Brazil’s chief conductor is removed in corruption probe

Brazil’s chief conductor is removed in corruption probe


norman lebrecht

September 06, 2016

John Neschling has been removed from his post as artistic director of the Teatro Municipal in São Paulo, as a result of investigations by the city’s prosecutor.

The authorities say he may face both civil and criminal charges. Neschling, 69, has been in charge at the theatre since 2013. Before that, he was music director of the Sao Paolo Symphony for 11 years.

The move is part of the general instability following the removal from office of President Dilma Rousseff.

First report here.

john neschling

John Neschling, in a statement, says that he left the post of his own free will.


Fui hoje (5/9/2016) afastado da Direção Artística do Theatro por ato que unilateralmente pretendeu extinguir de forma ilegal e arbitrária o contrato antes celebrado e que, como tal, assim será objeto de providências legais, sujeitas a avaliação conjunta com meus advogados.

Mantenho-me com altivez, de cabeça erguida. Não participei de nenhum esquema, de nenhum tipo de falcatrua. Reitero a minha inocência. Sempre julguei que aquele que é inocente deve permanecer onde está para aguardar com tranquilidade a investigação em todos os âmbitos. Meu compromisso é com a verdade e com o meu público e permanecer no Theatro é a melhor forma de ser fiel aos meus compromissos.

Fui traído por todos aqueles que um dia disseram prezar meu trabalho, a cultura brasileira e o Theatro Municipal, e que hoje cedem à mentira e a pressão do Ministério Público, para manter em pé um projeto político.
Quanto àqueles que atuam para liquidar meu nome e reputação saibam que minha honra é fruto de minha trajetória de cinquenta anos de vida pública com imagem ilibada. E não será um complô político que que vai manchar a minha história.


  • J. says:

    “The move is part of the general instability following the removal from office of President Dilma Rousseff.”

    No, it’s not. The theatre’s executive director was arrested last year and told the police about corruption there – a lot of money was stolen. Neschling is accused of using his agents artists. And he signed a contract to La Fura dels Baus and paid much less than the money appointed in the contract. The police believes that the rest of the money was stolen too.

    You should inform yourself better, Mr. Lebrecht.

  • Alex Klein says:

    People should be slow to jump to conclusions on this one. Brazil is going through its version of McCarthyism, and more often than not the people under the gun are not necessarily the actual wrong-doers. Brazilian media and judicial system have also shown the appearance of selective judgment, protecting the real corrupted individuals by the attack on those who are more visible, giving the impression of good law-enforcement. But only the impression.

    I held Neschling’s post during a previous administration, and saw first hand the disastrous effects of long-term corruption at São Paulo’s Theatro Municipal. “Music” is not as important a priority as looking good in the media in hopes of aiding the sitting political party in the following election. As a result, what could – and should – be an influential institution even at the international level barely makes it out of São Paulo’s beltway. And local politicians don’t feel the necessity to enlarge that presence.

    When this became obvious to me I left the scene – only 4 months into my stay. A year later one of my co-workers there was already indicted on corruptions charges, and one year ago it was the term of the then-executive director, when an alleged amount of R$15million (about US$4,5million) went missing. Considering Municipal’s budget, and the ease with which one can misguide money between those walls, this amount should be seen as a small token of the actual losses. Corruption at Municipal occurs at various levels, intelligently, carefully, and is institutionalized. Pinning that amount of dirt on only the recent conductor is nothing more than scapegoating. The real problem I encountered, and which Neschling alludes to in his defense, is that Municipal does not exist for the sake of art, but for the sake of a political objective, regardless of which political party is in power. Removing Neschling, therefore, guilty or not-guilty, will not solve the problem and might actually aid those political corruptors by shifting blame and avoiding prosecution of the real perpetrators, or a complete overhaul of the house’s finances and procedures. What is needed is more artistic independence for the institution and an approach more akin to other international houses. More accountability.

  • Asdrubal Perez says:

    The plot thickens. According to the brazilian press, Neschling had a foreign private assistant, that was the one in charge of doing the dirty part of the job: travelling abroad seeking contacts and contracts for his boss and the theatre. In obtaining these, both men had their clear cut and profit.
    Although it may be that this organisation was corrupt for may years now, but it seems important to clean it up now.

  • Phrygian mode. says:

    Though an important institution, TMSP is is not a national theater or company, and it is under municipal jurisdiction. It is important to note that these accusations against Maestro Neschling and his wife, who goes around the internet personally intimidating folks who are critical of her husband, have been going on for years. He initially had the support of mayor of Sao Paulo, but given the preponderance of evidence, it appears that he has now lost it.

  • Claudia says:

    First of all I must correct your dates, Mr Lebrecht: Neschling (unfortunate) tenure started in 2013, not 2003. In 2008 he was fired by the OSESP and spent some years in the ostracism he created for himself through sheer animosity to everyone. I won’t dispute Neschling’s knowledge or skills. He is neither a top class international conductor neither a poor one. However, I think must people in Brazil (and Latin America) would disagree of the title of “chief conductor” you gave to him. As someone above mentioned, what is unnaceptable is his and his wife’s behaviour to other (intimidating, autocratic, unfair and even illegal if you consider jarring severely people on the Internet, who ‘dared’ question his decisions. It is a state-owned opera house and one of Brazil’s top ones; it is only fair that people questions some of his artistic decisions, especially the ones clearer oriented by personal advantages he would get from agents he favoured. One only has to see what was his non-existent career between 2008-2013 and how many invitations he suddenly got from various places, mostly thru the same agents he favoured in “his” opera house. Perhaps he did not steal money as Herencia, the executive director he appointed, did. But I ask you if his sort of tyrannical behaviour can be right? If anything good cable said of his tenure is that basically gave continuity to the process of professionalising the opera house initiated by Ira Levin and Jamil Maluf a decade ago or so (vain as Neschling is, he frequently claimed to be starting from zero – not true).
    Last but not least, Mr Alex Klein was fired from the Opera House after only a couple of disastrous months as artistic director. Easily proved by reading at local newspapers or the emails sent to him by the secretary of culture back then. He should be wise to keep quiet.