Power couples in classical music

Power couples in classical music


norman lebrecht

June 03, 2014

In an art where sex-equality is a fairly recent innovation, there have always been couples who ran parallel careers. Not many of them lasted the distance as travel and stress took their toll, but there is currently a growing pack of musical pairs with a lengthening track record.

Here’s the Slippedisc power couples list for 2014. Feel free to add more.

1 Daniel Barenboim, Elena Bashkirova

He: Berlin Staatsoper, East-West Diwan. She: Founder, Berlin Metropolis Ensemble, Jerusalem Chamber Music Festival

2 Nikolaus and Alice Harnoncourt

Players and partners for over 60 years.

harnoncourt salzburg

3 Simon Rattle, Magdalena Kozena

He: chief conductor, Berlin Philharmonic. She: international mezzo

4 Roberto Alagna, Aleksandra Kurzak

Power tenor and rising soprano, now with babe in arms



5 Sakari Oramo, Anu Komsi

He: music director Stockholm Phil, BBC SO. She: coloratura soprano, director West Coast Kokkola Opera

6 Andris Nelsons, Kristine Opolais

He: music director Boston SO. She: mightily successful soprano

7 Gus Christie, Danielle DeNiese

The Glyndebourne Festival founder married a soprano. So did his grandson.

christie deniese

8 Natalie Dessay, Laurent Naouri

Soprano-baritone couple, dominant in France

9 Peter Gelb, Kerry Lynn Wilson

He: general manager, Metropolitan Opera. She: international conductor

10 Nicola Benedetti, Leonard Elschenbroich

Outstanding soloists, together for eight years


11 Composer Rodion Shchedrin, Ballerina Maya Plisetskaya (h/t: Dianne Winsor)



12 Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare

13 David Finckel and Wu Han

14 Russian Gennady Rozhdestvensky and pianist Viktoria Postnikova. Married since 1969.

15 Soprano Elina Garanca, married to British conductor Karel Mark Chichon.

16 Putinist pair: violinist Vadim Repin and ballerina Svetlana Zakharova.


  • Geoffrey John says:

    Gil Shaham & Adele Anthony

  • Micaela says:

    Semyon Bychkov & Marielle Labèque

  • sdReader says:

    11 Manuela Hoelterhoff, Francesca Zambello.

    She: witty music critic. She: stage director.

  • Robert Manno says:

    There are currently, and there have been many couples at the Metropolitan Opera over the years. Probably the most visible was soprano Judith Blegen and concertmaster Raymond Gniewek together now for 36 years.

  • Tor Fromyhr says:

    2nd That GJ

  • Anon says:

    Samuel Barber & Giancarlo Menotti

  • W White says:

    David Robertson and Orli Shaham

  • Anon says:

    Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Pierre Tourville, Montreal Asst. Princ. Viola. Very glamorous power couple, with Yannick as one of the 1st openly gay Top 5 US orch. conductors. Bravo!

    • m2n2k says:

      One if the first? Only if we don’t count Leonard Bernstein as the principal conductor of the NY Phil over half a century earlier when he was perhaps not advertised as gay publicly but certainly very well known that way since he was virtually incapable of being not open about anything.

  • No says:

    Kathryn McDowell and Ian Ritchie

  • Brian says:

    David Finckel & Wu Han have quite an empire in the US – Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Music at Menlo, their vanity label…

  • Costper! (Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez, the newest Brangelina of the opera world!)

  • Brian says:

    Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Viktoria Postnikova. Married since 1969!

  • Andrew Condon says:

    Viktoria Mullova and Matthew Barley

  • Andrew Condon says:

    Sir Andrew Davis and Gianna Rolandi

  • California Bob says:

    I would add Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler to that list, after all, they have an online audience of 14 million viewers and 10,000 people a day watch their channel.

  • Michael says:

    I didn’t think there were more than 5 of the 14 “power couples” where you could really say each partner was at or near the level of the other, but if you are happy with one star together with an up-and-comer how about the Royal Ballet’s best current male dancer Steven McRae and his up-and-coming wife, Royal Ballet Soloist Elizabeth Harrod?

    • Rebecca says:

      If we’re including dancers as well as musicians, then Zenaida Yanowsky and Simon Keenlyside?

      And the purely dance power couples:

      Alina Cojocaru/ Johan Kobborg
      Marianela Nunez/ Thiago Soares

  • CDH says:

    Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth. He is PZ; she is Principal Cellist at the National Arts Centre Orchestra (and was before he came to conduct it). They are both in the Zukerman Chamber Players, which he founded, and tour extensively and have recorded.

    • Anon says:

      Pinchas Zukerman leaves in his wake several power wives. Most notably the flutist Eugenia Zukerman. Also actress Tuesday Weld, I believe.

  • Peter Alexander says:

    Maybe not a power couple, but a couple of powerful singers who have a long, stable and happy marriage: Kevin Langan and Sally Wolf.

  • BDL2 says:

    Notice no descriptors are needed for the fabulous David Finkel and Wu Han?

  • The Spectator says:

    An anonymous source suggests Anne Azema and Joel Cohen,

  • Observer says:

    Deborah Borda of LA Phil and her partner Coralie Toevs, Metropolitan Opera’s Chief Development Officer. Big classical power there.


  • Archaeopteryx says:

    Ton Koopman and Tini Mathot
    Joyce DiDonato and Leonardo Vordoni
    Charles Dutoit and Chantal Juillet
    Diana Montague and David Rendall

  • Archaeopteryx says:

    Oh, and Mihaela Martin and Frans Helmerson.

  • Sixtus says:

    Having Barber and Menotti mentioned should remind us all of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, surely one of the most important artistic couples ever, right up there with Robert and Clara Schumann as well as Richard and Pauline Strauss.

  • Mikko says:

    Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière might qualify as an anti-power couple. Neither is a stage performer and Saariaho is famously shy.

  • Chang says:

    Francois Leleux and Lisa Batiashvilli?

  • C Nanclard says:

    Alexandra Silocea, concert pianist (Avie Records, ICA artists)
    and Sébastien Chonion, recording producer (Glyndebourne Opera/Label)

  • John Nemaric, Ph.D. says:

    She, Cecilia Bartoli (Coloratura Mezzo and/or Soprano Sfogatta) and he, Oliver Widmer (Baritone). More than 12 years.

  • Joe says:

    NYC early music power couple, Gwendolyn Toth and Dongsok Shin.

  • Judy Wagner says:

    Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge, married in 1954 & still together when she died in 2010.

  • m2n2k says:

    Prominently featured on this blog just last week: Igudesman and Joo(ish person).

  • Anna says:

    Janine Jansen& Daniel Blendulf

  • Ella L says:

    Though in the past, perhaps most famous opera couple with obsessed paparazzi was Anna Netrebko soprano and Erwin Scrott baritone who were together for 6 yrs and had 1 child. They certainly provided plain of charm , excitement and talent for opera gossip lovers. Prior to Erwin , Anna was dating Simone Alberghini, Italian bass baritone. After break up with Erwin she dated Yusif Eyvazov, a tenor who’s is her husband now. Another couple in opera are Diana Damrau , the soprano and Nicolas Teste , French bass, married with children .

  • Ho-Bee says:

    Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pre
    Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras
    unfortunately both ended prematurely

  • Arto says:

    The Kurtags

  • Gary says:

    Sam Mendes and Alison Balsom

  • Cecilia Rivers says:

    Daniele Rustioni and Francesca Dego. Conductor and violinist, married and on their way to be a proper Italian musical power couple

  • Ana Paula Russo says:

    Sonya Yoncheva and Domingo Hindoyan – soprano and conductor

  • marina arshinova says:

    Rostropovich & Vishnevskaya

  • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

    Finnish Conductor/Composer Osmo Vänskä (Minnesota Orchestra) and violinist Erin Keefe (concertmaster of M.O.)

  • Observer says:

    Flute Power Couples: Sir James & Lady Jeanne Galway (of course!)

    Rainier Lafin (world renowned flute headjoint maker) &Julie Stewart
    Lafin, top international flutist

    Sharon Bezaly & cd producer Robert von Bahr (still together?)

    Berlin Phil Solo Flute Emmanuel Pahud & Berlin Phil 1st Violin
    Maja Avramovic.

    Hot Star Wind Couple: Vienna Phil Principal Bassoon Sophie Dartigalongue & former
    Royal Concertgebow Principal Horn Felix Dervaux.

    Music Critic Power Couple: Anne Midgette & Greg Sandow

    Trombonist Abbie Conant & Composer/Music Journalist William Osborne

  • David Osborne says:

    I have never been in a relationship with another musician, couldn’t think of anything worse. We really are insufferable bores.

  • Christopher Morley says:

    Only heterosexual couples need apply?

  • Eleanor Gnup says:

    Marta and Placido Domingo, married for many years!

  • sorin says:

    Before marrying Alexandra Kurzak, Roberto Alagna had an almost 20 year marriage with high-profile soprano Angela Gheorghiu and they were considered for many years the dream couple of the opera. At least some of their common recordings are still very highly valued.