German court orders opera to cancel music director’s appointment

German court orders opera to cancel music director’s appointment


norman lebrecht

February 29, 2020

The labour court in Erfurt, eastern Germany, has ordered the local opera house to reopen the position of music director after irregularities in the selection process. The intervention follows an appeal by a Swiss conductor, whose application was rejected.

It’s a messy case.

Details here.

The previous MD was the high-flying Joana Mallwitz.



  • CHNina says:

    “The previous MD was the high-flying Joana Mallwitz.”

    And the “Swiss conductor” is the present Mr. Gwyneth Jones.

  • FlvonTH says:

    Well, the current MD of Erfurt and Joana Mallwitz’s successor ist greek conductor Myrion Michailidis. He would be the „previous MD“ in the described case. A little misleading to put a picture of Miss Mallwitz in the headline…

  • Djeedo says:

    Since the fall of the wall a few years ago, there is no “eastern germany” anymore!!!

  • Allen says:

    From what I read, they should also fire the intendant Montavon, the suspicious GMD Michailidis, and perhaps even the head of personnel department for allowing this to go so far too.

  • Sally says:

    But the linked story is in German.

    • Allen says:

      Sally, you can always right-click on anything and then choose “translate to English”. Unfortunately, however, with this particular article, I think you are only able to open the story once (at least in a particular browser) before the site asks you to subscribe in order to continue reading.

  • Allanc says:

    Would someone be so kind to tell us exactly what the article says? My German is non- existing

    • YS says:

      In the dispute over the appointment of the general music director of the Erfurt theatre, the plaintiff is proved right and the house now has a problem

      You have formulated this excellently,” said Guy Montavon on Friday afternoon to the chair of the 2nd chamber at the Erfurt Labour Court. Judge Meier had warned of a prolonged state of limbo at the Erfurt Theatre if an amicable agreement was not reached with conductor Adrian Müller from Zurich. “The house is in a state of suspense,” confirmed Montavon.

      And that’s how it will remain for the time being. After a temporary injunction has already been issued and no agreement has been reached, the labor court also upholds Müller’s action for protection of competitors in the main proceedings: The application procedure for the position of General Music Director (GMD) has to be repeated, a filling is forbidden until the end of the application procedure.

      In the end, explains Meier, Montavon filled the GMD position in a completely different way than formulated in the advertisement. In other words: the Intendant himself is responsible for the pending situation.

      Theater Erfurt advertised the position for the 2020/21 season after Joana Mallwitz moved to Nuremberg and the designated successor, Roland Böer, cancelled at the last minute. The Greek Myron Michailidis was hired for the transition of two years. He was not available beyond the summer of 2020, as it was then said.

      122 applications were received. After a multi-stage procedure, four candidates were left: Felix Bender, Harish Shankar, Adrian Müller and, surprise, Myron Michailidis, who suddenly had time after all. The Philharmonic Orchestra finally favoured Bender and Shankar in a secret ballot.

      The artistic director is obliged to take the vote into account, but not to follow it. He decided for two more years with Michailidis, who failed in the orchestra. Then Montavon’s current, meanwhile fourth artistic director contract with Erfurt also ends.

      Before that he spoke with the orchestra favourites. In the process, Montavon said in court, “it very quickly became clear that both Mr. Bender and Mr. Shankar are quite inexperienced.”

      Both men in their mid-thirties have long since made a name for themselves. Felix Bender has even been GMD in Chemnitz for one season, temporarily. Harish Shankar is currently the first conductor in Meiningen. Joana Mallwitz was 24 years old when Montavon signed her. But the director now believes “that it would be advantageous” for the house, but also for Bender or Shankar, “if they join a bit later”. Until then, he says, one could familiarize oneself with the house in another concert and an opera production.

      Bender refused the postponement. Montavon now steps forward and claims in court: “Mr. Bender’s main focus was to have the title rather than to definitely take care of the house.”

      Meanwhile, Shankar got involved. And Adrian Müller complained: knowing that he would probably never get the job. He’s concerned with the principle: a procedure that he calls “a farce. For example, he sees an advantage in Michailidis, because he put together the concert programs that his final competitors conducted.

      Meanwhile, Montavon describes the decision in favour of his friend Michailidis as well-considered: “in order to first install a certain continuity for the interests of the house and also for the audience”. For in the ensemble one asks: “When will we stop being guinea pigs for conductors who try out? However, as one hears everywhere in the house, this refers to completely different decisions of the director and not those of the orchestra for the new GMD.

      Judge Meier says in the hearing that someone like Bender might not have applied at all if it had been about 2022 from the outset. Otherwise the field of applicants would probably have been different.

      The reasons for the ruling will be available in writing at the end of March. Then the theater must decide on an appeal. If necessary, Montavon said at the end of 2019, he would go to the Federal Labour Court. In this case the GMD position would remain vacant for years.