Just in: An American takes charge of Berlin opera house

Just in: An American takes charge of Berlin opera house


norman lebrecht

January 04, 2022

Berlin’s Komische Oper, the sparkiest house in town, has named James Gaffigan as its next music director, starting mid-2023.

Gaffigan, 42, is presently in his first season as music director of Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, and is principal guest at
Trondheim Symphony and Opera and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; he is also music director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra. Something will have to give.

Susanne Moser and Philip Bröking, incoming artistic co-directors, said: “James Gaffigan is a perfect fit for the artistic profile of the Komische Oper Berlin. He is a team player, young and curious, yet experienced and with a meticulous sense of stylistic diversity. His broad and varied repertoire as well as his multi-faceted interests – including musical education – will be of great value to us in the years to come and a great help to master the various challenges related to the renovation of Komische Oper Berlin’s home theater. We are happy and thankful, both from a personal as well as an artistic point of view!”

James Gaffigan said: “When I came to Berlin for the first time, I immediately felt that the city had something in common with my hometown of New York City – a special openness. Both cities are open to all people, regardless of cultural or social origin, regardless of gender or identity. And in the heart of this city lies the Komische Oper Berlin, a unique cultural center that is a place of refuge for people from all over the world and – as required – offers concerts or musical theater, entertainment or stimulation, reflection or inspiration. I am proud to be able to shape this institution in the future as General Music Director and a member of the artistic management team, together with the wonderful orchestra and the entire ensemble. I am grateful that I have been able to enjoy an intensive education and cultural
experience since my early childhood, which would not have been possible without the public education system of the city of New York, since I inherently lacked the means. I, therefore, also see my task of giving something back with this gift. I'm looking forward to doing that at the Komische Oper Berlin.”


  • Kman says:

    And he has a new standup special on Netflix…

  • RW2013 says:

    They come and go in quick succession here – the present one will be gone before anyone has memorized his name, and the last Merkin lasted only two years.

    • Alviano says:

      Yes. And I cannot find any reference that Gaffigan ever conducted at the Komische Oper (please, someone correct me if I’m wrong).
      The new first Kapellmeister does, however, have a record with the orchestra.

      • Achim Mentzel says:

        Yes, she conducted one performance of the Magic Flute. It seems to be enough to get engaged, when the entire opera house is under control of your agency (present and designated MDs are managed by Askonas Holt)

    • Achim Mentzel says:

      Honestly, what can one expect… It is Berlin’s third rate opera house with the smallest budget, fighting against mighty Danny and wannabe Donnny.

  • Marcelo says:

    The fact that a conductor can hold titled positions at so many different institutions shows how little commitment they are expected to give to each one.

  • pjl says:

    My one Gaffigan concert (standing in for Krivine in Cologne) was not a great experience as we had booked because of a D’Indy piece on the programme and he replaced it with Faure’s ‘Pelleas’. I cannot quite see him in the same league as his predecessors Yakov Kreizberg and Kirill Petrenko. It is my favourite opera house, though it will soon close for refurbishment….there were nets to catch things falling of the ceiling last time I was there.

    • Operaphile says:

      His one concert with the Rochester Phil, several years ago, was terrific.

    • perturbo says:

      I saw Gaffigan twice as a guest conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra, once as a fill-in for Boulez during his last years. I also saw him conduct CityMusic Cleveland repeatedly, which is composed of professional musicians hired for the season. All of those concerts were memorable, including a guest appearance conducting Verdi Requiem with the unfortunately understaffed orchestra.