Maestro news: An American in Basel

Maestro news: An American in Basel


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2014

The sleepy Swiss town has announced a new music director at the opera from 2016.

He is Erik Nielsen, 37, originally from Iowa, previously Kapellmeister at Frankfurt Opera.

A Solti Fellowship holder, Nielsen has conducted Magic Flute at the Met.

Like all good conductors, he can now open a Swiss account.

erik nielsen



  • Simon S. says:

    Congratulations to both the conductor and the opera house, though it will be sad to see him leave Frankfurt. Luckily, Basel is just a three hours train ride away.

  • Andrew Patner says:

    Wonderful news! Erik is a terrific conductor and a musician of great intelligence, taste, and curiosity. Kudos to Basel and to him.

  • Andrew Patner says:

    You can hear a 2009 WFMT radio hour with the very thoughtful and articulate Mr Nielsen here. (And he’s now but 37, born in 1977. 😉 )

  • Doug says:

    Love the dig (Swiss account-heh). It certainly seems that the classical music ‘industry’ is rife with those seeking to enrich themselves and leaving the legacy of music dead last.

  • LF says:

    Basel was for many years home to Adolf Busch, Rudolf Serkin, Sandor Vegh. The conductor Paul Sacher commissioned many of the 20th centurys biggest musical masterworks (e.g. by Bartok, Martinu etc). There is the Schola cantorum Basiliensis and a thriving opera. If you to call that sleepy other towns can be called dead…

  • Andrew Patner says:

    Not to mention the Sinfonieorchester Basel (Basel Symphony Orchestra) whose chief conductor since 2009 is the adventurous American Dennis Russell Davies.

  • Richard Dubugnon says:

    … did it again… (sigh) we are tired of your Swiss-bashing prejudiced comments, Norman. Stop this British imperialist scorn, will you ? Basel is less “sleepy” than yourself, old boy.

  • Richard Dubugnon says:

    … did it again … (sigh) tired of your Swiss bashing and his infantile prejudices, dear Norman. It’s you who is sleepy, not Basel 😉


    The comment about him being able to open a Swiss bank account now that he has a position in Switzerland will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for him to do. Reading the story, it says that he is an American from Iowa. Many here may not be aware, but the United States has created a draconian law, called FATCA, that requires that all of their citizen’s bank account details, for accounts held outside of the United States be regularly sent to the United States tax authorities by the non-US banks. The U.S., being the only major country that practices and strictly enforces citizenship based taxation means that Mr. Nielsen will not benefit from any of the financial advantages of working in Switzerland, as the U.S. will tax all of his income above whatever he pays in Switzerland. In addition all of his accounts will be monitored by the U.S. government and he must report every Swiss Franc, with the smallest error seeing him hit with bankrupting penalties. The other major problem for him will be to find a Swiss bank that will deal with an American client. Nobody wants them, anywhere, as having anAmerican client on the books means U.S. monitoring and surveillance of that account by the U.S. It is a terrible situation, but that is the reality for U.S. citizens throughout the world, with U.S. citizens living and/or working in Switzerland in the worst situation of all. The only way out is to renounce ones citizenship, which thousand of Americans are doing nowadays, as its their only way to survive outside of the U.S.

  • Simon Bailey says:

    Excellent conductor, remarkable musician and a very nice guy. Basel are lucky to have him.
    I would also disagree with any description of Basel as ‘sleepy’. There’s plenty of stuff going on, I’ve enjoyed my three months working here.