Maestro’s name is cited in Brazil corruption defence

Maestro’s name is cited in Brazil corruption defence


norman lebrecht

March 20, 2016

No outsider understands what’s going on at present in Brazil.

It is reported in Sao Paolo that the former arts centre director general, José Luiz Herencia, under investigation for money laundering and price fixing, has cited music director John Neschling in his defence submission.

There is no independent testimony to support his allegation.

However, in the swirl of Brazilian political scandals, innocent people are being falsely accused. That is a symptom of the present crisis.

There is no reason to suspect any artist of wrongdoing.


UPDATE: A theatre insider tells Slipped Disc that Neschling blew the whistle on a corrupt official, kicking off the present investigation.


  • Azevedo says:

    Mr. Lebrecht, you make a huge confusion in this text. You link (“in the swirl of…”) denounces of money laundry and budget miscarriage in one city’s theater with something absolutely unrelated – suspicious about illegal campaign donations in a presidency’s campaign, corruption concerning ex-presidents, opposition candidates etc. It would be the equivalent of saying “In the swirl of British political crisis wether the Britains should leave the EU or not, the Covent Garden director was accused of bla bla bla”. Writing something like this is a strong disservice.

    This denounces are serious and must be carefully investigated. This is not foyer gossip; Mr. Herencia admitted guilt and agreed to collaborate with the investigations by informing the authorities about how the scheme worked and who was involved in it. This is being done in official investigation statements.

    Mr. Neschling is not only the music director at Theatro Municipal; he is also directly involved with budgets, accountings, contracts and plans. He achieved good results concerning, for example, contract and payment stability for the musicians; the opera seasons, nonetheless, have been marked by cancellations and funding shortages. The theater administration structure is a bureaucratic chaos (for decades) which has been only recently improved – and Mr. Neschling has a positive responsibility in this.

    But the denounces, as I said, are very serious and must be deeply investigated – as they have been. “There is no reason to suspect any artist of wrongdoing” is incorrect. Reasons are being named, and therefore must be cleared. Brazil is a rightful democracy in which anyone is innocent until proved guilty. It is up now to the police and authorities to verify who is responsible for wrongdoings.

    • CC says:

      My understanding is that Maestro Neschling has had a disastrous impact upon the image and dignity of what is one of Brazil’s leading opera houses. He has terrorized artists (such as director Giancarlo del Monaco), suspended labor protections and summarily dismissed various distinguished national artists in order to favor ordinary talents from his representation agency in Italy — hoping perhaps to gain influence. And somehow, with a generous budget of over US$30 million he failed to deliver on a full promised season and canceled several productions including a Cosi fan tutte which was supposed to star Miah Persson. His annual budget was superior of that of the Seattle Opera, which produces highly acclaimed Ring Cycles with stellar international casts, and is superior to every opera house in the U.S. except perhaps the Met, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

      • Rgiarola says:

        Great CC! This is the very same accusation Neschling received during his tenure at OSESP (São Paulo Symphony Orchestra). Before Neschling, OSESP was another amateur one, and after him it is the only real top-notch ensemble in a country of 213 million people. The only reason for that was the strong hands of Neschling, powerful enough to promote the deep necessary changes and to convince estate government and private investor to build up a new concert hall. A jewel that can be compared with any great concert hall in the world, in the words of many top names that had played there.

        You point sounds like the one of the musicians that later formed the Radio e TV cultura orchestra, a third class ensemble formed with all sacked players from OSESP and that doesn’t exist anymore (Since no one really wanted to see it). I’m a member of the audience, not a bureaucratic “artist” that the major intention is to live for the estate corporate benefits. We cannot stand anymore this public agent behavior that musicians in Brazil mostly time do. It is not different of our politicians! Shame on you all “mamadores de tetas do governo” that dare to call themselves “artists”.

      • Azevedo says:

        I strongly disagree, CC. “Suspended labor protections”? Mr. Neschling managed to make all the musicians become hired with proper contracts (same, as RGIAROLA remembered, as he managed to do in OSESP). You seem to have a personal problem with Mr. Neschling, given the strongly unpolite comment you did concerning his “pitbull wife”, that, besides being extremly rude, has nothing to do with the subject here.

        I recommend the reading of this text for informing about the challenges concerning the TMSP managing, what has been achieved in these last few years and the homeric amount of work still to be done:

        We shall not mix up things. If you have aesthetical or personal problems with him, fine, you are entitled to. But this situation now has nothing to do with this. And, personally, I think the OSM is sounding better now than it has been in the last 10-15 years; to me is undeniable how he can achieve to set orchestra’s sound back to tracks. He is, undoubtely, the biggest name behind the rebirth of OSESP. But, ok, this is only my opinion.

        • Phrygian Mode says:

          In fairness to Mr. Neschling’s apologists, he should indeed receive credit for the work with did in reforming OSESP, however, he carried it out in dictatorial fashion, with dismissals and attrition of musicians, buldozing fair labor principles and creating great ill-will within the community. Maestro Robert Minczuk, one time Neschling’s associate at OSESP, attempted this formula at OSB in Rio, to disastrous results and was nearly blacklisted by orchestras internationally. The difference was that the musicians in Rio became much more conscious of their labor rights and were able to get domestic and international public opinion on their side. And still, his appointment at OSESP was hardly all roses, as you will recall: he was seen as intemperate and was relieved from his post at OSESP by São Paulo State’s governor — something he is still fuming over to this day. That he should collect a salary as large as he does (approximately US$40k a month as I heard, feel free to correct me if this is not accurate) and being incapable of delivering a decent, artistically meaningful international season with the best global talent, hardly befits the competence of someone one would expect at the helm of an opera house that serves a wealthy and massive global metropolis like São Paulo.

  • Arthur Nestrovski says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht, this picture you posted is of Sala São Paulo, home of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (Osesp), whose Music Director is Marin Alsop– not of the Municipal Theatre, directed by John Neschling.

    • Marcelo Mendes says:

      This is NOT Sala São Paulo.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Norman changed the picture after the above comment. When Arthur Nestrovski posted his comment, it most certainly still was a picture of Sala São Paulo that was posted in the starter.

        • Olassus says:

          Yes he did. But of course Neschling was equally associated with OSESP and the wonderful Sala São Paulo, so he didn’t need to.

          It is instructive, in the context of a corruption discussion, that a conductor has been able to move between the city’s two big musical institutions, as if there has been no one else to choose.

          • Rgiarola says:

            OLASSUS, Let’s see the level of pretentiousness, complete lack of information and lack sense on your point. Let’s take just London for a brief comparison, considering that is Lebrecht home city.

            1 – Bernard Haitink was MD of ROH and principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra,
            2 – Georg Solti was MD Laureate of ROH and MD of London Philharmonic Orchestra,
            3 – Colin Davis was MD of ROH and nothing less than president of London Symphony Orchestra, and chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
            4 – Charles Mackerras was principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, MD of ENO, Emeritus Conductor of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia
            5 – Rafael Kubelik was MD of ROH, and was invited to be MD of BBC orchestra and refused due to the fact that he had already accepted Chicago
            If you insist, we can spread to other cities, such Munich: Lorin Maazel was MD of Bavarian Radio and Munich Philharmonic, Rudolf Kempe was MD of Bavaria Opera and Munich Philharmonic

            There has been no one else to choose in London, or based on you point, should British and Bavarian people also investigate all those guys for a deep indication of corruption? Give me a break.

            You should research a little at least, before start to inflict such non-senses as a point.

          • Olassus says:

            The difference of course is that all those men had reputations outside London and Munich.

            Neschling just looks like a crony in a system of his own devising.

  • Simon S. says:

    “There is no reason to suspect any artist of wrongdoing.” – Are artists per se morally superior to others?

    • Bruce says:

      Maybe they only meant there was no reason to suspect Neschling, or any of the other artistic staff of the orchestra, of wrongdoing in this case. Considering Slipped Disc’s extensive coverage of the wife-murdering bassist and whatnot, I doubt NL intended to clear all artists everywhere from suspicion of any wrongdoing of any kind at any time. I might be wrong though.

  • CC says:

    Except that there are a number of Brazilian and international musicians who feel terrorized by Neschling and his pitbull wife, who will send intimidating messages to people who are critical of Mr. Neschling’s practices.

  • Rgiarola says:

    OLASSUS, no one of these gentleman had accepted or are interested in a position in São Paulo, but Neschling. Let’s keep the same weight and measure for all comparisons.

  • F Cury says:

    I am sorry but there is many articles in the journals about this case and all indicate that Neschling in involved. Herencia also say he was going to “blow the whistle” on Neschling but then the maestro found out and move fast. Just read today’s article where the maestro lawer confirms that he approved payment of more than 3million reais (!!) to an empresario in Monte Carlo that represented Fura del Baus to a performance that never happened. Beside that, there is indication that Neschling privileged this empresario and others who represented himself in Europe.
    The Neschling the founded OSESP is not the same one we see at the Municipal for his reign has been a dictatorial disaster.