Berlin / Nuremberg (dpa) – As the conductor of Konzerthaus Berlin, the internationally renowned Joana Mallwitz assumes responsibility for a large symphony orchestra for the first time.
In an interview with the German news agency in Berlin, the 34-year-old describes her motivations. And how his love of opera shouldn’t suffer.
Question: You are also celebrated for your work on operas. What prompted you to switch to a concert orchestra?
Answer: When the contract expires in Nuremberg in 2023, I will have held permanent positions in opera houses for 18 years, half of which in management positions. Then it will be time to change direction. The position of Principal Conductor of the Konzerthaus Orchestra is therefore doubly exciting for me, because it is the first time that I have held a position with a pure symphony orchestra.
Question: How much space is there for the opera then?
Answer: I love opera and will always conduct operas, but as a guest. An opera engagement always means pitching your tents in another city for several weeks at a time. Of course, from 2023 the focus of my work will be in Berlin, so you have to see what I can do next. But that will not be the case as I will say goodbye to the 2023 opera house. There are many great offers from various companies, including international ones. Question: Should classical music open up more?
Answer: In general, I think that the identification of an urban society with the orchestras and the operas of the city is extremely important. To reinforce this, we have to constantly venture out of our comfort zone, sometimes just rethinking, daring to start a conversation, try new things, try new formats, try new encounters. What I keep emphasizing, however, is that we must not make a big mistake in thinking, namely to confuse “musical mediation” and dilute the content. If the concert is not good, any mediation is of no use either.
Question: What has the pandemic done in your area?
Answer: Corona was and is a huge and threatening crisis for classical music and its performers. But we were forced to think very spontaneously, reprogram for the short term, stay flexible and open to the limit, and think outside the box. You have also seen that this is theoretically possible if you go a little off the established path. You have to keep a little of that, that kind of openness, flexibility and risk-taking. The courage to risk the possibility of failure and perhaps only then to achieve a solution.
Question: What role does the audience play in your work?
Answer: Music only appears when it hits your ears. That’s the magic, this shared experience of musicians and listeners who swear and make sure: we live this experience together now, even if the piece lasts an hour and a half. Some evenings you can experience how so many people are on the same page through the music.
Question: You don’t want too much ego at the conductor’s desk. Are you more of the buddy type?
Answer: The opposite of having too much ego in the office is not the buddy type, but pretty much it is. And it’s hard enough. It’s clear from the first few minutes whether this will work with a conductor and musicians – or not. The authority you need doesn’t come from bossy behavior, but only from preparation and authenticity. At this point there is absolutely no room for the ego.
Question: The Philharmoniker, Staatskapelle and Konzerthausorchester are world-famous Berlin ensembles. In the future, you will be in the footsteps of your fellow conductors Kirill Petrenko and Daniel Barenboim. What is the pressure to succeed?
Answer: Of course, Berlin is an incomparable and rich cultural region. As a musician you are of course very aware of the high expectations placed in such a place. But you cannot take this as a starting point for your work, I approach my task with the same principles as always. Question: Why are there still so few female conductors in leadership positions?
Answer: On the one hand, I can see that a lot has changed in the last few years and that I really have a lot of fantastic colleagues who are successful in their careers. On the other hand, I always wonder where you can still be the first woman anywhere.
Question: What role does the MeToo debate on the abuse of male positions of power play in your profession?
Answer: It is important to address things that concern manners, leadership style and abuse of power so that it is no longer a taboo for those involved. This is what MeToo has done and it is a development which is good because it has increased the pressure on institutions to really follow things and not just look elsewhere. And it absolutely must continue. ABOUT THE PERSON: Joana Mallwitz is considered an exceptional talent. Born in Hildesheim, she began her musical education at the age of 13, studying conducting and piano in Hanover. At the age of 19, she went to the Heidelberg Theater as a solo coach, where she quickly became Kapellmeister. In 2014, she joined the Erfurt Theater as the youngest general musical director in Europe at the time. Four years later, she took over this post at the State Theater in Nuremberg. In 2019, she was named conductor of the year. In two years, Mallwitz will be the conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.