Australian arts chief: Stop flying in foreign conductors

‘Let’s cancel the visas of all of the fly-in-fly-out conductors of our orchestras for five years and see what happens, says Ralph Myers, artistic director of Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre in a keynote lecture.

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  • Wealthy white men and women are still those who overwhelmingly support the arts, so let’s get a bit of perspective, here and stop treating them ; Still, Australia should not need continued foreign aid and should be capable of staffing its institutions internally. They export great talent – Charles Mackerras, Simone Young, Anita Watson, Anne Wood, John Wegner – the list goes on – yet feel obliged to appoint outsiders to head certain institutions. It’s that that should stop as it’s entirely unnecessary.

  • Sorry, but if we cannot have the best conductors that we can get, we won’t get the best soloists (often their friends), and, to be honest, I think we’d then be better off having talented amateurs playing their socks off. I want Emmanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman playing concertos. I want to hear Yuja Wang next year. And I want to hear Elgar, Strauss and Berlioz conducted by Andrew Davis. Yes, of course it is great when Simone Young conducts here, as it was when Sir Charles Mackerras visited from time to time. It would be great to have Australians leading our institutions, as long as they are the best and not just because they are Australian!

  • Before pulling up the drawbridge might be worth checking out how many Australians have (and have had) senior roles / leadership of arts organisations and festivals throughout the world. Just here in Edinburgh 2 of the past 4 Edinburgh Festival Directors have been Australian; the London Philharmonic Orchestra CEO is Australian. Myers has a very restricted view: seems to me that Australia punches way above its weight.

  • Didn’t Beecham once lament the presence of so many third rate European conductors, when Britain had so many second rate conductors of its own?

  • It will be interesting to see what will be said when he has given the speech on Nov 30th. It’s true that Australians punch far above their weight artistically. Simply look at the number of Australians in prominent orchestras, opera houses and theatres. However, many do not come home to share their artistry for a wide variety of reasons. There is a great perception within local institutions, especially with students that foreign or foreign-trained must be better and that in order to have a chance at a career you must go overseas. However, if international and internationally-based Australian artists do not come to explore a place that produces so much incredible talent, not only will we miss out on fully realising our artistic potential through sharing that knowledge and artistry but the opportunity to deeply understand what we are capable of as Australian artists in Australia.

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