Year in music
Bauer Media that claimed 45 percent of under-35s listened
to classical music to escape the noise of 21st-century life.
Among the presenting team was the U.K.’s youngest com-
missioned composer, 19-year-old Jack Pepper.
A new TV drama depicting life in a fictional orchestra
with a woman conductor was launched in Belgium and
Switzerland before going live on French national TV,
attracting large audiences.
Having swept in like the U.S. Cavalry to save English
National Opera, Artistic Director Daniel Kramer decided
that three years was enough in his first admin role and quit.
The company’s backstage staff benefited from a new union
deal that closed the gap in pay between men and women
working in the company’s costume, wardrobe, and wigs
departments. Before leaving, Kramer announced a 2019-
20 season that would celebrate “the rise of the feminine,”
enlisting women to direct more than half of the seven new
productions and three revivals.
The Royal Opera appeared to be moving in the other
direction, with only one woman among the 19 conductors scheduled for the opera’s main stage, Ariane Matiakh
taking some performances of a revival of La bohème.
Director of Opera Oliver Mears stated that it was not
an acceptable ratio and that future years would redress
Shock waves went around the music business when the
U.K. Court of Appeal ruled that the Royal Opera House
failed to take reasonable steps to protect
the hearing of violist Christopher Golds-cheider during a 2012 rehearsal of Wagner’s
Die Walküre. The company had argued
that the artistic merit of the music being
played outweighed hearing damage that
was both inevitable and justifiable, a line
of argument that was unanimously rejected
by the court.
Welsh National Opera lost both artistic
director and managing director, failing to
renew David Pountney’s contract and losing
Leonora Thomson in the course of a strategic
review. The two had run the company jointly
but fell afoul of a decision to return to the
model of single leadership, a job that now
falls to Aidan Lang from Seattle Opera as
The Paris Opera named Alexander Neef
as successor to Stéphane Lissner as general
director from the 2021-22 season.
Bayreuth announced a new Ring Cycle
for 2020, with Austrian director Valentin
Schwarz, Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen,
In Milan there was dissent at the $16.9 million five-
year partnership between La Scala and the Saudi Arabian
government, following outrage over the murder of Wash-
ington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. La Scala decided
to return $3.4 million of the cash. The Saudi proposal
included giving a seat on the La Scala board to Saudi
Arabia’s culture minister. The Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe
Sala, who also chairs La Scala’s board, said the $3.4 million
had been deposited into an escrow account without the
The Greek National Opera received a $22.7 million
grant to implement a four-year program to help raise the
company’s international profile and fund its season-long
tribute to the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution
Hungarian State Opera sought to get around the
Gershwin estate’s stipulation that only black performers
should appear in Porgy and Bess, asking its nearly all-white
cast to self-identify as African-American. The Hungarian
performers were asked to sign a statement declaring that
“African-American origin and identity is an inseparable
part of my identity” and made being in the production “a
The Orchestre National de France put a cat among the
pigeons by hiring Charles Dutoit, who has faced multiple
At the Lucerne Festival on September 6, 2019, the esteemed Dutch conductor
Bernard Haitink led the Vienna Philharmonic in Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony and
officially retired at age 90. Photo: © Lucerne Festival/Priska Ketterer.