Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments: » Alberto Vilar: 1940—: Investor, Philanthropist Biography - A Frustrated Music-lover, The Privileges Of Wealth, Gave To Medicine

Alberto Vilar: 1940—: Investor, Philanthropist - Gave To Medicine

october september center medical

Vilar has not limited his philanthropy to music. He distributed $20 million in scholarships to bring foreign students to Columbia University and founded the Cornell-Salzburg Medical Seminars, which convenes 1,000 Eastern European physicians annually in Salzburg and Vienna. In mid-March of 2001, he showed his thanks to the Columbia University medical center that treated his crushed forearm and elbow after a fall on the ski slopes. His gift of $10 million to the Alberto Vilar Center for Research of the Hand and the Upper Extremity emerged from his friendship with a surgeon who shared his zeal for opera. Vilar also donated $25 million, the largest gift in the 102-year history of Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center, for the Alberto Vilar Research Center, a complex devoted to respiratory, allergic, and immune system diseases. To Denver Business he stressed, "I am proud that the facility will bear my name, not only because I want to support the best institutions but because … my goal is to serve as an example to others." He predicted that the center would witness major medical advancement.

Vilar's object is a sincere intent to encourage other wealthy people toward altruism. To concerns over the economic downturn at the end of 2001, he characterized low yields as the market's normal correction. Still optimistic about technology, the internet, and medical breakthroughs, he predicted phenomenal growth over the next five years as well as a jump in the amounts he would donate to the arts.

Critics of Vilar charge him with demanding public gratitude. Some ridicule him for the nameplate at Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden and another in London's Covent Garden, where he gave $15 million to restore the 267-year-old structure under the name Vilar Floral Hall, which he equipped with electronic screens on seatbacks. His name also surfaces on the Alberto Vilar Awards for the Operalia Worldwide Competition for Young Singers, which tenor Plácido Domingo arranges in Bordeaux, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Paris, Puerto Rico, and Tokyo.

There are complaints that Vilar skews donations toward conservative music and away from experimental composers. Met manager Joseph Volpe commented to the Washington Post that Vilar loves grand, stagy works like the Franco Zeffirelli production of La Traviata. Vilar also demands opening night tickets and front-row seats, where art lovers crowd around to express thanks. For his support of the Kennedy Center, he expects two seats at every performance.

Vilar maintains four goals for his avocation: encouraging young talent, applying technology, restoring music halls, and presenting new productions. He has countered charges that he influences the selection of singers and conductors, as occurred when his friend Lorin Maazel was hired to direct the New York Philharmonic. The company program reciprocated for Vilar's generosity by identifying him as the orchestra's archangel. He declares that it is a personal joy to nurture art, including the Maazel/Vilar Conductors' Competition Foundation, which scouts new directors and hosts a mentoring program and an international conducting competition.

Vilar gave millions to arts programs because of the conscience he developed in childhood. He told Jacqueline Trescott in the Washington Post: "I was brought up as an intimidated Catholic: 'You will go down there if you don't give.' You have to be passionate about what you are doing. You have to have a sense of generosity and get satisfaction out of giving." Completely at home in a tux, he loves formal occasions where he models the ideal balance of billionaire art lover and philanthropist.



Back Stage, October 8, 1999, p. 6.

Boulder News, October 5, 1998.

Business Week, September 6, 1999, p. 102.

Culturkiosque, May 23, 2001.

Denver Business Journal, July 13, 2001, p. 3A.

Fortune, October 25, 1999, p. 390; November 27, 2000, p. 106.

Fund Raising Management, March 2001, p. 17.

Hispanic, April 2001, p. 16.

Hispanic Business, June 1996, p. 146.

Institutional Investor International Edition, December 1999, p. 13.

Investment News, October 4, 1999, p. 1.

New York Times, September 29, 1998, p. B1, B3; September 3, 2000, p. BU2; October 8, 2001, p. AR1; January 18, 2001, p. B5; January 27, 2001, p. A15; February 9, 2001, p. A19; February 14, 2001, p. A23; February 15, 2001, p. B1; March 27, 2001, p,." B1; July 29, 2001, p. AR1; January 21, 2002, pp. 50-55.

Opera News, August 2001, p. 36.

U. S. News & World Report, September 25, 2000, p. 68.

Variety, February 19, 2001, p. 66.

Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1991, p. A1; May 1, 1996, p. C1; July 24, 1996, p. C1; October 17, 1996, p. C1; April 4, 1997, p. C2; September 19, 2000, p. A24.

Washington Post, April 1, 2001, p. G01.


Business Week Online, www.businessweek.com, June 5, 2000.

Hispanic Online, www.hisp.com, November 2000.


Orthopedic Technology Review, September-October 2001, http://www.orthopedictechreview.com/issues/sepoct01/pg12.htm




Additional information for this profile was obtained from Richard Dukas, Alberto Vilar's publicity manager.

—Mary Ellen Snodgrass

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