Is this the first woman to conduct at La Scala?

Is this the first woman to conduct at La Scala?


norman lebrecht

April 28, 2011

According to Italian news agencies, Susanna Mälkki broke an age-old taboo when she led the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s opera Quartet. The work, based on a Heiner Müller, derives from Les Liaisons Dangereuses and runs til May 7.

Could that really be true? Has Scala run 11 years into the 21st century before allowing a woman to do what they have been doing the world over for two generations? Apparently so.

Big hand for Susanna. No hand at all for La Scala


  • Catherine says:

    More women need to go into conducting, period – and make noise about it, and kick open those fusty old doors. Really, it’s overdue.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    Out of curiosity, I looked to see if any woman might have conducted at La Scala before Ms. Mälkki. I found two links suggesting that Claire Gibault might have been first back in 1995, but they aren’t clear as to whether Ms. Gilbault actually conducted in the house. Her own website ( seems to be gone, and all I find of it on the Internet Archive is some broken links.
    This one is from the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1995:
    Her Wikipedia entry has something about it, too, but also doesn’t make clear if she conducted in the house. It does mention her being an assistant to Claudio Abbado for “Pelléas et Mélisande” at the Royal Opera House, La Scala and the Vienna State Opera:

  • Emil Archambault says:

    Do women conduct major orchestras very often? Unfortunately, no.
    Just out of curiosity: how many have conducted at the Met? The Wiener Phil? The ROH?
    NL replies: In London: Sian Edwards, Jane Glover, Marin Alsop, Emmanuelle Haim, Susanna Mälkki, Iona Brown, JoAnn Falletta, many more…

  • JMW says:

    Hey, there are other special interest groups that need opportunities too! Seriously, is it right to ask the question “Do women conduct major orchestras very often?” Why not black conductors, or hispanic or asian? Shouldn’t the question be how ofter do good conductors conduct whatever orchestra? If not, does that mean I can expect a phone call from London and Berlin presently?