Watch: Cate Blanchett takes up conducting

Watch: Cate Blanchett takes up conducting


norman lebrecht

July 26, 2022

The Australian conductor stars in a film called Tár, to be released in October.

The story is based on that of Eva Brunelli who once conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1923.

In the second half of this trailer, Blanchett has a go at Mahler’s fifth symphony



  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’ve seen worse! (not too bad!).

  • Jean says:

    The first piece is Górecki.

    (No need to thank me)

  • J says:

    This is an astonishingly bad trailer. Not so bad it’s good… so bad it’s cringe.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Is conducting so difficult that actors just can’t ever get it right and make it look real? Geez, watch the Bernstein/VPO video or even Paavo Jarvi in Frankfurt. Just throwing your arms around is not conducting. But, she is better than Charlton Heston in that godawful movie Counterpoint. Dudley Moore – now there was an actor who could conduct!

    • Adam Stern says:

      This is my vote for the actor who pulled off conducting the best: Cary Grant in the overlooked film “People Will Talk”. Scroll to about 27:50 to see him doing a very respectable job with Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture” — a clean, clear beat that an orchestra could easily follow, no unnecessary histrionics, and good posture.

      Rex Harrison was •pretty• good in the original “Unfaithfully Yours” (so much better than the remake). I agree that Charlton Heston was not good. Sorry to say that my vote for worst-ever on-screen conducting goes to an actor I otherwise greatly respect: John Cassavetes, when he guest-starred as the murderer in an episode of “Columbo”. His performance as the slimy, egomaniacal conductor was fine, but his conducting…oh, my…

      • Don Ciccio says:

        I don’t know, I kind of prefer Rex Harrison, and I agree that unfortunately Cassavetes was awful.

        But, by a wide margin, the best on screen conducting belongs to Bugs Bunny:

        As for the clip, the less said the better.

        • Novagerio says:

          Ciccio: it’s a cartoon-parody on Stokovski, in the days ordinary people knew who Stokie was.

          In today’s Twitter-world, people don’t even know who Leonard Bernstein was…

          • Don Ciccio says:

            When I said the clip was bad, I was referring to the original clip with Cate Blanchett, not to Bugs Bunny as Stokie.

            But I am starting to think that a big reason why that clip is so bad is also due to a clueless director. In the past Preston Sturges, Stanley Kubrik and Ingmar Bergman demoinstarted a deep knowledge of classical music. I am sure there are a few remaining old dinosaurs who still love music, but the director of this anomaly certianly is not.

    • Nik says:

      Dudley Moore was a highly trained musician. He studied various instruments as well as composition at the Guildhall and Oxford. In fact unless I’m mistaken he had no formal training in acting, so it would be more accurate to describe him as a musician who also acted.

  • Wurtfangler says:

    No doubt she will be invited to conduct the Last Night of the Proms next year.

  • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

    Miss Blanchett seems to be on the verge of making a service to classical music not seen in film in a long, long time; not since, perhaps, “Amadeus.” Please don’t remind me of “Meeting Venus” (a truly enjoyable fantasy) or of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” which had nothing to with classical music, after all. (Kudos to Mr. Dreyfuss, a magnificent thespian.) Allow me to add: Miss Blanchett looks VERY convincing on that podium. Like what she is doing or not: she is certainly NOT hindering the music or disturbing the orchestra. [Here is an intriguing idea. It just hit me: Sir Patrick Stewart as Richard Wagner. The story could focus on the first complete Ring in 1876 and the premiere of Parsifal.]

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    All it takes is a good actor/actress, that’s 80% of the role in real life

  • CGDA says:

    After their contribution to that dumb, fake-conducting, BBC programme ‘Maestro’ (an utter disaster for classical music), they could have got Roger Norrington or one of the other judges to coach her.

  • Gustavo says:

    Was she coached by Mirga?

    I would suppose that if you start Mahler’s 5th with such exaggerated gestures you won’t last very long.

  • PG Vienna says:

    Too much gesticulation. Did she look at actual conductors ?

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    Cate Blanchett is not an Australian conductor, Norman, but an Australian actress portraying a conductor . . .

  • Patrick says:

    I didn’t think it was a comedy until I watched the trailer. What a surprise!

  • Antony Walker says:

    Cate is not a conductor, as you state in the first sentence! She is a wonderful actress, a producer, an activist, and clearly extremely talented all around. I have been an enormous fan of Cate’s for years! Perhaps you might correct that first sentence of your piece, though?

  • CSquarcialupi says:

    To quote the late William Smith (Ormandy’s longtime associate in Philadelphia), “it doesn’t take a damn bit of talent to be a conductor. But it doesn’t matter because the musicians never watch anyway.”

    • Sheila McLaren says:

      The musicians DO watch, and more than “a damn bit of talent” is needed to be a fine conductor. Perhaps Cate’s coach for this movie was playing a prank on her.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    The first minute-and-a-half is sort of preposterous build-up to a musical moment, but the climax at the end of that build-up is BIG Mahler. The stage direction was probably something like: “Make the gestures match the music.”

    (It would have conveyed a very different, incongruous message had Blanchett mimicked the somnolence of Myung-whun Chung, who looks like the walking dead in the same passage, 0:46 in one of the previous commenters’ clips.)

    Those 25 seconds of music were shot with two cameras, probably with and without orchestra, at high angle and low angle and with hours of preparation. Movies aren’t real life. Even documentaries aren’t real life. Film-making is an art form that loves great visuals, in both big and tiny gestures, and music doesn’t usually get to play center stage. The author of “The Song of Names” might have something to say about that.

  • Jim says:

    You ain’t seen nuttin’ until you’ve seen me playing Cate Blanchett.