Opinion: Time to rethink enshrined attitudes about conductors?

Posted on: March 15, 2018

The Metropolitan Opera’s dismissal on Monday of James Levine, its former music director, “may be an opportunity to think about what it means to be a maestro, to consider the vast power we grant to conductors and whether that power has outlived its usefulness,” writes Zachary Woolfe in Tuesday’s (3/13) New York Times. “ ‘This is a critical moment in terms of analyzing that position,’ said JoAnn Falletta, the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic since 1999…. ‘The responsibility of a conductor is always going to be there…. But the style, the unlimited power? That should change.’ A conductor’s position has always been strange and amorphous, even mystical…. Music directors … are the center of marketing campaigns.… The centrality afforded to conductors … inclines institutions to … try their best to make their relationships with their maestros work, at most any financial or moral cost.… The way some conductors have abused their power—Charles Dutoit, like Mr. Levine, has recently been felled amid numerous accusations of sexual misconduct—is a function of being granted so much power in the first place…. The Met shouldn’t want a savior to follow Mr. Levine. It should want a musician.”

Posted March 15, 2018