Breaking: The Met’s loss is Denmark’s gain

Breaking: The Met’s loss is Denmark’s gain


norman lebrecht

September 01, 2014

Fabio Luisi, who had been lined up by Peter Gelb to replace James Levine (only for Levine to reclaim his post), has been announced this morning as principal conductor of the Danish Radio orchestra.

He succeeds the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos.

Expressions of delight from Copenhagen.

Congrats all round.

Luisi Fabio - C Barbara Luisi_thumb_thumb

(Will he get a role in a Borgen revival?)


Press release:

Introducing the Danish National Symphony Orchestra’s new principal conductor


He belongs to conducting’s international super league and has been described as the ideal choice to head the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. His name is Fabio Luisi, and today Kim Bohr, director of music at DR, reveals that the Italian maestro has signed a three-year contract to serve as the orchestra’s next principal conductor.


Fifty-five-year-old Fabio Luisi is one of the most coveted maestros of the day. He has received a number of Grammy Awards for his recordings, inspires breathless reviews for his concerts, and is currently general music director of the Zurich Opera and principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, New York.


Kim Bohr, director of music at DR, says of the agreement:


”That we’ve been able to attract a conductor of Fabio Luisi’s standing is quite fantastic. There is no doubt that he is the perfect match for the orchestra as regards both heart and mind. His desire to work with the deepest layers of the music and bring out the most beautiful, most nuanced musical expressions is truly extraordinary. I am very proud and absolutely delighted on the orchestra’s behalf.”


Fabio Luisi is quick to respond to the enthusiasm for this new partnership:
“I am very proud to become this orchestra’s new principal conductor. I have loved the Danish National Symphony Orchestra from the first moment, we worked together in 2010, and the perspective to work with these wonderful musicians intensively in the next years fills me with great happiness.”


Initially Fabio Luisi has signed a three-year contract with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra from 2017 to 2020. The contract features an agreement that his work with the orchestra will steadily increase as 2017 approaches.

Kim Bohr’s take on this is as follows:

”You cannot appoint a top conductor at short notice. There are simply too many other commitments in Luisi’s diary for us to piece together a viable position as principal conductor earlier than 2017. But we have ensured that his presence in Copenhagen will grow over the next couple of years as he plays a more and more active part in the life of the orchestra.”


Fabio Luisi also says of the orchestra:
“I know DNSO as an orchestra with amazing knowledge of the symphonic repertoire and an astonishing open-minded spirit: in our former encounters and in the talks I had with the management I could literally smell a strong will of placing itself among the best world’s orchestras: I hope to be helpful to the orchestra in order to achieve this goal.”


Among the players the news was greeted with delight, and René Mathiesen, the orchestra chair, says on their behalf:


“When the news broke there were scenes of jubilation like those at a football match when your own team scores. With Luisi as our principal conductor we will be able to maintain our current levels of artistic ambition and reach even higher. He is just the right choice for us: an impassioned artist, a natural authority on the stand, and an amazingly likeable person.”


About Fabio Luisi

Fabio Luisi is one of the hottest conductors on the international music scene. Orchestras are lining up to engage the fifty-five year-old Italian, who divides his working life between Europe and the USA. He is currently General Music Director of the Zurich Opera and Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, New York.


Maestro Luisi’s previous appointments include serving as Chief Conductor of Vienna Symphony Orchestra; General Music Director of the Dresden Staatskapelle and the magnificent Sächsische Staatsoper before the Metropolitan Opera grabbed him.


Fabio Luisi received a Grammy Award for conducting Wagner at the Met in performances released on DVD. His latest recordings include Gounod’s operaRoméo et Juliette on CDAt purely orchestral concerts he often conducts the great late romantic works whose complicated, colourful scores demand sublime technique and huge clarity of vision.


Facts about Fabio Luisi

  • Italian conductor, born in Genoa in 1959
  • General Music Director of the Zurich Opera and Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan. Opera, New York. Future Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra 2017-2020.


  • Previous appointments include: General Music Director of the Dresden Staatskapelle and Sächsische Staatsoper; chief conductor of Vienna Symphony Orchestra; Music Director of Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.


  • Robert Garbolinski says:

    Absolutely fabulous! He is great to work with and they will be so happy. Hope he comes back to London again soon.

  • Nick says:

    I cannot see that the Danish position necessarily means he is either leaving the Met or lessening his commitments. It’s quite normal for an orchestra’s MD to commit to only around 8 – 10 weeks a season. His present 5-year contract with Zurich runs till 2017 when he takes up the DNSO job. So if he is to give up one of his present opera positions, it could easily be that one. On the other hand, at his level contracts are hardly worth the paper they are printed on. He did after all walk out on his Dresden contract (for what may – or indeed may not – have been a breach of contract by the management).

    • Dorian says:

      what a ridiculous comment, it is all about gossip??

      • Nick says:

        I take it you refer to my comment regarding Luisi leaving his post in Dresden. For your information, here is an excerpt from his official programme biography –

        “Luisi was originally scheduled to step down as Chief Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle in 2012, at the expiration of his contract. However, Luisi resigned from both Dresden posts in February 2010, with immediate effect, after reports that the Dresden Staatskapelle’s management had secured a contract with the ZDF network for a scheduled televised concert on New Year’s Eve, 2010 with Christian Thielemann as conductor, without consulting him at all in his capacity as the orchestra’s GMD.”

        It had been mentioned in music magazines and other German media for some time that Luisi was not happy with his time in Dresden and the parting of the ways was not a surprise.

        I trust my comment is therefore not as ridiculous as you read it to be.

  • Stephen Owades says:

    I too wonder at the headline’s use of “the Met’s loss.” Nothing in the Danish orchestra’s announcement convinces me that Fabio Luisi is leaving his post at the Metropolitan Opera. Do you have any evidence that this is the case, or is this just a click-bait headline?

    • Nardo Poy says:

      As someone who plays in the Met Orchestra, I haven’t heard that he will be departing. If and when I hear anything as we begin rehearsing tomorrow morning, I’ll keep you posted.

  • Marshall says:

    Yes, no evidence that he would leave the Met, anyway, and who knows what Levine’s future will be, and how long? Luisi has the position in everything but name,and that’s only out of respect for Levine’s long tenure. Why would he leave?

    With all his virtues, after attending a Wagner performance at the Met a few yrs. ago, my reaction shared, by people I know, was, he’s no Levine. My addtional experiences evoked the reactions–terriffic competency, a thoroughly “modern” conductor, but left me unmoved.

  • music muse says:

    The comment that Luisi “was lined up by Peter Gelb to succeed James Levine” is without any basis in fact: Luisi’s hire was never proclaimed as such. Luisi is a fine musician and a solid conductor, but nobody’s pretending that he’s in the same league with Levine. Clearly, Luisi was Gelb’s hasty stop-gap hire when Levine could no longer fulfill his duties, and one can well imagine that Gelb would drop Luisi like a hot-potato if Muti or Rattle were interested to take over the job. And evidently, Luisi is no fool: he’s painfully aware of all this, which is why he took the Danish National Symphony job.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I am not going to argue with your vague and uninformed opinions, but if you disbelieve the well-sourced material on this site, please do not visit or post on it again.

      • Emil Archambault says:

        It would add credibility to your stories if you did mention the sources at any point. Which sources tell you that taking up the DNSO excludes Luisi from the MET?

        • Nick says:

          That being the case, I wonder why the DNSO state to the media –

          “Kim Bohr, director of music at DR, reveals that the Italian maestro has signed a three-year contract to serve as the orchestra’s next principal conductor.”

          I realise I stated earlier “at his level contracts are hardly worth the paper they are printed on,” but at least that implies there is an actual contract. I am curious as to why Bohr would lie?

          Also is that six weeks (about) the amount of time he will give from next season, or the total he is expected to give when he assumes the position in 2017? I know of no other Principal Conductor whose commitment to his orchestra would be as little as six weeks – unless there is a Music Director above him, which I assume is not the case in Denmark.

          • Henrik says:

            Why Bohr would spill the beans before the deal was more secure than only mutual intent? Maybe because he urgently needed a success story a week before his department was hit with the chopping of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, which he possibly knew might be coming?

  • Milkaa says:

    Poor Denmark bad enough with Hamlet , now this ………….
    Can Bocelli be far behind ………
    Imagine being stuck with Fabio for 3 yrs .

  • anonymus2 says:

    Luisis contract with the Met expires in 2017 and he recently renewed his contract in Zurich until 2022. Obviously there is reason to believe he will indeed lessen his commitments in NY after taking on the DNSO position.

    • Nardo Poy says:

      I’m not convinced that Luisi’s appearances at the Met will be greatly diminished as claimed, as in this world of jet-set conductors, they all keep all their doors open. He didn’t appear at the Met very much last year because of Levine’s return, but perhaps he will still keep one (or even two) feet in the door.

      • Anonymus says:

        Exactly. He will do about 5 concert weeks in Denmark. More if he has time for it. That’s what I heard. The year has 52 weeks. 47 weeks left to do other things. Denmark is probably just a little snack on the side for Luisi.

  • Nick says:

    Dorian mentioned gossip earlier, a claim that has been pretty much shot down. But for those who want gossip, here is some fact alongside some pure unadulterated speculation.

    Fact: Gelb was a protege of Ronald Wilford, the Chairman of once all-powerful Columbia Artists Management Inc. Fact: Levine has been a client of CAMI for decades where he is managed personally by . . . Wilford. Fact: Luisi is another client of CAMI.

    Speculation: as others have said, Gelb needed a short-term replacement for Levine, one who might have to succeed him at shortish notice. Gelb/Wilford sit around the table, appoint a CAMI client, one who will do a fine but not spectacular job. With Levine finally back working, though, the long-term future of Luisi at the Met diminishes. Looking at CAMI’s once-impressive and now thinned-down conductors’ list, realistically there are only two other remotely possible successors – Valery Gergiev and Danielle Gatti. Neither Muti, Rattle nor another oft-named successor Pappano are clients of CAMI. Worse, Pappano is with IMG Artists, whose founder Mark McCormack once famously threatened he would wipe the floor with CAMI.

    More speculation: in view of the likelihood of on-going anti-Russian sentiment, Gergiev’s chances are slim. So Gatti moves to the favourite’s position. Except . . . Rattle has been a client of Askonas Holt since the start of his career where he was managed by recently retired joint-CEO Martin Campbell White. Also recently retired is fellow joint-CEO, Robbert Rattray Ah yes! The same Rattray who has just started as the new top Artistic Administrator . . . at the Met! And who is leaving the Berlin Philharmonic job in 2018? None other than Simon Rattle! Problem? Sir Simon is not a regular opera conductor. But . . in his official website biography, all his operatic achievements appear near the start of the text and before most of his symphonic achievements. Is that a hint?

    What fun it is to speculate!

    • Stephen Owades says:

      As a Bostonian, I well remember Mr. Lebrecht’s certainty several years ago that Riccardo Chailly was inevitably destined to be the Boston Symphony’s next. Music Director, thanks to a shadowy conspiracy also directed by the same Ronald Wilford. This remained true until it wasn’t, and Mr. Chailly—whom I’d still love to see and work with as a guest conductor here in Boston—never did get the job. However powerful Ronald Wilford may be—and your message suggests that power isn’t now what it was once thought to be—I don’t think he can dictate such a consequential decision to the Metropolitan Opera either.

      • Nick says:

        There was a time when CAMI managed more than 100 top conductors but this was never really made public. When you checked CAMI’s roster in its annual artists’ list, conductors were never included. I do know – because I happened to have a meeting in their office that morning and was shown it – that Wilford received a card signed by almost all of them for his 60th birthday. The company’s declining influence seemed to coincide with the rise of IMG Artists as well as commercial pressures within the industry. CAMI used to occupy prime position offices above Steinway Hall on West 57th Street across from Carnegie Hall. About 10 years ago it finally moved into a smaller base round the corner on Broadway.

        When James Levine was elevated from Music Director of the Met to Artistic Director, there was a lot of talk about Wilford helping ensure the successful outcome for his client. Certainly I agree his influence in the business nowadays is not what it used to be. He is after all in his late 80s.

    • Nardo Poy says:

      Interesting speculations, although perhaps somewhat convoluted. By the way, the so-called anti-Russian sentiment does not apply in the artistic world. If Gergiev is not Levine’s successor, it would have nothing to do with where he’s from.

      • Nick says:

        Very convoluted, indeed! Personally, I doubt if Rattle would be a serious candidate in view of his relative lack of operatic experience plus his stated desire to remain based in Berlin. A position somewhere in Europe would seem much more likely. But that is again pure speculation!

    • musicnmore says:

      Do you really think that if Riccardo Muti rang up Peter Gelb to say “I want to succeed Levine at the Met” – that Gelb would respond to him with “I’m sorry, Riccardo, I can’t hire you because you’re not a CAMI artist”??? Even Gelb isn’t that dumb. At this stage of the game, Gelb has nothing to lose by going against Wilford, and he won’t hesitate to do so if the right opportunity arises.

      • Nick says:

        I did state I was dealing in speculation – and convoluted speculation to boot! But in response to your specific point, it’s just not the way the business works. Of course there is no one way MD’s are appointed. CAMI’s Wilford certainly played a pivotal role re Levine’s positions at the Met. Similarly in Boston where long-term CAMI client Ozawa was MD before Levine took over – and where co-incidentally Gelb had been employed. It would only be natural that CAMI would seek to influence Levin’e successor. Why Chailly did not work out, I have no idea.

        Just going back to Wilford and CAMI for a moment, it’s perhaps hard to realise the virtual stranglehold that company held over much of the music business. It had a massive list of top solo artists alongside its unpublished list of conductors. The unwritten theory was essentially: control the Music Directors and you exercise major control over the choice of soloists. With major conductors, it was easier to list those not CAMI clients than those who were! At one point the MDs of most of the major orchestras in the US were from the CAMI list! This was all well-known within the business.

        And it was not merely ‘known’ conductors that CAMI placed. When appointed to the Houston Symphony to succeed the renowned Barbirolli, Andre Previn was known to most as just a jazz pianist and composer/conductor for movie scores. Few considered him a serious classical conductor. Naturally he was a CAMI client and CAMI worked hard to ensure that and subsequent appointments to the London Symphony (to the utter amazement of the London music world), LA and Pittsburgh.

        If you find that hard to believe, put yourself in the position of an orchestra manager looking for an MD. One meeting with Wilford made it clear that if you wanted Rostropovich, Mutter, Van Cliburn etc. for your season opening gala or subscription season, then playing ball re an MD could open up Aladdin’s cave (as it were)! If not, then goodbye. That, of course, betrays more than a hint of reductio ad absurdum. But in essence, many in the industry were in considerable awe of CAMI and fearful of going against the advice it dispensed form on high. Thankfully, the influence of managers and agents is changing as the industry changes. But it is far from moribund!

  • Nick says:

    The poster titled SOMEHTHINGISROTTENINDENMARK yesterday posted here –

    “Luisi’s commitment at the DNSO is a letter of intent, not a real contract, since it is not financed yet and it’s only about six weeks a year . . .”

    I note the post has now disappeared! Is that because it was utter nonsense?

  • Søren says:

    I heard from musicians in DNSO that it’s 5 or 6 weeks starting in 2017. And also that since there are so few weeks, Luisi only wants to be called Prinicipal Conductor, not Chief conductor. If he is still considered their “main act” so to speak, or if they intent to hire another actual chief conductor I have no idea. Of course nobody knows what actually will happen in 2017, looking at what currently happens in Denmark and in their public broadcaster.
    Maybe Luisi by then will have found an even better gig. Maybe not and he will commit more time to that orchestra. If my grandmother was a man she would have balls. Isn’t speculation wonderful? 😉

  • Tom says:

    Who the heck is Fabio Luisi? Oh, is he Fabio, the famous photo model? I didn’t know he used a first name…and where’s his long, blonde hair?