Frankfurt appoints 28 year-old general music director

Frankfurt appoints 28 year-old general music director


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2021

In a major podium shock, Frankfurt Opera has named Thomas Guggeis, 28, to succeed Sebastian Weigle as General Music Director in 2023.

Bavarian born, Guggeis has been assistant to Daniel Barenboim in Berlin and Kapellmeister at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, returning to Unter den Linden last year with the honorary title of Staatskapellmeister.

Frankfurt intendant Bernd Loebe said: ‘I have been following Thomas Guggeis’ career closely since he jumped in to take over from Christoph von Dohnányi in 2018 for Salome in Berlin. It is an understatement to speak of his as a unique talent. Despite his young age Thomas Guggeis is not just a talent anymore, he is extraordinarily advanced in everything expected of a conductor in such an important position. He has a musical idea for every work, which he can implement technically and effortlessly, bringing it to life with emotion and empathy for orchestra and soloists alike. During the many conversations we have had I soon realised: we think in a similar way, question many things and ourselves, take every detail seriously and love music. I feel confident that this ‚fresh wind‘ will inspire me and everybody in company. So Sebastian Weigle’s handing over is happening in a very harmonious way.’


  • Ghost says:

    Can someone please do a profile or share details about Mr. Guggeis agent- Michael Lewin? The man is the most powerful agent in the business, and he is a complete phantom.

    • 1110 says:

      Many people in the field of music business do clearly know that the Frankfurt Opera am Main is Michael Lewin´s opera house, literally and the intendant, Bernd Loebe is just ,,HIS” tool, nothing more, nothing less. So, it cannot be even the issue or news, who has become the next GMD of this opera house, right now, lol.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        Michael Lewin exerts a lot of power all over the German-speaking music world. His progeny are everywhere, not just Frankfurt am Main. Have a look at his roster, particularly the conductors…

    • Ha! says:

      He probably wouldn’t want to be interviewed. He’s not one of these vain, self serving managers or administrators like David Lomeli, Andreas Dellert, pereira, etc.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    He was on the shortlist to succeed Sokhiev at the ONCT in Toulouse, so this might indicate that’s no longer the case. Very best of luck to him in the fine house that is the Frankfurt Opera.

  • Anton says:

    Guggeis is a promising talent but has proven he’s not ready to be chief of such an important opera house quite yet. Although some undercooked performances of traditional repertoire like Strauss and Mozart (Ariadne and Magic Flute in Berlin) were encouraging for a young Kapellmeister, they were leagues away from what would be expected of a music director. He has no vision for a score or ability to change the sound of an orchestra, he was just hanging on. In 5 years he could have been ready for an important position, but instead he will be sent to battle with unsharpened tools.

    • BRUCEB says:

      The Intendant of the Frankfurt Opera disagrees with you.

      As always, time will tell.

      (As for your critiques — no vision or ability to change the sound of an orchestra — I wonder how much those are based on performances that he rehearsed and prepared, or if he just stepped in for a performance or two. Also, if you are an assistant, then conducting your boss’s orchestra is different than conducting your own. If your boss finds out you are trying to change the sound of his orchestra, he might not like it; and the musicians might not put up with a demanding young assistant, either.)

  • Name says:

    Im glad that im shitty conductor, 33 years old, no wins, no job. At least I still can put a comment here

  • Chicagorat says:

    So incredibly refreshing and welcome.

    The era of the arrogant and unpresentable podium dinosaurs is almost over. By my count, only one (the worst) is left and then this classical music scourge will be finally extinct.

    A new world is finally coming.

  • RW2013 says:

    Nothing like that call from Danny to seal the deal.

  • Aleph says:

    James Levine made his debut with the Met a few weeks shy of 28 years old, and 4 years later, he was made its Music Director.

    Just reporting the facts, make of them as you will.

    For my part, I can only say after googling and searching on youtube, I can’t find much to tell me what kind of musical talent he has, and even less as to what kind of person he is.

  • phf655 says:

    Weigle, the outgoing GMD, is a fine conductor who should be better known in North America. He has conducted a few operas at the Met. His biography says he has a Music Directorship in Japan, but there is nothing about future posts. Does anyone know anything about his future?

  • Thomas says:

    Why do they always hire these immature Milquetoast conductors for top positions now? Whatever happened to experience and artistic maturity as requirements for senior posts?

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      It’s certainly a trend. I remember being surprised when Cornelius Meister was appointed GMD in Heidelberg at the age of 26. My feeling has always been that, at that age, a Kapellmeister post in a decent house, with all its repertoire expansion and podium experience was worth more than dealing with all the Urlaubsscheine, tedious admin and in-house politics that the top job invariably brought with it. Nonetheless, CM has gone on to greater things. Seeing how long conductors can go on it seems a shame to soar too high so early, when a well-managed marathon might be more satisfactory for all concerned.

    • Michael P McGrath says:

      Oh, my, Thomas. Where are they supposed to get the experience in order to grow experienced? How else to mature if not while learning, gaining experience over the years? If it weren’t for visionaries like Loebe and Barenboim (and their respective Kultur officials), young talent would have far less opportunity to learn, grow, become excellent. By the way. Even a Muti can deliver a bomb – e.g., his Salzburg Aida, Otello and Macbeth… over the past years (though many will disagree). And how much of a guarantee is Barenboim’s ‘maturity’ in the fast-paced scheduling at the Berliner Staatsoper? I have seen not a few performances there that were ‘just ok.’ So give the young a chance!
      Your comment re ‘Milquetoast’ is not worthy of a response.

      • Anthony Sayer says:

        As I mentioned above, a few years as Erster Kapellmeister in a decent house would do no young conductor any harm and enable them to concentrate on the music rather than be bogged down with admin.

      • Thomas says:

        Chief conductor of the Frankfurt am Main Opera House is an important job. They won “Opera House of the Year” several times in the recent past, over the Vienna State Opera and other more “celebrated” establishments. It’s a job that requires some degree of seniority, and not just on the podium.

    • guglhupf says:

      It went out of fashion in 2004 when Dudamel hit the scene aged 24 I think, winning a competition – Mahler – that Ernest Fleischmann came up with to put Bamberg on the international map. Before Dudamel there were young conductors, but “the young conductor” was not a fad.

    • Andreas B. says:

      as already pointed out above:

      Rattle: 1980 CBSO principal conductor, age 25

      Haitink: 1959 Concertgebouw Orch. first conductor, age 30

      Levine: 1972 Met Opera principal conductor, age 29

      Karajan: 1939 Berlin Opera Staatskapellmeister, age 31

      Wand: 1939/46 Cologne Opera
      1st Kapellmeister / GMD, age 27/34

      there might be many more examples – hiring “Milquetoasts” without “experience” and “maturity” doesn’t seem to be such a “now” phenomenon after all …

      • giampi says:

        Furtwängler in Mannheim at 29

      • John Kelly says:

        Stokowski 1909 Cincinnati aged 27, Philadelphia 1912 aged 30…..this isn’t a new phenomenon

      • Evan Tucker says:

        It’s a bigger problem when it’s opera than when it’s symphony orchestras. As Carlos Kleiber said, orchestral performances are about rehearsal skill. Opera is about technique. Rehearsal skill can depend on insight and instinct, but there are all sorts of technical matters that can only be acquired from experience. So many more things can go wrong in opera, you need experience to do it well and there’s probably a reason a guy like Chailly waited until his late 60s to run an opera house and left his first opera appointment after less than two years.

      • BRUCEB says:

        Speaking of Los Angeles: Before Dudamel there was Salonen, hired at age 26. Some time before Salonen, there was Mehta, hired at age 26. They both went on to respectable careers.

  • Player says:

    His conducting of Ariadne in Berlin last year was not bad at all… but to get Frankfurt? Deep breath and swim…

  • Evan Tucker says:

    How many works does he even have in his repertoire yet????

    The newest generation is getting promoted much too quickly. When Makela gets named to a Paris appointment a year before Dudamel, there’s a problem.

  • Michael P McGrath says:

    What an inspiring choice by Bernd Loebe: His knack for identifying and hiring young talent, taking a gamble on them, is what gives the Frankfurt Opera its vitality and many remarkable evenings. His choice isn’t always ‘spot on’ but it is so often enough. Bravo. Living in Frankfurt just got even more interesting. Thanks to SD for reporting this so quickly.

  • Aurelia says:

    Well, many eminent and older conductors were on their way by the age of twenty-eight. For example, Riccardo Muti was that age when he became principal conductor at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and thirty when he became music director there. Antonio Pappano was also twenty-eight when he became principal conductor at Den Norske Opera in 1987 and was about thirty when he became music director there in 1990. I’m sure there are many, many other examples.
    I wish this young conductor well in his future career.

  • Frank says:

    A very interesting conductor, now 72, who’s had a 45+ year international career with a variety of GMD and PGC appointments throughout that time recently told me, “At this age, no one wants me – I am too old to be exciting, when all the top jobs go short-trousered green-behind-the-ears want-to-be’s, so I better live for another 10 to 15 years and become old, venerable. Then they’ll book me because they think I’ll drop any second, so they better get me whilst they can.”

  • Dragonetti says:

    No need to make too much fuss people.You’ll be showing your age. He’s young(ish) and will learn rapidly. He’ll also have the impetuosity of his relative youth which will sometimes come up with something unexpectedly good even if there are a few misfires along the way.
    I’m on the way out now, especially when I look around at some gigs and realise I’m easily old enough to be a parent of lots of the younger ones. All of a sudden everyone looks young. Recently I’ve had dealings with an apparently 16 yr old policeman and had a minor surgical procedure where even the top man in the operating theatre looked about 21. And as for the nursing team…
    This is a good appointment. Let him show the world what he’s capable of.