Daniel Barenboim leaves the management of the Berlin Opera for health reasons

Daniel Barenboim leaves the management of the Berlin Opera for health reasons

published on Friday, January 06, 2023 at 2:37 p.m.

The legendary pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, suffering from a neurological disease, announced on Friday his resignation for health reasons from the Berlin Opera, which he had directed for 30 years.

“Unfortunately, my state of health has deteriorated markedly over the past year. I can no longer provide the services that are rightly demanded of a musical director,” said the Israeli-Argentine maestro, specifying that he would cease this activity on January 31.

Barenboim announced last October that he was suffering from a “serious neurological disease”.

Aged 80, the man who is one of the greatest virtuosos of the 20th century had already had to take a long break in 2022 and give up several commitments.

– New Year’s cheer –

Barenboim had made a return to the pulpit to conduct Beethoven’s 9th symphony, during two New Year’s concerts in Berlin, on December 31 and January 1, in a packed Staatsoper which had given him a standing ovation.

He will lead this weekend, as planned, the orchestra of the Opera during three last concerts, confirmed the Staatsoper.

Barenboim had been at the head of the Berlin State Opera and its orchestra, the Staatskapelle, for three decades. His contract ran until 2027. “These years have given us wings from all points of view, both musically and humanly”, according to the conductor.

“Over the years, we have become a musical family and we will remain so,” he said in his press release, expressing his “admiration for the singers, the members of the choir and all the other collaborators of the National Opera” .

“It goes without saying that I will remain – as long as I live – very closely linked to music and that I am ready to continue to direct, also and above all, the Staatskapelle Berlin”, he concludes.

“It is with great respect that Daniel Barenboim takes this step in the spirit of the institution and leaves his functions”, reacted the intendant of the Berlin Opera, Matthias Schulz. “One can only imagine how difficult this decision must have been” for the conductor.

Born in Argentina, Mr. Barenboim started on the international scene as a pianist at the age of 10, before becoming a leading conductor. “At 11, Daniel Barenboim is already a phenomenon,” wrote the great German chef Wilhelm Furtwängler at the time.

His recordings of Beethoven’s five piano concertos and Mozart’s complete piano concertos are landmarks.

– “Messenger of peace” –

With his wife, the British cellist Jacqueline du Pré, he will form one of the most beautiful musical duos of the century. Until the death in 1987, at the age of 42, of the musician, overcome by multiple sclerosis.

Chaining recordings, Barenboim conducted for 14 years the Orchester de Paris (1975-1989). Appointed artistic and musical director of the new Opéra Bastille, he was sacked by Pierre Bergé six months before the opening.

The conductor began an American career at the head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1991-2006), alongside the direction of the prestigious Staatsoper in Berlin. He will become “leader for life” of his orchestra, the Staatskapelle.

He will also become a devotee of Bayreuth, at the risk of receiving criticism in Israel for directing works by Wagner.

His status as an all-powerful maestro earned him accusations of authoritarianism in 2019 from former collaborators of the Berlin Opera.

Israeli, Argentinian, Spanish and holder since 2008 of a Palestinian passport, Barenboim did not hesitate to use his notoriety to serve his convictions.

In particular, he created a foundation and an orchestra to promote cooperation between young musicians from Israel and Arab countries. Appointed UN “Messenger of Peace” in 2007, he conducted a historic concert in Gaza in 2011.

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