Malta sinks in musical mire

Malta sinks in musical mire


norman lebrecht

February 29, 2020

The artistic director of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Raoul Lay resigned today, saying he was being prevented from doing his job.

The orchestra’s chairman Sigmond Mifsud said: ‘A few days ago, the board of directors decided to terminate his job during the probation period as it felt he was not meeting expectations.’

Nothing in Malta is what it seems.

Read here.


  • Don Fatale says:

    Ah yes, the political soap opera that is the MPO. I recall Malta’s only professional orchestra going AWOL (touring elsewhere) for much of the time when Valletta was European City of Culture a couple of years ago. Now a trip to China is in the offing, leaving the island without a classical presence once again. Can’t help thinking the players would prefer a better salary instead. I can only imagine what they have to put up with. They’re a nice bunch. If they can just keep going until I see Rossini’s Otello there on Tuesday, that would be great.

  • PecorinoVerdiano says:

    No surprise there! First the Brian Schembri case, then this.

    Under every Maltese Labour Party government (“Labour” is a misnomer for a Chinese-style political party), surreal levels of corruption are reached.

    This is the government under which the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed.

    This is the corrupt government that recently won two elections through the support of a widely illiterate nation and people (artists included) who, despite knowing better, gave their support in exchange of favours.

    This is the government who fabricated the mantra “the best in Europe” whilst placing scores of party folk with embarrassingly, poor general-education in the country’s highest positions.

    Despite the baloney and the money that is pouring in (let’s not go there!), Malta is essentially a developing country which the regime portrays as a blissful haven. This advert, featuring the illustrious Maltese Tenor, provides a snapshot of the incessant propaganda that the government generates. The reality is very remote and not immediately noticeable.

  • Jimbo says:

    Oh dear. What a quagmire. Not surprised. Malta is full of wealthy amateur meddlers in the arts. They may gave money but they’re mean and galvanise themselves to outsiders when their “advice” is not followed. Maestro Lay is well out of there. Snake pit of petulant petty amateur administrators and meddling amateur Board that only want to hear the music they like or have known since childhood on recordings. None of
    Them would get a job in the Arts off the island!

  • PecorinoVerdiano says:

    When an ex shop assistant in an optician’s outlet is chosen for a top rank job in the prime minister’s office, where else can one go? The very best are ignored or pull themselves away from such a toxic place.

    Shame on those brown-nosing Maltese musicians who despite knowing well what this corrupt regime was up to, still continued to work with them and white-washing the terrible reality. Petty patriotism and selfishness is your country’s downfall!

    “No place like Malta?” Thank goodness! Do these people read statistics or read about their country?

  • PecorinoVerdiano says:

    Sigmond Mifsud is by international standards a semi professional trumpeter who happened to be in the Maltese orchestra before he became a Labour Party electoral candidate and an orchestral CEO. From his electoral speeches, it doesn’t take long to realise that his real level of education is that of a very average 6-7 year old.

    Like him there are many. They are the ones sinking the country!

  • Edgar Self says:

    It is the Knights’, Gozo, and Caravaggio’s revenge!

  • Harold W. says:

    Since the unfortunate sacking of previous Maltese artistic director and principal conductor Brian Schembri some 2 or 3 years ago, it seems that this orchestra has been completely taken over by an Armenian/Russian organisation of sorts which seems to be putting in a lot of money into the orchestra. French artistic director Raoul Lay survived for only a few months at the job and seems to have had quite bad treatment as well. I wonder if the principal conductor Armenian Sergey Smbatyan will take up the role. Do I remember a post about a Smbatyan in this blog?

  • Sandy says:

    Not quite, Norman. The mire is political. And very deep.

  • Harold W. says:

    Is “murky money” the reason for “Malta sinking in musical mire” ?

    • PecorinoVerdiano says:

      Murky money hence the proliferation of certain industries and the growth of “investments in the arts” by certain uber rich from a gigantic and notorious European country which is not in the EU.

  • PecorinoVerdiano says:

    The root of the chaos is political. The Labour Party government (“Labour” is a misnomer) has turned Malta into a dodgy den for crooks operating on an international level. Its lax corporate taxation, hordes of fixers and crooks and its notorious passport sale scheme make it the Trojan horse of the European Union.

  • Bachianas says:

    What was Lay’s job in Malta? Conductor or artistic director? Why was he conducting? Not your cup of tea , mate! I heard him conduct the MPO and it was monumental c### ! Malta is corrupt but Lay is no Claudio Abbado!

  • Fed up musician says:

    The Government of Malta is totally not interested in the MPO. First they appoint an incompetent failed political candidate with absolutely no qualifications or relevant experience to run it. Then they let him sack Brian Schembri, the best musician ever to come out of the island. Then they let him collaborate intensely with shady organisations and individuals. The Prime Minister and Minister change and, in spite of these recent developments, Sigmund Mifsud stays there as though everything were hunky-dory!
    Amateur spineless musicians, amateur incompetent administrators and amateur uninterested politicians!

  • Harold W. says:

    I wonder what happened to the “due diligence exercise of all financial transactions by the foundation involving the MPO”, that the Malta minister for culture promised? Smbatyan still seems to be the principal conductor of the Malta Philharmonic. Maybe there was no mire after all, but just a cultural desert of mediocrity.