly employs nearly 400 people.

Mäe was National Opera director 2009-2020, before which he was director of Eesti Kontsert. His first run as Vanemuine director lasted 2003-2006.

A trained classical musician and composer, Mäe also had a successful pop career in the 1980s, as frontman of the band Vitamiin (see below).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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