German musicians in uproar against US music director

Musicians at the Cottbus Staatstheater have written a letter attacking the conduct of their music director Evan Alexis Christ. He is accused of abusive outbursts, daily threats and insults. The musicians list a host of rehearsal incidents which they say will be corroborated by other staff at the theatre.

The Intendant, Martin Schüler, disputes the allegations and Christ has asked for the case to be deal with internally. A source close to Christ tells Slipped Disc: ‘The allegations in the letter have either been settled amicably in the past or their content is incorrect.’ But the state minister of culture has referred the matter to a superior board and there is no prospect of a swift resolution.

Evan Alexis Christ, originally from Los Angeles, was the youngest General Music Director in Germany when he was appointed by Cottbus in 2008.

More details of the uproar here and here.

 

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  • Although I am pretty competent in Spanish I know that I am far more direct in Spanish than in English because I do not know how to say things subtly in Spanish or how to “couch” things in gentler, perhaps a little more obscure, phrases . I see that this is also true for my coworkers in the hospital who come from other countries who sometimes sound harsher to me and the patients in English than I believe they intend to sound.

    When I was in nursing school I know that the foreign students had more trouble with choosing the right phrases on tests of “therapeutic listening” because they did not know the subtleties of words and phrases apart from their direct meaning.

    Maybe something like this is going on here Language is a very cultural thing and if one is not raised in the same region it is easy for one’s tone and meaning to be misinterpreted.

  • Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

    A supposedly different side of the conductor

    Cottbus. Soloists of the Brandenburg State Theatre criticize the leadership style of their General Music Director in a letter. By Thomas Klatt (MOZ)

    It all started hopefully. In 2008, a young, internationally experienced conductor will take over the position of General Music Director at the Staatstheater Cottbus. He brings a breath of fresh air into the house, has ideas, dares special productions and philharmonic concerts, which are praised in the press. The concept “Eight world premieres in eight concerts”, in which young composers are given a chance with new pieces at the house, has attracted nationwide attention. The dynamic general music director is popular with the Cottbus audience. Because he is charming, friendly and always ready for a joke on stage.

    But this is only one side of the conductor. An allegedly completely different side has become public in recent days. In a letter to the artistic director of the State Theatre, the Cottbus soloists of the Opera Division strongly criticised their general music director. The singers in the letter do not agree with their boss’s leadership methods, which they find offensive and humiliating.

    The ten-page paper in this newspaper lists examples from daily work. It talks about choleric outbursts, insults against musicians and soloists as well as other employees. The orchestra leader is quoted with the sentence to a singer: “I will whip you through the next performance, and then you’ll see.” This was done immediately after the performance of an opera in the Great House. During a “ten-minute hate speech” by the conductor, another singer is said to have been insulted by him as the “most talented, in any case laziest pig of the theatre”.

    In a later debate on a similar matter, the General Music Director raised a chair and threw it to the ground with full force. Two artists would have left the room in a panic. The composer had become abusive to a musical director with the sentence that he was a “lazy, arrogant pig”, he would “flatten” him.

    The letter was triggered by the dismissal of the head of the study, Frank Bernard, by the Brandenburgische Kulturstiftung, under whose roof the Staatstheater operates. Bernard had publicly criticized his boss for the first time on Facebook in mid-March. Among other things, he had written about “the limits of daily terror”, but at the same time struck a collegial note. So he offered talks and help to the General Music Director. “If you have courage, face me. If you have empathy, show us… if you have frustration, talk to us.” Bernard’s resignation has now prompted the soloists’ section to resist. They write: “Regardless of the legal situation, we as an opera ensemble see this text as what it is: a cry for help from the director of studies, Frank Bernard, with regard to the way the general music director has been dealing with the staff of this theatre for years”.

    In the further part of the letter, the soloists ask the members of the board of trustees to “take discernible steps in accordance with their duty of care towards us employees… which finally create a working atmosphere worth living in”.

    Director Martin Schüler has been informed of these and similar incidents in several debates. However, his efforts to have a moderating influence on the General Music Director had been unsuccessful. Martin Schüler and Martin Roeder, Managing Director of the State Theatre and Chairman of the Foundation, comment on the accusations against the Orchestra Director. Both admit that “in the past, the majority of the processes described have already been handled productively and solution-oriented in the… responsible committees”. In other passages they defend the General Music Director: It is extraordinarily regrettable that soloists of the Opera division would burden the improvement of cooperation by looking back on past conflicts. However, aggressive, personally offensive statements of any kind are in no way acceptable.

    The General Music Director said briefly to the “Märkische Oderzeitung”: “The letter is not addressed to me. I don’t know him. We’ll handle this internally.”

    20 failures compared to the vocal soloists lists the writing. According to the authors, it is only a part of what happened. The list was not complete and could not easily be continued with similar incidents between the General Music Director and the dresses, the opera choir and the orchestra. At the end of the letter, its authors defend their head of study: “However, to dismiss without notice those employees who have had the courage to take on the challenge of a new position.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

  • I worked in Cottbus under Evan Christ and can certainly confirm that he attempted to bully me and bullied my colleagues on a weekly basis. This letter is only the surface of what has been going on under his ‘reign’.

    And he was Cottbusser of the Year.

    • I have no reason to doubt the accusations. Such a letter is often just the tip of the iceberg. What I am wondering about is that he is in Cottbus since 10 years. Has he changed over the time? Or was it “enough is enough”? Has there been a last straw that broke the camel’s back? I know, the reason for the letter was the dismissal of Frank Bernard. But I assume that his facebook post was written in context of a general mood.

  • Piece of advice to Evan Christ [change your name, for starters]: convert to Islam. Then the Germans will really love you.

  • I am surprised that you didn’t choose a title for this post such as:
    “Cottbus opera crucifies Christ!” I am just joking of course, but really, with a name like that he should at least turn the other cheek 🙂

  • When I read this article, I am completetly shocked.I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE. It seems as if a very personal uncomoprtable intention would have been hidden there…I WORKED WITH HIM so I am a witness during the rehearsals. I found him as a perfectionist who is very humble in front of the music and ready to serve the theater and the public with his full passion in order to bring the high quality. I have never seen or experienced his outburst or some kind of insults at work. He is deeply with the music in every moment and it was so exciting to work with him. He was very good prepared for every production of him and he gave his best to find the way together for realizing creative musical ideas. Before starting every performance, he checked out if the singers are in good form or not. He was always there to help the colleagues to bring their successful achievements. My teacher told me : “Who has talents and makes good jobs, has problems and unpleasant conflicts because the people are jealous.”

  • When I read this article, I am completely shocked.I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS ARTICLE. It seems as if a very personal uncomfortable intention would have been hidden there…I WORKED WITH HIM so I am a witness during the rehearsals. I found him as a perfectionist who is very humble in front of the music and ready to serve the theater and the public with his full passion in order to bring the high quality. I have never seen or experienced his outburst or some kind of insults at work. He is deeply with the music in every moment and it was so exciting to work with him. He was very good prepared for every production of him and he gave his best to find the way together for realizing creative musical ideas. Before starting every performance, he checked out if the singers are in good form or not. He was always there to help the colleagues to bring their successful achievements. My teacher told me : “Who has talents and makes good jobs, has problems and unpleasant conflicts because the people are jealous.”

    And what does that mean exactly ” German musicians in uproar against US music director”? so does it concern with all of whole german musicians or german musicians in Cottbus in Germany? I think nobody of german musicians in the other places are not happy with this title. It is just ridiculous.

  • And Douglas Murdoch and his colleagues were NEVER bullied! This is simply a lie. He was often unprepared and talked negatively about his colleagues behind their backs. They were very happy when he finally left!

    • Dear Elke,

      I do not know you, I never met you when I worked in Cottbus and I don’t know where you get your information from. However I would be very careful before traducing the professionalism and musicianship of a fellow performer in a public forum without having the full information.

      I have been privately thanked by members of the orchestra (current and former) for writing my comments here – something they were clearly not in a position to be able to do. I did so with my full name and with no attempt at anonymity.

      I am happy to see that Evan Christ and the Staatstheater have come to some arrangement. I look forward to hearing only good things about the Staatstheather Cottbus in the future.

      Doug Murdoch (Bass Trombonist)

  • I worked with him closely the entire 10 years. The best musical times the theatre ever had. The whole thing was a big witch hunt. This statement, wholeheartedly approved by management, proves my case:

    BRANDENBURG CULTURE FOUNDATION COTTBUS FRANKFURT (ODER)
    PRESS RELEASE 20.9.2018

    Evan Alexis Christ vs. Brandenburgische Kulturstiftung Cottbus-Frankfurt (Oder)
    The Brandenburgische Kulturstiftung Cottbus-Frankfurt (Oder) and Mr. Evan Alexis Christ have reached a settlement agreement on the termination of their contract on 31 July 2018.
    Mr. Christ and the Brandenburg Cultural Foundation are pleased that they were able to successfully overcome the differences of the recent past and have now come to an agreement. The content of the settlement may not be discussed. The foundation and the management of the Staatstheater Cottbus thank Mr. Christ for his 10 years of artistic activity as General Music Director at the Staatstheater Cottbus. Under his leadership, much acclaimed musical highlights were achieved. These include trend-setting program innovations and concert formats, CD productions and international tours by the orchestra of the Staatstheater Cottbus. This work has received much recognition. Among other things, the orchestra under the direction of Mr. Christ was awarded the best concert program of all German orchestras in 2011 by the German Publishers Association.
    The Foundation wishes Mr. Christ good luck for his future musical and artistic projects.

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