Gardner to succeed at Covent Garden?

Rupert Christiansen floats the idea in the Telegraph:

It’s taken Edward Gardner a surprisingly long time to appear at Covent Garden. But at 44, with his hair elegantly greying, the finest British opera conductor of his generation will command its podium for a new production of Janáček’s tragedy Katya Kabanova. 

What may make this event more broadly significant is that Gardner could well be the man to succeed Antonio Pappano if his two-decade reign as music director of the Royal Opera concludes when his present contract expires in 2023….

Oh, really?

Pappano’s greatest value to Covent Garden is that he commands the loyalty, respect and affection of the most sought-after opera singers. They know him well and love working with him. Jonas Kaufmann has told me that Pappano is the main reason he sings in London. Anna Netrebko has said much the same.

Gardner, 44, is chief conductor in a small town in Norway without much access to box-office stars.

He won’t find himself in pole position to succeed Pappano unless something goes badly wrong for the ROH (or boldly right for him).


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  • Then there are those of us who scratch their scalps puzzling over what’s the big deal about Pappano. When the adoring media zeroes in on some people, be it Pappano or Vanska or whoever, critical suspension follows. Neither walks on water for this listener. Appointing Gardner seems like a pretty sound idea.

    • Yes, Caravaggio! It is fascinating how certain individuals from all walks manage to captivate and influence – and it all often seems to have little connection with the supposed essence of their task. Politicians, musicians…

  • Every garden needs a Gardner.
    By the way, Bergen does hire hot shot siloists from time to time (although not as much nowadays as before)

  • He conducted Onegin at the Bastille. I was there and not impressed. Very boring. Fortunately Netrebko and Mattei were superb.

  • His “modest curriculum” doesn’t diminish his qualities. Personally, I find him the most talented british conductor of his generation…

    • So best if a bad bunch then?
      I find Gardner mediocre but then that’s what’s passing as the hyped “genius” these days in the PR rush by management to declare they discovered or nurtured it or “bagged” it.

      • Jamesay: Having problems with other people’s opinions, are we? Get hold on your insane rage or be better yourself, assuming you are a better conductor. Nuff said.

  • I have seen him conducting Rosenkavalier at the Met and attended his rehearsals with the National Symphony in Washington DC a couple of years ago, and recently in Vienna with the Wiener Symphoniker. I found him to be a fine conductor, who knew the music extremely well, and in rehearsal made an already excellent ensemble such as the Wiener Symphoniker sound even better. Please let’s focus more on the music and less on the musicians: the results of this conductor are very good indeed.

    • So if he were female and someone commented she was eye candy can you imagine The outcry. Level playing field ? Nope.

  • Isn’t it fun to enjoy the drama before the curtain rises in the Opera House? If only that drama could be set to music… Ciao, mie bellissime amiche!

  • The Head Gardner isn’t currently in the running to take over at any opera company. However, . . . what about a top role with one of the London orchestras currently looking to replace departing principal conductors???

  • It does seem a little odd to describe a city of 272,000 with a notable university, a first class symphony orchestra and a successful opera company as a ‘small town.’ Not every musician lives and works in a vast, self-obsessed, metropolitan sprawl; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they lack significance.

  • He does not in any sense have Pappano’s singer pulling power. But nor did Pappano back in 2002, though he was already a singer’s conductor by inclination, and training. His Meistersinger at ENO in 2015 was incredibly impressive, however – in my view, the best – and he should not be overlooked because he is English and from ENO: a snobbish ‘prophet without honour motive’ (almost a Wagnerian motif, that).

    Sue’s desire for anyone with a pulse and a full head of salt & pepper hair is getting a bit scary. Norman’s always been grudging about the Gloucester Gardner, with all the posh boy jibes before. Can we focus on the singer-pulling, orchestra-training and house-leading requirements of the spec, please? He may not be the man for the job, but he should be on zee (little) list.

  • “the finest British opera conductor of his generation” – is Mark Wigglesworth, surely? He must be in the running for the RO job

    • Agreed but then some here and in management would say Mark W isn’t “eye candy” enough. Gardner is yet another smooth chatting middle class charmer. Those “attributes” still seem to go further in the British Empire (which some haven’t realised is dead!) than real talent or star quality.

      • Jamesay- you make an excellent point here ‘smooth middle class charmer’. I know Eddie a bit (we were on various conducting courses together as toddlers & some say we look rather alike)- he was desperately arrogant as a young man & Mark Elder led him to believe he was a genius which he isn’t. He ain’t a bad conductor- but never great. His stint at ENO was his best work yet & he’s best in the opera pit with a story to go on but less imaginative with symphonic music. Best Wishes to him & you

    • Mark Wigglesworth for the ROH job? Not likely having resigned rather abrupted on more than one occasion, leaving the organisation in the lurch.

  • The Telegraph writes: “I certainly hope Pappano will hand on his baton…”

    Why on earth would they think that?

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