Where's Pappano going?

Where's Pappano going?


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2011

The next step for Antonio Pappano, music director at Covent Garden and Santa Cecilia, has been one of the hottest traded commodities on the futures floor (and I can state this with added confidence since the bank now owns his record company).

Pappano has long made it clear that he wants to step down at the Royal Opera House after the 2013-14 season, marking the birth bicentenary of Wagner and Verdi and the centenary of Britten. By that time he will have put in 15 years as the ROH’s most hands-on conductor since George Solti in the 1960s.
So what next? He has been pencilled in as the next chief of the Met, succeeding James Levine, and as an obvious choice for La Scala as and when it finally gets its act together. But, from what I hear, both prospects are now distinctly on the back burner.
Pappano is happy in London. He is laying down conducting projects at Covent Garden for 2015 and beyond and generally acting in complete disregard of his agents’ career plans and the market expectations. And good for him, say one and all.

                                                             photo: Laurie Lewis/IMG, Lebrecht Music and Arts
But there is one area of movement in his life. 
Next month Pappano will be heard on Deutsche Grammophon, conducting a Pergolesi Stabat Mater in Rome with Anna Netrebko and Marianna Pizzolato. Pappano has been exclusive to EMI all his working life. Indeed, he was hired at Covent Garden by the EMI chairman at the time, Sir Colin Southgate. He’s house conductor at EMI, period. He renewed his contract as recently as last November.
So what’s he doing on DG? His contract allows him to make an occasional off-label recording, that’s the official line. It also means that EMI get an occasional shot at DG’s Netrebko, who recorded a sensational Rossini Stab Mat with Pappano last year. But that’s for the record.
Behind the scenes I hear that DG, alert to EMI’s troubles, are moving in for Pappano like a pack of dachshunds on heat. The revitalised Universal label needs an all-round conductor at the heart of its plans. Pappano fits the bill perfectly. They will make him an offer his agent will find hard to refuse. 
Citi-owned EMI could struggle to hold onto him. If Pappano goes, Citi will have a classical crisis on its hands. Be interesting to see how the bonus culture works when that happens.