Pappano is 60 today

Pappano is 60 today


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2019

Happy birthday to Sir Tony, Covent Garden’s music director for almost 18 years and so happy in himself that hardly anyone imagines he could ever leave.

He is the lynchpin of the Royal Opera, the reason all the stars turn up, rather than cancelling at the slightest twinge as they do elsewhere. He is probably the most sympathetic repetiteur on earth and his wife, Pam, play an important role in making artists feel comfortable in their roles.

When I first met him, at La Monnaie in Brussels, he could not believe that he would ever get offered such a job. Credit to EMI chief Peter Alward who proposed him and to Colin Southgate who signed him on. Apart from Solti in the 1960s and Haitink in the turbulent 90s, no conductor has been more vital to the company’s survival.


  • Auguri Antonio. Santa Cecilia is maybe the most underestimate or underrated orchestra in Europe. I saw them two months ago in Paris. They play marvelously in a way very sweet, rare. I saw them two month ago in Paris for Schumann and with Martha it was a triomph. Like the music of Respighi they play so much we don’t don’t talk enough about Santa Cecilia.

  • Has-been says:

    One is not better than the other. Colin Davis presided over a great period in Covent Garden’s Operatic history. During his era we had Boehm, Solti, Kleiber, Mehta, Pretre, Abbado, Muti, Dohnanyi and many more. Also there was a wonderful ensemble of British artists let by Veasey, Lloyd, Howell, Allen and more.
    All the post war Music Directors made their important contributions.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Great conductor. Many happy returns Sir!

  • Patrick says:

    Happy Birthday, Tony!

  • Edgar Self says:

    It must be something of record for the Royal Opera House, and 550 is a milestone even for conductors. Congratulations and well kdone to him. I keep hearing that he is also a very fine pianist.

    Aside from pianist-conductors,iIt remindsme of other conductor-pianists such as Muti, Sawallisch, Svetlanov, Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Karajan, Szell, Solti, Walter Tilson Thomas, Barenbiim, and Furtwaengler.

    Even Casals, Kreisler, Grumiaux, Heifetz, Beecham, Sargent and Rosetropovich sometimes turned their hands to the piano. Tthere are even records to prove it.

    • sdg says:

      heard him in the wigmore hall as accompaninst. very fine. not sure if he does solo recitals.

    • Bernard Caplan says:


  • Greg Bottini says:

    I wish we had someone like him in San Francisco.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    Oddest conductor I ever met.

  • Caranome says:

    He must be universally liked, since for the 1st time on this site there is not even one snide remark about him in any way from one of the frequent commentators. How unusual.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Like Macron and Andras Schiff, Sir Anthony has stayed with a wife quite a lot older than himself. Pam helped him on the way up in Brussels and is still there. I think the previous ROH Music Director was on wife #5

  • Nik says:

    My first experience of Pappano was in 1993 in a new production of the Ring in Vienna.
    Von Dohnányi was in charge but fell ill just before the opening night of Siegfried. Pappano, young and little known at the time, jumped in and made a roaring success of it.
    Oddly he only returned once to the Staatsoper in the following year. Vienna’s loss has been London’s gain.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Does Pappano guest conduct at other opera houses? Isn’t his career now very focused? As in, Covent Garden, Santa Cecilia and a few top orchestras?

      • Yes Addison says:

        Petros: He will be returning to the Met soon for their new production of Meistersinger. Not the season soon to be announced but the one after.

      • Nik says:

        His blurb on the IMG website says, “Pappano is in demand as an opera conductor at the highest international level, including with the Metropolitan Opera New York, the State Operas of Vienna and Berlin, the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Théâtre du Châtelet and the Teatro alla Scala.” I don’t know how many times he has visited the other houses, but it seems odd to mention Vienna since he only appeared there twice, more than 25 years ago.

  • Allen says:

    Good, likeable TV presenter as well – no small factor when opera seems to be increasingly sidelined.

  • Rob says:

    Good musician, poor conductor.

    • Tommy says:

      He is a good musician and an excellent presenter when he speaks of music. I wouldn’t refer to him so much as a ‘poor’ conductor but he certainly isn’t spectacularly gifted in that field in my opinion.

  • Player says:

    A great man, and a great leader and front man for the House. A great conductor of Italian and French opera. (Not so much the German.) But overall, a huge asset. I am not sure that some of his guest conductors are that deserving of his loyalty, but ho hum.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    I have always found it surprising that he is not more regarded in the profession. He actually doesn’t seem to be much in demand as a guest conductor at the top orchestras. New York large ignores him (despite being a New Yorker), and there are no suggestions he will get the job at the Concertgebouw, the Bavarian Radio SO, or in Chicago.

    Still, this is much to the advantage of Covent Garden.