Five music directors have walked off the job in as many weeks, three of them in Italy*.
Ah, Italy, you say.
True. A special case.
But the cause in four of the five cases is the same: a clash of general director and music director in which there could only be one winner.
What’s unusual is that when human relations become intolerable maestros usually give two or three years notice of resignation. Now, for the first time, if they don’t like the temperature, they walk off the job.
Good for music? Perhaps.
Conductors the world over feel isolated and sometimes besieged within their institutions. Agents, who are supposed to keep them informed and look after their interests, are under pressure to produce new talent and offer insufficient backup to keep their existing maestros purring and well informed. General directors are busy, harassed, under constant threat of cuts. Musicians are fearful for their jobs. The media are indifferent, unaware of the importance of the role.
The title of music director has become thankless and unappreciated. When push comes to shove, the instinct is now to jump.
We are witnessing a redefinition of powers between conductors and the establishments they serve.
Riccardo Chailly will enter La Scala next month conditionally – as principal conductor for a year to see if he can achieve the results he wants before he decides whether to upgrade to music director.
There is no rush to apply for such important vacancies as the Concertgebouw and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Expect two, perhaps three more resignations in Italy over the coming, cutting months.
Some orchestras are settling for workaday and second-best, a reliable conductor who won’t walk out.
The music director’s job has lost its glory. Conductors are going back to the drawing board.
*Noseda (Turin), Muti (Rome), Luisotti (Naples).