After 145 years, the Bayreuth festival has its first female conductor


I was born during the Soviet period, when Russian and Soviet culture was imposed on us, but I love to read and have done my own research. I have met big names like Joseph Roth, Paul Celan and Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer born in Lviv.

I also found out that Leonard Bernstein’s parents were from Rovno, 100 kilometers from Brody, where I was born. Brody was once known as the “Jerusalem of Austria”, and there are still the ruins of a synagogue destroyed during WWII, which reminds us of the past in a very strong way. In 2019, I conducted a special concert in memory of Joseph Roth there, and we performed Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony.

Do you sing yourself?

I started with the piano. Then I played the transverse flute, studied the violin a bit, then I studied singing. I have a high-pitched soprano voice and really enjoyed singing in a choir. When I was young, I thought of becoming a choirmaster like my father, but conducting was essential. The sound of an orchestra fascinated me.

What do you do before a performance? Do you have any habits or superstitions?

It’s important for me to have coffee and something sweet, but I don’t really have any other needs. The most important thing for me is inspiration. I rely so much on upstream composers that I feel like I know them personally, that they are almost my friends.

Do you feel resistance to female drivers today?

Everything has changed a lot in the past 15 years. I don’t feel any hostility; In fact, just the opposite. There is a lot of interest and support: from the public, orchestras, managers and critics. Next season, I have great things planned: in November, I will make my debut at Covent Garden in London with “Tosca”, and next May I will have my first concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, a Stravinsky program.

How is the pandemic affecting Bayreuth this year?

During the pandemic, I had to deal with all kinds of situations. In Frankfurt we did quite a “I Puritani” with only 19 musicians in the orchestra pit. Now in Bayreuth we play with a full orchestra, but we have two groups; I repeat with everyone in case something happens. We have 140 people in the choir, and they are divided. Seventy are in a special room and their singing is played in the theater, and the other 70 are on stage, as extras, but they cannot sing a note for safety reasons – although they are supposed to react. all the time like you’re singing.

Are you vaccinated?

No, I have not yet been vaccinated, although I am considering doing so. But we have PCR tests every day. And I don’t meet anyone and go nowhere, except in rehearsal.


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