Glass-ceiling breakers (2): Deborah of DC

Glass-ceiling breakers (2): Deborah of DC


norman lebrecht

June 12, 2016

Deborah Rutter turned the Chicago Symphony around by hiring Riccardo Muti as music director after he had turned down other US orchs. (Then they fell out.)

Now she’s restoring the fortunes of the Kennedy Center, hiring Gianandrea Noseda as music director of the National Symphony and generally breathing life into a moribund institutions.

A glowing, no-questions-asked profile here.



  • Bennie says:

    Re: National Symphony. Hiring Eschenbach is like a step forward during the announcement (except in Philadelphia, which was 15 steps backward), 30 steps backward during his tenure, and then 10 steps forward right after he leaves.

    (Noseda is great, it’s an excellent choice – it’s just the fact that there is no bad Eschenbach successor)

  • Regine says:

    I think that any U.S. arts institution will be walking on shaky ground in the future. The entire U.S. model of funding their arts’ institutions via private donors and patrons is an extremely outdated and old fashioned business model. The fact that the country’s public actually has one of the lowest, per capita, interest in attending symphony concerts, opera and ballet of any modern economy, added to an aging and rapidly changing demographic, paints a dismal picture for these institutions survival on their fundraising model. In addition, they are an extremely conservative lot, adverse to taking bold programming initiatives and catering to a politically correct audience, for the most part, doesn’t give them much margin to move within. Every visit I make to the U.S. and with every visit I make to one of their concert halls or opera houses, I am always struck by a feeling of them being in some sort of old fashioned time warp, from the dowdy and outdated looking halls, the Kennedy Center being one of the most retro looking places outside of former East bloc countries, to their stodgy and poorly dressed audiences, themselves looking, for the most part, like images out of the 70’s.
    I would not use the U.S. arts administration scene as a reference, but rather as an outlier that may be on its last legs.

    • Robert Holmén says:

      In the future?

      The US arts have always been on shaky ground. Read the histories of symphony orchestras and ballets and operas and theater troupes… it’s a continuing succession of failures, bankruptcies, closures, and other financial crises.

      As far as the architecture… styles change frequently, buildings can’t.

      None-the-less there are a number of new beautiful concert halls in the US. You won’t see them without going to them, however.

    • OhGlorioso says:

      The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
      How many times have we heard this refrain? We’ve been reading it for the last fifty years or so and, yet, those US institutions survive. Some better than others. Get over it, folks. The naysayers, like you, are what is giving grief and not helping — at all.

    • Ilio says:

      Funding has been like that for years and yet the best find a way to survive. On the other hand gov’t funded arts like in Europe is dying thing as money is moved elsewhere. Music directors who don’t press the flesh and do fund raising are just burying their heads in the sand and contributing to the ensembles they work with.

    • Anson says:

      Well, you’re right about the Kennedy Center. From the gaudy oversized red-and-gold halls of flags right down to the monumentally oversized bust of JFK, whenever I’m there I always refer to it as the Great Hall of the Comrades. As the great Ada Louise Huxtable wrote about the place, it is “a cross between a concrete candy box and a marble sarcophagus
      in which the art of architecture lies buried.”

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    Actually, the US Arts administration “scene” is probably the future model for Europe. How much longer will it be until European countries face the same demographic and economic challenges as we do in the US? Then their arts institutions will no longer be able to survive on the largesse of government. In fact, some of these governments are already defunding orchestras here and there so government support may be the failing model rather than the consumer/donation model of the US.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      You make a valid point. What Ms. Rutter excels at is bringing people together for all the right reasons and for the future. By the people and for the people. One cannot rely on government support, which can change at the drop of a hat–and most readers can say they have experienced this firsthand. Nothing stays the same, and we have to have a sixth sense about tweaking the art map. Not easy, when you see the rapid expansion of cultural diversity and distraction via technology–which is being used craftily to reach new audiences and support.

  • David Krivit says:

    Currently living through my fifth ‘the death of arts institutions/classical music’; meh : /

  • Milka says:

    Ms. Rutter spouts the usual baloney ..she must … or else why take on the job. ?
    One suspects she will move on to the next whatever needs saving depending on the pay
    though to the great unwashed the “Kennedy Center” is the top of the arts social ladder.

  • Fred Plotkin says:

    For the record, Norman, there were many questions asked. That is how I got the responses I included. I write plenty of opinion pieces that are polemical, highly critical or, on occasions, enthusiastic. In this case, it was an opportunity for readers to hear Deborah Rutter in her own words and come to their own conclusions.