The German conductor of the year is…

The German conductor of the year is…


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2015

The 50 critics of Opernwelt magazine, catering to a German readership, have voted the Bavarian Opera chief Kirill Petrenko conductor of the year, for the second year running.

kirill petrenko conducting

The Bavarian Opera orchestra is voted orchestra of the year, but the opera house of the year is not Munich – it’s a split decision between Frankfurt and Mannheim.

Petrenko is music director in waiting at the Berlin Philharmonic.



  • william osborne says:

    Mannheim is relatively small, the third largest city in Baden-Württemberg at about 294,000 people. Interesting that of Germany’s 83 houses, sometimes the smaller cities win the opera house of the year award. The average ticket price in Mannheim is about $35. The most expensive tickets are $105 — right up front. Comparable tickets for a comparable house in the USA would be 4 to 5 times more expensive.

    • Alvaro says:

      Point being?

      William, I get that your recurring argument is that the government should fund the ‘arts’ and that’s what’s ‘destroying music in america’.

      But seriously, WHY ON EARTH would a comparable small town in the U.S. (E.G. Frogballs,AR) EVER find its culturally relevant to fund the traditions of a land/composers/musicians of 200 years ago and over 5000 miles away?

      Now, if you tell me that ‘classical music is inherently better and universal and no town on earth should go without an opera and a symphony”, isn’t that being patronizing and imperialist? What about Chinese or Indian Classical music? Or Bluegrass for that matter? Why is ‘classical’ better?

      • william osborne says:

        Salt Lake City has one of America’s premiere orchestras, and yet its population is only 180,000 — about half the size of Mannheim. Apparently no one told Salt Lake City that as an American city they should actually be devoting themselves to banjos and wash tub basses…

        • Respect says:

          968,858 is the actual population of Salt Lake City. Include the metro area, American populations live in the surrounding cities. Typical Osborne twisting of the facts.

          • william osborne says:

            Albuquerque has a metro population of 900,000 and yet the tutti string players in the NM Phil make $3000 per year. Many metro areas suffer similar circumstances, so you can’t make a case that SLC is some sort of norm. It shows what those other cities should have but don’t.

      • John Borstlap says:

        “But seriously, WHY ON EARTH would a comparable small town in the U.S. (E.G. Frogballs, AR) EVER find it’s culturally relevant to fund the traditions of a land/composers/musicians of 200 years ago and over 5000 miles away?”

        Because Frogballs happens to be a town in a country, created by Europeans who took their culture with them, so that they could try to form part of the civilized world. Moreover, as a research team at Spithole,University (IL) has discovered, these traditions give pleasure to culturally-challenged people all over the world, including Venezuelans, Mongolians and Londoners, so why would Americans stay behind?

        • Greg Hlatky says:

          Oh, and here I thought they were trying to get away from Europe.

        • Respect says:

          If you really believe the ethnic makeup of the US is primarily white and European, you clearly know nothing about the country. That statistic hasn’t been the case in decades.

          Mr. Osborne, you really need to address the fact that the primary reason many opera houses and symphonies are in decline is the loss of middle class income and the loss of tax incentives for upper-class income winners to donate to nonprofits. The extreme right word tilt of the country and the lack of consensus to support popper government funding for the arts arts is a primary factor. But there is a lack of political will to push such funding forward, as is also the case with the failure to control the massive spread of guns and increasing lack of freedom in the country. One particular thing that I find contentious in your frequent firings of Mannheim as a model is that it ignores the appallingly poor quality of productions, both scenically and musically at that theater. One what do far better to cite Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, cologne or Frankfurt as regional theaters produce out of remarkably high level.

    • Andrew says:

      But.. Mannheim is a national theater (while Frankfurt, btw, is a city theatre), and a rather busy house, from what I hear. Besides, with Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg nearby, the metro area is over 2 million inhabitants, so it’s hardly a country town.

      • Simon S. says:

        The name “Nationaltheater” in the case of Mannheim does not mean the theatre would be owned or directly subsidized by the national government. It is owned by the city of Mannheim – and has been so uninterruptedly since 1839.

        The name dates back to the late 18th century and refers to the fact that it was dedicated to plays in the national language (German), as opposed to Italian or French, which was rather common then.

      • william osborne says:

        Germany has 82 million people in an area about the size of Montana. There are no rural areas.

        • Simon S. says:

          Ever travelled northbound from Berlin? OK, it’s not Montana, but you won’t see many buildings though.

  • Alvaro says:

    I love it when I am 1000000% right.

    The day he was announced for Berlin I stated: “Now they have 4 years to make him a household name: the clock is ticking before he starts getting awards galore, signed by a label, etc”

    The first of many. Luckily he’s an awesome conductor and probably deserves it.

    • Simon S. says:

      It might disappoint you (sorry for this), but this is the fourth time Kirill Petrenko receives this distinction, after 2007, 2009 and 2014.

  • Simon S. says:

    Actually, as only merits in the field of opera considered and only opera orchestras are eligible for this award, it is self-evident that this is about the opera conductor and opera orchestra of the year.

    Congratulations anyway.