Women on the podium
When was the last time you saw a woman conduct an opera or a symphony orchestra – that is, one whose name isn't Simone Young?
Conducting remains an overwhelmingly male preserve, especially in this country – to an extent that would be pilloried elsewhere in the arts. The infinitesimal number of women conducting orchestras makes the composition of most company boards or the pages of London Review of Books seem positively liberal in their inclusion of women. The acceptance of this professional exclusivity is mystifying.
During a recent visit to Dallas, Arts Update was not surprised to see a male on the podium during a performance by the Dallas Symphony. The conductor on that occasion was Long Yu (magnetic in the best no-nonsense fashion, it must be said). His soloist was Kirill Gerstein, who gave a galvanic performance of Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto (as he did for the MSO in August 2015).
The paucity of female conductors may change (at least in Texas) thanks to the creation, across the plaza, of the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at the Dallas Opera (as we read in the January issue of Opera magazine). The Mellon Foundation is supporting this laudable venture with a US$500,000 grant over the next three years. One hundred applicants from twenty-seven countries vied for a baton at the first workshop in November 2015. Six were chosen, including Australians Jessica Gethin and Jennifer Condon. All involved – the Harts, the Dallas Opera, the Mellon Foundation – should be lauded for this initiative.
Closer to home, there have been two notable developments in this area.
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) has appointed Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra as its Music Director. Her three-year term will open with a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony on 27 February. She has conducted the QSO previously, to much acclaim.
QSO CEO Sophie Galaise, announcing Maestro de la Parra's appointment in October 2015, said: Alondra de la Parra is set to have a profound influence on the future of the QSO musically and culturally, as she takes on the combined roles of Chief Conductor, Artistic Director and Community Arts Leader. This appointment is a major turning point for the QSO as the first orchestra in the country to appoint a Music Director, something done by the great orchestras on the world stage, but not seen before in Australia.'
Further south, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has now appointed Sophie Galaise as its new Managing Director after the inevitable 'extensive global search'. Ms Galaise – currently with the QSO – becomes the MSO's first female Managing Director.
Ben Brooker's This Storm at the 2016 Adelaide Fringe Festival
In three short plays at the 2016 Adelaide Fringe Festival, playwright Ben Brooker – a regular contributor to Arts Update – asks the big questions about where technology, democracy, and human relationships are headed in the twenty-first century. In the style of cult TV series Black Mirror, each play in the This Storm program is set 'fifteen minutes into the future' and interrogates a dark aspect of social and/or technological progress. It runs from 12–16 February 2016 at the Tuxedo Cat, 54 Hyde Place, Adelaide CBD. Tickets are available here.
Gideon Obarzanek and Danni Colgan join the Melbourne Festival
Melbourne Festival now has a comprehensively fresh regime. New Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway has recruited choreographer–director Gideon Obarzanek as Artistic Associate and programmer – manager Danni Colgan as Producer, Contemporary Culture. He welcomed the appointments thus: 'It all starts with conversations and ideas, and I am thrilled that Gideon and Danni are joining me and the programming team, brilliantly led by Mark Burlace, to broaden the dialogue about what Melbourne Festival is and what it can become, and then be instrumental in delivering it.'
The 2016 Melbourne Festival runs from 6 October to 23 October.
2015 Dahl Trust Fellow Ashley Hay on Talking Plants on ABC Radio National
2015 Dahl Trust Fellow Ashley Hay waxes eucalyptic on 'Trees That Inspire', a new episode of Talking Plants, Tim Entwisle's show on ABC Radio National. You can hear the episode, which also features cartoonist Michael Leunig and art gallery director Gordon Morrison, in full here. You can read Ashley Hay's Fellowship essay, 'The forest at the edge of time', here. The 2016 ABR Dahl Trust Fellowship is now open. This years' Fellowship is worth $7,500 and applications close February 20, 2016. Full details about eligibility, how to apply, and what ABR is offering the chosen Fellow can be found in the guidelines, here.
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