Unrest in Las Palmas over Garanca’s husband

Unrest in Las Palmas over Garanca’s husband


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2020

Scherzo reports that there are public demands for the sacking of the British conductor Karel Mark Chichon, artistic director of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra. He is accused of nepotism by engaging his wife the star mezzo-soprano Elena Garanca.

The lawyers are producing a report. Read here.

Garancaa was saying only this week how happy she is to live in Las Palmas.



  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Solution: Hire someone who’s not nearly as good just to avoid the charge.

  • Jim says:

    Has Elina Garanča suddenly become a soprano?

  • DG says:

    As someone who also lives somewhere without a top-tier orchestra, the audience in Las Palmas should be *thrilled* that nepotism gets them regular Elina Garanca performances.

  • A.L. says:

    The same charges could be leveled against Sir Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kozena.

  • A.L. says:

    Or Domingo Hindoyan and Sonya Yoncheva. Or, in former times, Plácido Domingo and Marta Domingo. Or, also formerly, Andris Nelsons and Kristine Opolais. Or, currently, Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov. This list is far from comprehensive.

    • Frankster says:

      Not comprehensive but a very nice start!

    • Nik says:

      I’m not aware that Elisabeth von Magnus ever performed anywhere without her husband conducting. But she was always reliably excellent, whatever he asked her to sing.

      • MWnyc says:

        If you mean Nikolaus Harnoncourt, he was her father.

      • Marfisa says:

        Partly right – she has been married to choral conductor Simon Schouten for over 20 years and performs with him. She is also indeed the daughter of Alice and Nikolaus Harnoncourt and has sung under his baton, but she also has a successful career singing under other conductors. You need look no further than Wikipedia!

        Is there anything so terribly wrong about spousal or family career partnerships, provided everybody involved genuinely has the right level of talent and training? Or should musicians be forbidden from marrying other musicians or raising families of musicians? Our old friend Johann Sebastian would not have got far.

  • A.L. says:

    Or Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak. Or, formerly, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. And so on and on and on.

  • Mayflower says:

    Talk about trying to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

  • Firing Back says:

    Nepotism? In the classical music world?

    Imagine my shock.


  • Rodrigo says:

    Here’s the difference between Chichon & the couples you mention. Chichon is employed by the local Canarian govt. He has a contract which is specific about what he can do. I’m not sure which political party is in power in Las Palmas, but it’s the political party Cuidadanos, which is very anti-govt. corruption and pro-transparency which is calling for his firing.

    As a govt. employee, he technically doesn’t have the power to do a lot of contracting and engaging of artists. It’s illegal. This is exactly the same situation that the late great Helga Schmidt, manager of Spain’s Les Arts Opera in Valencia, ran into. As an opera manager, she negotiated with artists outside of the authority in her contract. She also was a govt. employee. She did what every other opera manager does to get good artists, but when you are working as a Spanish govt. employee, a lot of eyes are watching. It’s taxpayer money. In her case, the police actually raided the opera house and dragged her away. An elderly woman with a stellar international career in opera. She faced charges, possible jail time and a trial. She passed away, probably of grief, before her trial.

    So Chichon? He’s an arrogant young buck who Spanish police I’m sure would have no trouble arresting and sending to jail over this.

    It has nothing to do with bringing good culture to the Canarias. That’s what Helga Schmidt was doing also. It has to do with Spain’s political system, the fact that there are about 5 main political parties who are always attacking each other and looking for issues like this to champion.

    And I have to say that Chichon has approached the whole situation of being a MD in Spain with a tremendous sense of entitlement. He sued the govt. of Sevilla when he wasn’t hired as MD there. He seems to feel it’s his birthright, having been born in Gibraltar, to be a boss in Spain. If any MD in Spain would overstep the law, it’s Chichon.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      “C u i d a d a n o s”: indeed 🙂
      A Freudian slip of the keyboard if there ever was one.
      Particularly when buying their claimed stance against corruption and pro-transparency.

      • Rodrigo says:

        LOL. Good catch – my bad! Yes, I meant ‘”Ciudadanos”, but you’re right, my mis-spelling is definitely freudian! !”Cuidado con Ciudadanos”!

  • John Nemaric says:

    This is a typical Spanish “Common Law” situation. Nobody gets hired until they present an approved format CV (Curriculum vitae) to show “merit” and may the best win the contract. Indeed this is a very typical problem in Spain and Latin America to the present day. This common law dictum goes back to the 1600’s.

    To wit, and as example of this common law in the Early 1600’s somebody named Da King of Spain did not like the predatory behavior of one Don Quixote as reported by some mediocre reporter named Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. So, Da King issued a Royal Proclamation to the effect.

    Da Crown wanted to interdict (read terminate) the individual named Don Quixote and his servant Sancho Panza, and called for apt “terminators/interdictors” to disappear the named Señores Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The best assassins in the realm submitted their respective CVs and 20 years later the Crown was still evaluating the merits of each one of these terminators. Apparently, no assassin in the realm was good enough to interdict the pair and sadly, they are still alive. Da End.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    With all due respect, I’d have thought that the prospect of getting Elina Garanča on a regular basis would be an argument in favour of hiring Chichon.

    • RW2013 says:

      Then they should know what to do if they want Kozena every second week.

    • GFHandel says:

      I would have thought it on the same sort of level of getting Sutherland for hiring Bonynge.

      • Jonathan Sutherland says:

        Apart from some early recordings with Pritchard and Mehta, Sutherland would only sing if Bonynge was in the pit.
        Garanča seldom sings with Chichon, at least not in major houses.
        Whilst there can be no dispute as to which artist has achieved the greater career, the fact that Chichon is able to bring such a genuine diva to the balmy Canary Islands can only be a windfall for local opera lovers.
        The charming Teatro Perez Galdos in Las Palmas boasts a roster of great singers from the past, but that was when they were en route to New York or South America by ship.
        La Garanča is the biggest name to appear in years.
        I heard Chichon conduct the Joven Orquesta de Gran Canaria in rehearsal at the superb Auditorio Alfredo Kraus last year and there was clearly an excellent rapport between maestro and musicians.
        As with Helga Schmidt in Valencia, it would appear that local Spanish politics and parochial xenophobia is more an issue here than artistic excellence or dubious nepotism.

      • Novagerio says:

        GFHandel: Bonynge trained and coached an aspiring wagnerian soprano from Australia in the Belcanto repertoire in the early 50s, turning her into one of the universally greatest exponents of that artform. And then he married her.
        Short answer: Chichon is not Bonynge. Chichon is just a free-rider. His wife raised his fees.

  • J Higgins says:

    I’d be interested to know if he had/has any say in how large a fee she gets…

    • Novagerio says:

      He’s playing the Pedro Halffter game; a huge amount of political friends, a moderate talent, but good enough to accompany his star-wife in a few Zarzuela arias (she provides him the jobs).
      They might charm the local audiences, but they can’t fool the taxpayers in the long run.

  • Stweart says:

    What conductor wouldn’t want someone who sang and looked like that ?

  • Robin Weisel-Capsouto says:

    Las Palmas should be thrilled that Garanca is singing with their orchestra. She is an outstanding artist. Many singers have performed with their conductor husbands. To my knowledge,nobody ever objected to Joan Sutherland bringing along her husband to conduct.

  • Ken says:

    His name is Karel. He may be “a Karen,” but …

  • EricB says:

    The stupidity of some people will never cease to amaze me…