Maestro rage: Conductor is accused of hitting stage manager

Accusations have been made against Michael Hofstetter, Generalmusikdirektor in Giessen, that he raised his hand to strike a female stage manager after musicians were slow to return from their rehearsal break.

Other claim of failed anger management have also been lodged with the city authorities, which are unsure what to do and have referred the matter upwards to the state of Hesse.

Hoftstetter, 56, says he has done nothing wrong and the opera is performing better than ever.

And there the matter rests, for the moment.

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  • Like almost no other country, Germans love their local papers and avidly support them, so one can always count on detailed reports in the local press. So there’s more about this situation in the local paper, the Gießener Allgemeine:

    https://www.giessener-allgemeine.de/regional/stadtgiessen/Stadt-Giessen-AErger-am-Stadttheater-Generalmusikdirektor-holt-zum-Schlag-aus;art71,418987

    The paper says that he only missed hitting the orcheatra manager because she so quickly dodged the blow, and that over 100 members of the orchestra and chorus witnessed the incident. There’s also an allegation mentioned in the article that he threw a microphone in anger that narrowly missed a violist, that he would kick the podium in anger, that he would verbally abuse the musicians, and that there were loud tirades in his dressing room.

    The Maestro adds that, »Ich beleidige nie persönlich, aber ich spreche Dinge deutlich an.« (I never personally insult, but I speak clearly about things.) Nevertheless, he says he wants to stay, and that he’s willing to discuss the issues with the theater’s advisory board (Aufsichtsrat,)

    For me, the most interesting part is that there are notable differences from culture to culture in what sort of behavior by conductors is tolerated.

    • “The Maestro adds that, »Ich beleidige nie persönlich, aber ich spreche Dinge deutlich an.« (I never personally insult, but I speak clearly about things.)”

      Contrast that with the part in which he admits having raised his hand against the stage manager and having called her “dumme Nuß” (literally “dumb nut” but I believe “numbskull” carries a similar meaning and weight).

      • Or perhaps more idiomatically: stupid nut. He also says later in the article that the orchestra manager is the daughter of the theater’s director, and tries to excuse himself by claiming her employment is nepotism. Not sure he should be fired, but it appears he could use a long vacation and some anger management therapy.

        There was worse in Munich with Celibidache, such as times when he shouted at the musicians even during concerts, leaving both the orchestra and public appalled. He had a history of that in other cities as well. Munich’s municipal government, which owns and operates the Munich Phil, simply accepted the behavior because they feared he would leave if reprimanded. I trust that things are changing in Germany’s orchestral world, if slowly.

  • Here in the US, this behavior from the podium has been banished by orchestra committees and the AFM. Years ago, Kurt Masur had to be reminded by the NY Phil committee chair that he was no longer in Leipzig.

  • Just wanted to mention that there has been a counterstatement by Hofstetter and the theatre which relativised the whole issue and that the newspapere Giessener Allgemeine has deleted the article from their website.

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