Breaking: Music director walks out on British opera boss

Breaking: Music director walks out on British opera boss


norman lebrecht

April 25, 2017

The German conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens, appointed just eight months ago as music director of Norwegian Opera, has announced he will leave once the new chief executive takes over.

Steffens said he had been unable to establish ‘fruitful dialogue’ with Annilese Miskimmon over artistic planning.

Miskimmon wants to cut the number of staff singers, among other economies.



Steffens will leave when his contract expires next year. His resignation letter, leaked to Aftenposten, reads (in Google translate):

When Per Boye Hansen’s successor, Annilese Miskimmon, was appointed in December 2015, I was keen and open to a dialogue with her about the future. Now, more than a year after we first made contact, I have concluded that further cooperation between us will not be possible, and I’ve decided not to extend my contract when it expires in August 2018.

Unfortunately I have not managed to get to a fruitful dialogue with Miskimmon about the artistic planning. Moreover, I find a lack of respect for music boss’s position and influence in the opera’s artistic development.

I have tried to improve cooperation, but unfortunately without result. Because we have not managed to create a basis for the mutual trust that is necessary in any artistic endeavour, I have concluded that it is best for all concerned that I shall retire as head of music when my contract expires.

I am very sorry that it is necessary to take this step, because I know it will disappoint many of my colleagues. Artistically speaking, the experiences I have made myself in Oslo, has been very rewarding. Once again I want to especially commend the musicians in the orchestra for their work and dedication, which I appreciate enormously.

Full letter here. It’s a model of its kind.


  • says:

    The sentence “Because we have managed to create a basis for the mutual trust” should of course be “Because we have NOT managed to create a basis for mutual trust” (Ettersom vi ikke har maktet å skape et grunnlag for den gjensidige tilliten)

  • Beinisch says:

    Steffens is a wonderful person and a great musician. It will be a great loss to the Norwegian opera.
    You have to be very nasty in order not to get along with him.

  • Peter says:

    Looking at Miskimmon’s pedigree, she has no experience in managing a regular opera house. She has managed a couple of project based touring opera companies. Oslo gave her her first gig in a regular house, to learn on the job in fact. Only they know why. There were no better takers for the job?

  • Una says:

    British Opera boss? Who is the British guy in all of this? Sorry for my ignorance.