an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

‘Women don’t want to conduct because it’s incompatible with family life’

A row has erupted in France over comments, headlined above, by Bruno Mantovani, director of the Paris Conservatoire on why there so few women in the podium, and in his conducting classes.

He was speaking in a programme on France-Musique, which reported that only 17 women are conducting in France this season, in a total of 574 concerts, and not a single woman* has been invited to conduct in the National Opéra in Paris. Mantovani also said that many women lack the physical strength to be conductors. He added: ‘There are few women students who take up conducting….I can’t force them to enrol.’

 

mantovani

France is, as ever, behind the rest of the western world on égalité. The foremost women conductors in France are the self-starters Laurence Equilbey, Claire Gibault and Emmanuelle Haïm, who founded their own groups. The only woman to head a public institution is Susanna Mälkki, who resigned this summer at the Ensemble Intercontemporain. Mälkki, as it happens, gave the 2009 premiere of Mantovani’s ballet, Siddharta. (*She has also just conducted Makropoulos Case at the Opéra de Paris.)

Like most normal human beings, she must have been appalled by Mantovani’s comments. There have been calls this morning for Mantovani’s resignation. You can hear the unedited version of his radio comments here. The translated text is below the pic.

malkki_MG_1709_copyright_Simon_Fowler

photo: IMG/Simon Fowler

Bruno Mantovani on France Musique: I am a bit ‘annoyed’ about these discussion on equality and positive-discrimination. There are few women conductors…that is true… there are few African conductors… If we start to categorize we will find it hard to accept that are different levels, concours (competitions-exams) and different ambitions which can be very different between men and women.

As you know, a conductor’s job is complicated. We encourage everyone to do the entrance concours for the Consevatroire (de Paris)’ conducting class to train a maximum number of people to serve French and international orchestras, but many females are not necessarily interested…I can’t put a bayonet against every Conservatoire’s composition or performing female-student ‘sback [...] to force them to enter the this profession.

Then there is the maternity problem. A women who might have children will find it difficult to sustain a career as a conductor which could be abruptly interrupted for several months… Then one goes through the ‘post-purchase stage’ (service après-vente) which is the children’s upbringing. Bringing up children at a distance is not easy.

You might tell me “men are in the same boat”. However, the rapport between mother and child is not the same between the child and the father. Sometimes there are also a physiological issues. A conductor’s job is physically demanding. Sometimes women are disheartened by the physical aspect – conducting, flying, conducting again is quite demanding. Therefore there is no negative discrimination and it this that we can criticise the Paris Conservatoire, the Paris Opera, or any other institution..but I’m not sure whether one should adopt positive-discrimination. For me the only discrimination, in no matter which are, is the entrance competition.

*

Mantovani swiftly posted a damage-limitation statement (below) on the Conservatoire’s Facebook page, saying he loves women conductors and was only trying to stir public debate about a difficult subject. Mais, bien sur, M. le directeur…

Où sont les femmes dans la musique classique ? Suite et fin
De même qu’ « il n’y pas d’amour, il n’y a que des preuves d’amour », je pense qu’il n’y a pas de machisme, mais des preuves de machisme, ou mieux encore, qu’il n’y pas d’anti-machisme, mais des preuves d’anti-machisme. L’interview que j’ai accordée en tant que directeur du Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse à France musique sur la présence des femmes dans le métier de la direction d’orchestre faisant polémique sur les réseaux sociaux, c’est d’abord en tant que compositeur que je voudrais rappeler à tous ceux qui sont prêts à participer à la si facile vindicte populaire que l’auteur de ces lignes a dédié quatre œuvres à Laurence Equilbey, a enregistré un disque avec Susanna Mälkki, a demandé à l’Opéra de Paris d’engager cette dernière pour son premier ouvrage scénique à l’opéra Bastille, et travaille actuellement à un projet de mélodrame avec Claire Gibault. Il n’y a que des preuves, disais-je, en voici quelques unes irréfutables, qui devraient déjà faire taire les procureurs peu informés.
Cela étant, la polémique idiote et infondée me concernant ne doit pas faire ombrage à un débat intéressant, et c’est maintenant le directeur du Conservatoire qui va pouvoir préciser les propos qui excitent la blogosphère (j’en profite pour préciser que le CNSMDP une des rares écoles supérieures où l’on peut observer une parité absolue entre élèves hommes et femmes). J’ai accordé une vingtaine de minutes d’entretien au journaliste de France musique qui n’a retenu qu’une seule minute, et s’il est impossible d’avoir accès à l’intégralité de cet échange, voilà approximativement ce qui a été évoqué.
La question des quotas de femmes en classe de direction d’orchestre a été abordée. J’ai dit tout d’abord que la classe de direction d’orchestre n’était plus exclusivement masculine depuis longtemps. Plusieurs élèves femmes ont achevé leurs études récemment (la dernière, Alexandra Cravero a décroché brillamment son diplôme de master en 2011, et a été engagée sur une production d’opéra au CNSDMP l’année suivante). A mon sens, le système des quotas dans une école n’est ni souhaitable, ni pertinent. C’est le niveau au concours d’entrée des candidats qui importe, ni le sexe, ni l’origine géographique de ces derniers (on s’émeut assez peu, d’ailleurs, de l’absence quasi-totale de chefs d’orchestre noirs ou africains du nord, ce que je trouve très préoccupant pour ma part). Il serait inacceptable, au stade du concours de recrutement, de mettre en place la moindre discrimination, ni positive, ni négative.
Cela étant, je me réjouis de l’entrée dans la classe préparatoire de direction d’orchestre (dite « d’initiation ») de deux jeunes femmes pour l’année scolaire qui débute, et j’espère vivement qu’elles pourront intégrer la classe supérieure à la fin de leur cursus actuel.
J’ai aussi insisté lors de cet entretien sur le fait que beaucoup de femmes n’étaient pas intéressées par le métier de chef, et que l’incitation de la part d’un établissement avait ses limites. On ne peut forcer une personne à s’engager dans une carrière ou dans une autre.
A propos des motifs potentiels de ce désintérêt (et j’insiste sur l’adjectif « potentiel », car n’étant pas une femme moi-même, mes propos sont à la fois une opinion personnelle mais aussi la synthèse de propos tenus par des femmes), j’ai évoqué la maternité, question qui se pose en général au moment même où une carrière débute pour un chef (entre 27 et 35 ans). Par « service après-vente » de la maternité (expression malheureuse, j’en conviens, mais le second degré existe aussi pour évoquer des sujets sérieux), je disais qu’une mère peut difficilement conjuguer une carrière internationale de chef (très différente au niveau de l’implication d’une instrumentiste, car jouer un concerto ou un récital n’implique pas une semaine de répétitions) et une maternité récente. Le rapport d’un enfant à sa mère n’est pas le même que celui à son père, et nier cela en s’abritant derrière un égalitarisme angélique est assez éloigné de la réalité.
Enfin, et c’est sûrement le plus important, j’ai beaucoup insisté sur le fait que la situation avait déjà beaucoup évolué. Qui aurait pu imaginer il y a vingt ans qu’un jour, ce serait une femme (Marin Aslop) qui dirigerait le concert de clôture des Proms ? De même, le fait qu’après avoir dirigé mon ballet Siddharta, Susanna Mälkki soit réinvitée à l’opéra de Paris prouve que les vieilles habitudes machistes de certains orchestres ont totalement disparu. Bien sûr, nous sommes loin de la parité, mais encore une fois, cette notion n’est aucunement pertinente pour moi en l’état actuel des choses, et il est trop tôt pour pouvoir l’envisager. Mais l’optimisme est réel.
Le procès en machisme qui m’est fait (et qui donne naissance à des propos assez abjects concernant ma personne sur les réseaux sociaux et qui n’honorent pas ceux qui les tiennent) est à la fois injuste et infondé. France musique, chaîne du groupe Radio France, est une antenne liée à deux merveilleux orchestres où l’on ne peut pas dire que la parité des chefs invités soit particulièrement respectée. Cela est normal pour le moment, et la situation évoluera sûrement avec le temps. En tout cas, que ce soit entant que compositeur comme en tant que directeur d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur, j’espère participer à l’émergence de femmes chefs d’orchestre avec efficacité et pertinence, loin de la passion éphémère qui agite les débats stériles où tout est permis, même la plus grande des bassesses.
Bruno MANTOVANI
Directeur du Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et danse de Paris

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. He is correct to say, ‘here there are few women students who take up conducting….I can’t force them to enroll.’ All over the world it’s still mostly men who apply to conducting courses. Why is that? Surely it says something, though I can’t see a clear answer myself, other than more men the women wish to conduct. That imbalance is going to flow the whole way down the line, and that’s where we need to look for answers.

    • Precisely. But the “gender-maistreaming-fascists” don’t care about this reality. they want to change the system from the top, not from the bottom.

  2. Ah, great, here is our daily (or weekly, or monthly) minute of French-bashing!

    “France is, as ever, behind the rest of the western world on égalité.”

    Sure. There are such numerous and famous British, German, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, Swiss… women conductors.

    “Like most normal human beings, she must have been appalled by Mantovani’s comments.”

    Some other human beings are appalled by political correctness.

    And a few minor imprecisions:

    “The only woman to head a public institution is Susanna Mälkki at the Ensemble Intercontemporain.”

    The music director of the EIC is Matthias Pintscher since last month.

    “Mälkki, as it happens, gave the premiere last week of Mantovani’s ballet, Siddharta.”

    Not at all last week, as it was in March 2010.
    But she has conducted a revival of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging of Janacek’s “Makropulos Case” at the Paris Opera a few days ago.

    • “The only woman to head a public institution is Susanna Mälkki, who resigned this summer at the Ensemble Intercontemporain.” .. is actually what NL wrote!

    • “Mälkki, as it happens, gave the 2009 premiere of Mantovani’s ballet, Siddharta. (*She has also just conducted Makropoulos Case at the Opéra de Paris.)” … is actually what NL wrote!

    • Mara Miller says:

      “Some other human beings are appalled by political correctness”…
      Would this be the sort of privileged human beings who have never needed ‘political correctness’ once in their lives? They tend to be male, white, straight and properous: does that cap fit, Josef?

      • It may be, it may be not.
        I do not consider at first gender, race, sexual preferences and wealth when I speak of human beings.
        And “political correctness”, at least in French, is not a synonym for “tolerance”.

  3. It’s an unforgivably patriarchal assumption that all women will become pregnant.

    • But it’s not a patriarchical assumption, that only women will become pregnant.
      Women don’t WANT to become orchestra conductors as much as men do. It’s as simple as that. Just sit in the entrance exams of music colleges for the orchestra conducting classes. There are many more women applying in the choir conducting courses. It’s women’s FREE choice. Make women more interested in becoming orchestra conductors. Don’t complain about the (straw) men, even though it’s ‘en vogue’.

      • And don’t minimize choral conducting as being somehow less important than orchestral conducting, even though the former isn’t nearly as well-paid.

        • Freudian slip? I didn’t minimize anything. Is it maybe you who associates “more women applying” with “less important”? I certainly don’t.

          • No, no, of course you didn’t. Sorry! I wasn’t aiming my comment at you as a criticism; I was joining in with an additional observation.

            Petrenko went off about why women can’t or shouldn’t conduct (musicians “react better when they have a man in front of them” and “a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things”) when his own wife is a choral conductor.

            That would indicate that he, like all too much of the classical music establishment, doesn’t think choral conducting really counts as conducting.

            - – - – -

            Speaking of which, Norman mentioned as accomplished female French conductors “the self-starters Laurence Equilbey, Claire Gibault and Emmanuelle Haïm, who founded their own groups”. Not to forget Françoise Lasserre, who founded and directs the marvelous ensemble Akadêmia.

            Their recording of Monteverdi’s (almost) complete Selva morale e spirituale, by the way, is the finest one out there.

  4. I don’t understand Mantovani’s defensiveness: he is not responsible for all the reasons why women don’t take-up a conducting career. All the reasons he suggests as a possible explanation of the imbalance are just common sense and have nothing to do with machismo.

    And then, of course women should be free to choose between becoming a mother or doing a conductor’s job, but if every woman would reject procreation we would be without an audience and without musicians quite soon. There is nothing wrong with procreation, in contrary, it is as important as any creative act. Not everybody has to procreate but please, let there be enough people cultivating its consequences.

    It is worrying when political correctness goes to such extremes as to become totalitarian.

    • Will Duffay says:

      All the reasons? Including the physical strength one?

      Give it a rest with the ‘PC’ crap. It’s tired and dated. This is just plain ignorant prejudice. The only thing I’ll possibly allow Mantovani is that it’s not necessarily his fault if women don’t apply, though with those sorts of ancient attitudes present at his institution is it any wonder women don’t apply?

      • What is “ancient” about his attitude precisely?

      • Obviously the issue of physical strength or stamina is bogus. Having children is surely not an insurmountable problem either, though it might add some complications.

      • Especially the “physical strength” one…

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        The physical strength one is truly a joke. I’m a violinist. Playing an instrument or singing and acting in an opera is more physically taxing than conducting. As for the travel with heavy scores, there are suitcases with wheels, small study scores, and tablet computers for the more delicate amongst us. I would think that would be a bigger problem for the elderly of any gender than robust women. We aren’t going to “ground” the elderly, are we?

        These tired old bigotries, indeed.

        • THANK YOU! Marin Alsop does not seem much tired at the end of a performance. Enough with the physical strength argument. Besides, you don’t need to jump and crawl and twist on the podium in order to produce effective conducting. Think e.g. of Jeffrey Tate (top-notch conductor by the way), or of Mikko Frank, which is a quite gifted young man indeed – he’s going to take over the Philharmonique de Radio France, which is excellent news for us Parisians.

  5. All these arguments I heard twenty years ago on a Gulbenkian discussion group inquiring into the lack of female opera directors. Plus ca change, messieurs.

    • Messieurs? You are barking at the wrong tree. Ask the women why they are so hesitant to engage and compete in these professions.

      • Because there is no work or progression to being an international conductor at the end of it, when men are deciding from the top. It has to change at the top down.

        • logical circular fallacy. It’s the opposite today. Agents, markets, media etc. are HUNGRY for female conductors (relatively speaking within the overall limited interested for the classical arts), but the women don’t deliver in numbers… yet…

  6. Professor Crofton says:

    And you shouldn’t forget Sofi Jeannin who is doing astonishing work with la Maitrise de Radio France.

    • I completely agree. She is outstanding. (But of course, one – not me! – could argue that choir conducting, a fortiori children’s choir conducting, is typically a business for women, as opposed to orchestra conducting).

    • Just one in a crowd of men!! Personally I haven’t heard of her, fine work as she may be doing. We have many people like her in England doing fine jobs, but hardly reach the top of their careers simply because they are women! Never seen a woman referree in a football match either – always men, which should not be the case but it is, and with mostly men on boards appointing them, as per conductors!!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I always wondered why a children’s choir is called “maîtrise” in French. After all, the word just means “mastery”. Can somebody explain that?

      • I guess that it comes from the “maître de chapelle” (i.e. Kapellmeister or maestro di cappella), whose functions included conducting the altar boys’ chorus.

  7. Srylorouge says:

    I am a female conductor who was invited in Paris to record my music and conduct the new L’Orchestre Contemporain de Paris. Is true there are more men conductors but also I find that in music like composers is a male world because not women cant compose or conduct because sexism exist in music. They offer more opportunities to guys.

  8. Give us one example, where “more opportunities are given to guys” by “them” please. Only one.

    • Will you stop trolling already? Latent sexism in the classical music world is very real; I don’t know how many talented girls have been told at some point that what they wanted (playing certain particularly “masculin” instruments, being a composer or a conductor) was not a woman’s job. Mantovani’s gaffe is just the latest in a long series, and all the more remarkable as he has been championed by several woman conductors and performers – as he acknowledges himself. Blind quotas are surely not the answer, but developing a certain conscience of the reality and reflecting all together on how to change things for the better would be a good thing.

      • OK, you don’t have a single actual example but feel free to insult me. Who is the troll? Women are given all the opportunities in the conducting business these days. It’s a tough business nevertheless. Few women are willing to undergo the torture apparently.

        • You must be joking, David. Yes, in theory but in practice, women are not given all the opportunities in the conducting business today – if only” The work simply isn’t there for them, and who is going to go to college to study, pay all that money, study conducting for years, and find there is no job at the end of it – or just the local choral society, or a children’s choir, for which they won’t either get paid or very little. They are just blocked by people at the top when it comes to employing women at the top level.

          No one has said why most harpists in orchestras are women, and not men :) A bit of light relief before anyone else starts throwing unnecessary insults at people:)

          • What you describe is the case for men as well. But how convenient to be a woman today, and still having the men to blame for not making it to the top. The many many men who never make it have nobody to blame though. Well, maybe they can blame their mothers… :)

  9. This is something easy to see, but difficult to point fingers towards. Composers and conductors are always put in fragile positions because they are seen by musicians as figures of authority. Women have always been given shorter shrift as composers, particularly those who do not have both self-promotional savvy and the fiscal or circumstantial ability to have other people do their promotional work. The general public doesn’t really have the ability to judge how “good” any composer is, and so much of success these days is based on public opinion and “box office.” Things sell when they are promoted effectively, and we as a consumer culture have come to accept popularity as a mark of value. When it comes to music of depth, much of the larger public would prefer entertainment. Women and men are both able to write excellent music, but only time will tell what remains in the repertoire when the current publishers are no longer around, and people who are alive today are all dead and gone.

    The conducting issue is complicated. A conductor is a living and breathing authority figure, and there are a lot of men who, whether they are willing to admit it or not, do not like taking direction from women. Consider the reaction by even the kindest of husbands who are reminded of their mothers when asked to do something “householdy.” Women of small stature do not often illicit the kind of immediate response from a group of musicians as women of imposing stature. They (and I speak from the perspective of a short woman) are often treated with kindness, and respected for their abilities, but too often it comes in the way of light encouragement and not in ways that would further a career. Conductors must have support of musicians and management in order to work. Some do, and those conductors command respect because of who they are (or “whom” they are). Men of small stature don’t seem to have this problem.

    The pregnancy issue is stupid. If a conductor wants to be a parent, s/he has the same things to deal with, regardless of gender. Any man who marries a conductor (or any woman) knows that family life will have to be very flexible. Male conductors cancel concerts when threir wives are in labor.

    Ultimately success as a conductor is based on the ability to conduct well, and that comes from having excellent musical skills, the ability to connect with people physically and musically, and a lot of experience and honest criticism. Getting that experience in front of an orchestra in order to better her craft is given more readily to men than it is to women, and the women who acquire the necessary experience to do it well have had to fight for it every step of the way.

    • This is an excellent post; why has no-one replied to it so far?

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        OK, Theodore, I’ll reply. Elaine brings up excellent points, especially about the promotion of music. My experience, in the US, I haven’t worked elsewhere yet, is that the musicians are the very least of the problems. I am also a player and I get on as a colleague. I suspect that approach is available to many of my female colleagues as well, yes?

        Artistically, the strongest point is that by not getting enough opportunity, it is hard to hone the craft. Places like Peabody and CCM (College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati) do a good job of turning out conductors with chops. My first gigs involved Pops and Young People’s Concerts on one rehearsal. Technical chops are much needed. But getting the experience to shape a large scale work, or dive into the details of music (as much as possible with 4 rehearsals) with professionals is another layer. That’s the one that’s hard to get.

        As for family life, even Margaret Thatcher had children! As do many professional women in other fields. That’s the red herring traditionally used to make excuses. Elaine’s characterization of it as “stupid” is direct and spot on.

        • Margaret Thatcher had children, yes, but she also had to be twice as good at her job than any man at the time, and wear the trousers!

      • I agree with Elaine’s point about almost everything. But her point about conducting, and women’s authority should not be overstated. First, that a man would not feel comfortable being directed by a woman is a sad reality, and it’s pure prejudice; but its being a reality does not mean that we should condone it, or think that it’s normal or even unlikely to change.
        Conductor/orchestra relationship is a weird chemistry; regardless of gender, if the orchestra thinks you’re a quack, it won’t work out. Authority does not really depend on what you do, on whether you are a good musician or not, and, true, it depends largely on extra-musical factors. But there are various authoritative women in masculine environments. Think of Golda Meir; of HR Clinton; of Margaret Thatcher; of Dilma Rousseff; of Angela Merkel and so on. Why should the same be impossible with an orchestra ?

        • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

          I don’t know about Europe, but in the US the orchestra is not the problem. There really isn’t a huge problem of authority or chemistry for good musicians on the podium who are women. Sure, maybe here and there with individual players. But a handful of macho players are not the people who do the hiring.

    • Excellently put, Elaine Fine :-)

    • You make some excellent points, but I don’t agree that opportunities are given ‘more readily to men than women.’ I’d certainly like to think that kind of overt sexism has died out in the industry. Perhaps not everywhere (Russia) but most places. Certainly everybody I know wants to see more women conductors. But of course, most of the opportunities DO go to men, because there are more men in the marketplace. If we want gender equality we have to encourage more talented young female musicians to see conducting as an option.

  10. As fewer women wanted to be lawyers and doctors in the past since the society didn’t see them as ‘normal’, this too, has to evolve with time when fewer people (men AND women, and students) don’t see “women conductor” as something out of a norm. It is just a bit surprising this statement comes from a 35yrs-old.

  11. I know of more than one artistic director who, unofficially, believes that women are not built for conducting. Well, we have only to refer back to Kiril Petrenko’s recent comments… But he is far from alone.

  12. David, your ignorance is huge. More women don’t go into instrumental conduction because the chances of them getting hired to conduct at a high level is miniscule. They do however, at least in the US, conduct in educational settings.

    It is simple. If women are not given the opportunities as they go through all levels of education to have the experiences necessary to fill roles traditionally filled by men: conductor, timpanist, and many of the brass instruments, they will never have the experience necessary to perform at a high level.

    You can see from this article that Bruno Mantovani is one of the problems. He is clearly going to be one of the teachers who gives his best male students the best opportunities and counsels the women to go raise their children.

    • And you think the chance for young male conducting students are higher than miniscule to get hired for “high level” conducting jobs? …

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        “Most of these comments put me in mind of the females back in the 70′s who would look down on any woman who chose to be a stay-at-home mother.”

        Total red herring. A gratuitously insulting one, nonetheless.

  13. Mantovani is right, and far from any statement of his it is the fact that he needed to subsequently post a defense of his words which are true and have nothing to do with any kind of attitude but are merely statements of biological and psychological facts, that is distressing

  14. “There have been calls this morning for Mantovani’s resignation.”

    Appalling! They want a person driven out of his profession “a furor di popolo”, preferably along with his an abject spectacle of self-abasement, China 1966 style.

  15. The idea that women can conduct or have children, but not both is ridiculous. Simone Young did multiple performances at the Vienna State Opera when she was five months pregnant. Daddies can stay home and take care of the kids too.

  16. Les indépendants non-pistonnés says:

    It would be inappropriate for Mantovani to ‘force female-students’ to enrol on a conducting course, however, his attitude is neither encouraging nor inspiring. Uttering “what can I do?” clearly shows poor vision and leadership skills: what does Mantovani think his job consist of?

    Mantovani’s insistence on ‘concours’ – which implicitly sings the system’s ‘fairness’ – dissimulates the fact that the directors of the 2 conservatories superieurs (and similar prestigious institutions) are directly appointed by the French-State without calls for applications.

    There is no doubt that France promotes excellence, but progress and the work of many creative people with a real vision is systematically hindered by institutionalised bigotry; Apparthicks like Mantovani (who hold immense power in their fields same as Boulez did in his prime-time); numerus-clausus; inefficient straight-jacket systems; faction wars; misplaced elitism; and a head-biting society.

    This case is further evidence that appointing famous-personalities lacking managerial and educational credentials, which the French always fall for, is detrimental for any institution that wants to enter the 21st century.

    Mantovani, should do the right thing and step down.

  17. Maybe the problem should be reformulated. Let’s switch emphases. Maybe the question is not : “why so few WOMEN are interested in applying for the Paris Conservatoire conducting class?” but “why so few women are interested in applying for the PARIS CONSERVATOIRE conducting class?”. Er… could it be that (contrary to other, outstanding departments of the Conservatoire) the conducting class is not so appealing ?

    PS I’m French, so there is no more French-bashing intended than the usual French self-deprecation.

  18. Most women in the world do in fact get pregnant, which is quite normal, but that isn’t the issue at all. Otherwise we’d have no women in all sorts of places in life, including all kinds of sports, other musicians, and all sorts of fields of life. I didn’t get pregnant nor get married nor want to become a conductor. BUT like anyone in a British Government who is a woman or on the Board of a bank, or the Police, or even a woman priest, you have to decide if you can actually be bothered having to fight your way through attitudes in order to your job at all – sometimes verging on bullying, or whether a bit less money and less prominence would make for a much nicer and somewhat quieter life. Being a soprano, a woman was more readily acceptable and inevitable, but look at history and what happened to men where women were accepted. They were castrated so they could soprano!! It is the old-boys network that exists, and whoever calls the shots will find something wrong, as they do in the corporiate world, rather than employ a woman at times in a male dominiated profession. Fine if you have the will to go in there and change it, but you need to go on a crusade, and I for one just couldn’t be bothered and put up with the insults. Why is it most harpists in an orchestra are not only but predominantly women :) And why are Personal Assistants, Secretaries and the likes nearly always women? Probably got something to do with paying women less – another PhD thesis for someone :)

  19. Marcus M. says:

    Why doesn’t the same hold true for high-profile, jet-setting instrumentalists and vocalists? There are many sopranos who maintain extremely demanding performance itineraries and are probably at their true home no more than a female conductor would be. The clear difference is that the soprano–to stay with that example–isn’t the leader of a group, commonly composed mainly of men, like a female conductor would be. It is still a huge gender gap problem. To dismiss it as a “maternity problem” is insulting, and not just to women. A shame coming from Mantovani, a composer I greatly admire.

    • Rebecca M. says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Does he seriously believe that flying, singing and acting in a demanding production, and flying again, potentially all with young children at home – which female singers have been doing since flying was an option- is less physically and emotionally demanding than conducting?
      It’s clearly a defensive misdirection.
      I am a young singer, and have worked with many young and inexperienced conductors, male and female. All will have strengths and weaknesses; but only the women will have their weaknesses attributed to their gender. I will hear people describe a young male conductor who doesn’t conduct well as individually not a very good conductor; if it is a female conductor that doesn’t conduct well, the same people will say “Well, I’ve never worked with a good female conductor, they just aren’t very good.”

  20. First item in Google search: Woman conductors:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/female-orchestra-conductors

    A quote: “It’s not a level playing field,” says Jasper Parrott, head of Harrison Parrott, a classical-music agency. “But we’re not complaining, because the situation has improved substantially during the past five years.” It has indeed. This is partly due to more women choosing to study the vocation. “When I was a student, I was always the only woman, but now we have 50% female students,” reports Barbara Rucha, professor of conducting at the Leipzig Conservatory. Helsinki’s prestigious Sibelius Academy shows a similar trend. In its most recent entrance exams for conducting students, half of the successful applicants were women.

    By the way, Norman, half the Socialist government’s cabinet posts in France are held by women. What’s the count in the UK?

    • Most are there not through merit, but by simpering socialist quotas (just have a look at Taubira and Duflot). If you want to see good women in government, look at Carolina Goic, Ximena Rincon et al in Chile, and that’s stil a very conservative society.

      • I also find it strange that everyone only seems to want to talk about Marin Alsop who, in my view, is a comparative latecomer on the scene. I did three opera productions with Anne Manson at a time when Jane Glover was ubiquitous, Sîan Edwards was soon to become MD of ENO and Simone Young was forging her way in Germany. Without these ladies’ pioneering work (Anne founded an opera company, Mecklenburgh Opera, and was the first woman to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic, for example), Marin would have had a far more difficult run of things, I’d imagine, so I’d like to hear more about those who made it possible for Ms Alsop to become MD in Bournemouth, Baltimore and the rest instead of hearing how she’s apparently the first of note.

        • We didn’t have much of an option. Also if she were a straight guy she wouldn’t have had the opportunities she has had but she is so much better than either Jane or Sian.. By the way the only reason she was the first woman to conduct the Last night of theProms was because the current MD of BBC SO was not available.

        • I think you will find that what people are saying is that Marin Alsop was the first woman to conduct the prestigious Proms. There are plenty of women conductors around in England, and I too have worked with Jane Glover. I also know of Sian Edwards and Simone Young, but they are not in a league with Simon Rattle, Antonio Pappano, Mark Elder or similar. All the top jobs are held by men, and Marin Alsop really did make history at the Proms. Now we have to see if she wasn’t, like Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister of Britain, the first and also the last to conduct at the Proms. No sign of a woman president in the US either, whatever about another woman conductor at the Proms! Watch this space :)

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Theodore McGuiver says:
          October 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

          “I also find it strange that everyone only seems to want to talk about Marin Alsop who, in my view, is a comparative latecomer on the scene.”

          That’s probably because Alsop has always made a very big deal out of how she had to break down barriers to make it and all that while others, like Young (who I also happen to think is a much better conductor) just did their thing and made their career. I have read a number of interviews with Young in Germany, in those it was never the main subject that she was a woman and how she made it anyway. Her qualities as a conductor were the main subject.

          • Quite agree about Simone Young. She lays the ‘strength’ argument to waste, aswell.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Indeed, and she has conducted and recorded a whole Ring in Hamburg (and a really good one, too, I have the box set). So she obviously has no problem with stamina.

            But then again, according to Norman, that is The Devil’s Music, so maybe people who conduct the Ring get the strength to make it through it from the cloven hooved one? :-)

      • You may or may not like Taubira, but she’s anything but incompetent!

  21. Cynthia Katsarelis says:

    At Peabody Conservatory in the 1980′s and 90′s, the conducting class was about 50-50 male-female. I believe that for a time Michigan had this ratio as well. Some of the American conservatories have been open to women, several were absolutely closed to women – Juilliard and Curtis for decades were closed to women conductors. I have to conclude from this that there are plenty of women who would like to study, but the number of open spots is more limited.

    In the profession, after training, the opportunities for women are highly rationed. Most major orchestras hire their artists from only a handful of artist management companies, CAMI, etc. If you look on their conductor rosters, you’ll see a long list of conductors, with only one or two women. I was at a “professional development” session for conductors at the American Symphony Orchestra League where a leading artist manager insisted on using all male pronouns. There was a strong number of women conductors in the room. And when this woman was asked to be more considerate of us, she said, “I’m sorry, the market will only handle so many women and we have the best ONE.” Oh yes, opportunities for women conductors in the profession are HIGHLY rationed. Something like 1 female to every 100 males. And it’s by design.

    So for those who want real examples, here you go – Juilliard, Curtis, and Yale in the 1980′s and 90′s, and the top 5 management companies in New York. I’m sure that’s not exhaustive. But when you consider that there are only so many roads to conducting, those are significant road blocks.

    Of course, I’m a conductor. I was able to get top training, but no help from those rationing the opportunities. I started an excellent orchestra and do some guest conducting, but getting auditions? Not happening. Locally, there have 8 conducting positions in the last few years, modest ones really, where NO women were interviewed or auditioned. I won’t name names but they are in Colorado, USA.

    David H wants one example? Ha! If I named names I’d by typing until next week.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Wasn’t Marin Alsop MD of the Colorado Symphony for a number of years?

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        Michael, yes, Marin was here and was awesome. Does her previous presence here excuse the universities, regional, community, and youth orchestras from interviewing or auditioning qualified women?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I guess not, but it comes as a little bit of a surprise to me to hear that, of all places, the state in which the first female American conductor who gained international recognition made the first big step of her career supposedly has a kind of unofficial “ban” on women conductors going on. When it comes to interviewing and auditioning women for positions at universities and other professional music organizations, aren’t there anti-discrimination laws in place in CO, like in basically other field?

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            “When it comes to interviewing and auditioning women for positions at universities and other professional music organizations, aren’t there anti-discrimination laws in place in CO, like in basically other field?”

            That’s a fine question. The answer is essentially NO. The answer may be a tad more nuanced. Universities are supposed to enforce Affirmative Action, but a. they can show female faculty in their voice and instrumental faculty; and b. I’ve noticed that they often “forget” to send the forms that tell their personnel departments than any women applied at all. Professional orchestras are not held to any legal anti-discrimination standard in their choice of conductors.

            Theoretically, orchestras that won’t audition women conductors ought to be disqualified from public funding, as most funders require orchestras to have strong anti-discimination policies in their bylaws. In practice, they are never penalized. Complaining would not be helpful to one’s career. The unions back anti-discrimination measures for players, but not conductors. No help.

            That’s reality.

    • many male conductors share your fate. Do you know the ratio of female vs male conductors in the more prestigious schools?

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        David H., do tell me which schools with strong conducting programs are more prestigious in your view, in the US, than Juilliard, Curtis, Yale, Peabody, and Michigan? There are a few more good ones, Indiana comes to mind, but more prestigious? Hmm…

        Others have to speak to the situations in the conducting programs in Europe, Asia, and South America. And I spoke to the 80′s and 90′s because I was in the know back then. I don’t track it as avidly now.

      • I think the ratio is probably 30% women on average. Higher in some places (Scandinavia) lower in others (Russia). If we look at conductors entering the profession in five years or so, I would therefore expect around 30% to be women. Hopefully this figure will continue to improve. Once the older generations (who are almost entirely male) make their way to the concert hall in the sky, and the younger generations take over, we may even see equality at some point in the future.

        • The orchestra conducting programs I’m aware of in central Europe – the traditional heart of classical music culture – usually have female applicants about 20% or less. It’s pretty consistent that way for the last 20 or 30 years actually. Women are not very interested in becoming orchestra conductors. Why? I don’t really know. It’s a logical fallacy we can see drawn ad nausea in this thread, that women are today (!) not given the same opportunities than men. In my experience it’s actually quite to the contrary today(!). There are many sponsorship and affirmative action programs, that support women specifically, nothing like it for the men of the same generation.

  22. valerie watts says:

    As we are now used to seeing women in professions formerly undertaken solely by men, I am optimistic about the future for women orchestral conductors. It simply boils down to tradition and people not being used to the “idea” of it.
    It may take quite a time and I will not live to see it become a matter of course, but let us remain hopeful. It may take a musical Margaret Thatcher(not a fan politically speaking) but we cannot doubt the talent is out there.

  23. Yes, it is a scandal that women have female bodies, and it is a source of continuous, bitter disappointment, because for that reason they cannot be conductors. And I would love to see female conductors. There are feminine conductors though, but that is simply not enough. Maybe science can correct all this by now?

    • Ah. Wonderful. Marvelous. Really. I am impressed. So let’s have a look at your line of reasoning, which is the simple implication: (x).IF female body(x) THEN cannot be conductor(x).

      Of course you must concede that there are female conductors. So, through modus tollens, you must derive that these conductors do not in fact have a “female body”.

      This is nice.

  24. Peter Dubois says:

    Knowing and having worked and taught in France for more than 25 years and being dual French-British, I must agree that France is, sadly, very very behind the times and not just in the music sector. It all stems from the very rigid and very narrow minded education system that teaches stereotypes and frowns upon anyone who would dare challenge the status quo. In France people believe that what was is and there is very little space in their extreme narrow mindedness to accept deviation from their “norms”. Only a gay person can speak about gay policies, only a lawyer can speak about law, only a chef can comment on what tastes good, only a writer can judge literature, etc., etc. This attitude prevails at every level of French society, making it extremely difficult for an individual to make him/herself heard if it steps outside of these very narrow confines. This attitude helps to explain why France still maintains the same political class that we saw twenty-five years ago, with the same people or their protégées. An outsider will never get in to revive the moribund and sclerotic French political scene. That’s also why thousands of educated young people are leaving France in droves, in order to escape the asphyxiation of a decadent and extremely closed society. That Mr. Mantovani has said what he has said about woman being conductors is no surprise, as he lives in that universe, at the Conservatoire de Paris, where men are conductors and woman are secretaries. France needs to be bashed, as it is currently dying a slow and agonising death and doctors can only comment on medicine, so nobody would listen to their views about this either!

    • That pretty much sums it up, Peter.

      • Pretty much?
        In this case, I wonder why I still haven’t had any answer to this very simple question: if there is no famous French woman conductor, where are all these numerous and famous British, German, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, Swiss, American… women conductors?

        In other words, it would be highly interesting to understand why they is such a small number of women conductors. But where is the link between an alleged French “asphyxiation” and the situation of women conductors in France, as it seems that their situation is more or less identical in the rest of the Western world?

      • And they don’t have the monopoly of wine anymore in Britain either!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Peter Dubois says:
      October 7, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      “Knowing and having worked and taught in France for more than 25 years and being dual French-British, I must agree that France is, sadly, very very behind the times and not just in the music sector. It all stems from the very rigid and very narrow minded education system that teaches stereotypes and frowns upon anyone who would dare challenge the status quo. In France people believe that what was is and there is very little space in their extreme narrow mindedness to accept deviation from their “norms”.”

      I have heard and read similar things about the education and also the political system in France, for instance, that it is almost impossible to make a good career in politics or in public service if one hasn’t attended one of the elite schools and if one doesn’t have the right connections that come with that. I wasn’t sure if I should believe that because it looked to me like prejudices or stereotypes, but what you say pretty much confirms that.

      That may also answer a question I was about to ask: how come this guy got to be the director of the top conservatory in the whole country at the tender age of 35? I guess the answer may be: by being well connected and part of that closed off elite circle.

    • Peter, I would put a bit of wine in you water if I were you. First I am not sure whether some of the defects you point out are really specific to France. Second, I am not gay, and I wrote a lot about the “mariage pour tous” (pro, of course); I am not a practicing lawyer, but I am a law&philosophy academic, and, for that reason I talk a lot about law, and hardcore lawyers (who generally frown upon “Law&….”scholarship) haven’t thrown stones at me so far. Not only am I not a chef, but I am a terrible cook; for that reason (and not because I’m not a chef) I do not think I feel authorized to talk about food.

      I agree that there are a great deal of conservative reflexes, but I wouldn’t draw so dark a picture as the one you painted.

  25. I couldn’t help but notice the statement was “don’t want to conduct,” not “couldn’t conduct.” Although the phrase “positive-discrimination” made me laugh out loud! That is certainly something said by one who doesn’t know what to say, they just know what they don’t want to hear.

    Most of these comments put me in mind of the females back in the 70′s who would look down on any woman who chose to be a stay-at-home mother.

  26. Mike Hyder says:

    aahhhh……message from Australia……from my rock-climbing/horseriding/athletetic mother-of-3 wife Rishenda in response to the “women not having the physical strength for conducting” comment: “you just wave a little white stick around, you ponce”.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

      Let me know if she wants to come rock climbing in Boulder, Colorado, USA. I’d love to meet her!

  27. I knew JoAnn Falletta when she was in her early 20s, and I was in my even earlier 20s. We used to play flute and guitar music together (when I was a flute student and she was a guitar student). She told me that she played percussion in the Queens Symphony, and that sometimes they let her conduct. Her passage from being “allowed” to conduct in the late 1970s turned into serious study, and then, after a lot of hard work, into a major conducting career. I always smile when I think of her example, because I knew her “when.”

    It is true that some women (like me) have no taste for conducting. I will do it if I have to, but I would rather play or write music. I prefer to play string instruments to wind instruments in orchestras. It has nothing to do with my gender. Some women (like JoAnn Falletta) would rather conduct than do anything else. She has conducted in France, put perhaps her work has escaped M. Montavani’s notice. Perhaps he might invite her to teach a seminar at the Conservatoire, just to set all records straight.

  28. maybe this offers some light relief….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsdCGV0cY0s

  29. Mantovani is a misogynst and a moron. As with science, the field of conducting has been an Old Boys Network for centuries. Women are actively discouraged from these professions. The ones who do push their way into it through talent and force of will are called bitches, are disrespected by many male orchestra members (and fellow conductors), and are penalised if they do become pregnant and want to take a bit of time off to give birth and bond with their infant. It is not P.C. crap to point out institutionalised sexism and seek to rectify it. If one where to exchange the word woman for black, or Asian or Hispanic, (or male for that matter), people would be screaming blue murder over racism and male-bashing. But since it’s just a woman, it’s just human nature, right lads? Misogyny is old and tired and needs to end sooner rather than later. Unless one intends to conduct with their penis, I fail to see what difference gender makes.

    • Bit too easy to blame the men for everything, but convenient. One straw man argument after the other in your post. Btw – I’m NOT saying that’s an essential difference for conducting but they exist nevertheless – there are many differences between men and women, not only their primary sexual organs but generally phenotype, genotype, biochemical, neurological, etc.

      http://www.livescience.com/20011-brain-cognition-gender-differences.html

      The institutionalized sexism exists today in the western world on the other side. Young qualified men are denied jobs, because of “gender-mainstreaming-ideology” the jobs have to be given to women. That’s the reality in the public sector in many western societies today.

      Dear Ladies, after you have graduated consistently for 30-40 years in equal numbers and equal qualifications from the orchestra conducting programs and still do not hold about half of the conducting positions in the musical world, let’s talk then again what’s the possible reason behind this.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        “Dear Ladies, after you have graduated consistently for 30-40 years in equal numbers and equal qualifications from the orchestra conducting programs and still do not hold about half of the conducting positions in the musical world, let’s talk then again what’s the possible reason behind this.”

        Yes, let’s postpone the idea that women might actually be your equal for a couple of decades. Clearly your world view is so vast that it understands all and we should all just bow to that enormous wisdom.

        Remember David H., that I mentioned 50-50 classes in the 80′s and the big artist management companies in New York carrying only 1 woman for every 100 men. But your opinion is certainly more important than evidence.

        Yes, it is hard for men too. And no, it isn’t only men holding us back. The example I gave was of a female artist manager from a very major company being deliberately rude to the women conductors in the room at the American Symphony Orchestra League (since renamed).

        The cultural reasons for all this are complex and ingrained. The problem is that there isn’t much of a cultural force pushing back. One can easily look at the state of American orchestras and say that the status quo is clearly not serving us very well. But the impetus for change isn’t there. Instead of getting stronger talent and more creative artistic leaders, of whatever stripe, American orchestras seem dead set on letting managers take the artistic lead, marketers “dumb down” the “product,” and hire conductors that can be marketed like candy bars. It does the art no favors. Barring 50 percent of the talent somehow doesn’t seem to be helping… Just sayin’

      • David H., why would trying to make things better for women, after centuries and centuries of discrimination, necessarily make things worse for men? The article you cite doesn’t even support your point of view, it merely outlines a few differences between women’s and men’s brains that not in the slightest justify the huge difference in leading positions occupied by either sex. A more balanced and just society is better for everyone, what’s so horrible about that?

    • Love your humour, so funny! :)

  30. “Women don’t want to become conductors.” Every time a woman conductor leads a Q & A there are women in the public bemoaning the fact that they tried their hardest to work as conductors and made no headway. Didn’t they want to?

  31. Christian says:

    “There have been calls this morning for Mantovani’s resignation”.

    This one of the saddest pattern in Western Europe in our days, the credo of the fundamentalists and easily-offended: “Crusify! Crusify!”

    • Institutionalised sexism (and racism, homophobia, et cetera) is indeed offensive and should be rooted out by whatever peaceful means are at hand. In case anyone missed the memo: It is 2013, not 1320, sexism is NOT okay! The most important aspect of democracy is the ability to use peaceful protest to change society to reflect the universial credo: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. If this offends misogynists then so be it. Women have been asking (too politely in my opinion) to be treated with respect and equal treatment for generations – now we need to demand it. People need to be held accountable for what they say in public, Mantovani is no exception.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Another very important aspect of democracy is freedom of speech. Mantovani may be a douche, but how would you know that he is one if he hadn’t voiced his views, however offensive they may be to you and many others?
        Political correctness is an obstacle to progress in society, a form of censorship and obfuscation. It leads to people paying lip service to the ideals of the day but not to open discussion and progress. It leads to bizarre stuff like Sarah Palin or Romney’s “binders full of women”, not to actual change.
        What leads to progress and more equality for women and underprivileged minorities (to avoid misunderstandings, note that I am not saying women are a minority, but that I am saying women AND underprivileged minorities) is more general equality for all, more social equality in particular. Many other desired forms of progress follow from that.
        It is often overlooked that in societies in which women’s rights are suppressed, the vast majority of men are suppressed, too. They may be one step above the women, but they are still suppressed. There are no societies in which men enjoy full freedom and equality but women don’t. The degree of women’s inequality in a society is a reflection of the degree of lack of true freedom in general, even though it may not always be that obvious. So what leads to progress is not political correctness or quotas, but addressing the inequality issues of a society in general.

        • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

          Michael, I appreciate what you are trying to say about general equality. I think there is real truth there. But you don’t get there without some sort of pressure and you disparage “political correctness.” Is PC pressure to get justice and musical excellence, or is it censorship? It probably depends on the case and there are likely shades of grey. If a person in a power position holds misogynistic views, perhaps that’s a problem?

          As an aside, I do a bit of volunteer work in social justice and so I should bear out that this statement is not quite accurate, or needs comment:
          “There are no societies in which men enjoy full freedom and equality but women don’t. The degree of women’s inequality in a society is a reflection of the degree of lack of true freedom in general, even though it may not always be that obvious.”

          Actually, there are plenty of societies where the disparity between men and women is enormous. Societies that have more gender equality are more prosperous. That’s why the UN Millennium Development Goals focus on educating and empowering women. I’m not sure that many of the hugely uneven cultures have symphony orchestras, but perhaps there is something to learn in the concept that inequality = less prosperity and all that brings, like robust symphony orchestras.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            I don’t see what PC has to do with achieving justice or musical excellence. PC is just lip service, pretending everything is OK. If someone in a position in power is a misogynist, would you want to know about his views or would you rather have him crank out PC nonsense which makes him look good, and practice his misogyny in the background? I would want to know what people are really about and up to.
            Take some of the astonishingly stupid things some right wing politicians in the US have said recently, like the guy who said that if a woman is raped, her body can somehow decide not to get pregnant. That was very non-PC – and aren’t you glad you know what this bonehead really thinks?

            If you look at societies in which there is great disparity between men and women, you will generally find that the men may have more rights than the women, but the vast majority of them don’t really have all that many rights and all that much freedom either. Quite the contrary. They usually have to conform to very strict rules and codes themselves, otherwise they lose whatever rights they may have and are cast out or punished instantly. often very severely.
            Those rules and codes are usually dictated by a very small elite – yes, generally all men, but still only a very small group ruling over the vast majority of people, men and women. In fact, control of the “resource” women is one of the mechanism with which they keep the men on a very tight leash. If you are a man and you want access to that “resource”, you have to conform to the strict rules laid down by the elite. That is a very powerful tool, and that’s why totalitarian societies and religions are so obsessed with sexuality and control thereof. It also distracts people from how they get exploited by the ruling class at the same time.
            Think about how the ever widening gap between rich and poor in the US coincides with an increasing obsession of the right wing with control of reproductive rights, same-sex unions, intravaginal ultrasound and all that. Except that it’s not a coincidence.

            Educating and empowering women is important, but in an unfree society, that doesn’t make all that much of a difference. It may be a first step. In really (more or less) free societies with relatively more equality, the status of women rises automatically as everyone is less oppressed. That means that women also have more rights to choose their own path, and eventually, the men who can’t deal with that will just have learn to deal with it.

            I am not a Marxist, BTW, even though I may sound a bit like one! I think these are just common sense observations beyond any political ideology.

        • Michael: He has the right to say as he chooses and we have the right to respond. As for there being no society where women are not significantly more oppressed than men and assuming that was not a joke on your part, let’s try any country other than Israel in the Middle East. Or how about India where gang rape and murder happens on buses in broad daylight. Everyone, regardless of genitalia (with is really what this all comes down to) must have the right to a life and work that pleases them with equal opportunity . No one can, nor should, guarantee equal outcomes but this nonsense about women being too preoccupied breeding to become a serious full-time conductor is blatant sexism. The reason screens where introduced into the audition process for musicians in orchestra settings was to correct the obvious refusal by male conductors to hire women no matter what they sound like. Obviously, a screen for a conductor is not possible and this is the ONLY reason there is not gender parity in this field.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Lauren says:
            October 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm

            “He has the right to say as he chooses and we have the right to respond.”

            Exactly. But if he hadn’t voiced his opinion freely because of PC concerns, then you wouldn’t have anything to respond to. You wouldn’t even know what his position is. That is why PC is counterproductive. PC allows bigots to hide behind empty phrases. It’s better to let them speak their mind. That way, you get a better sense of where we are at in the process.

            “As for there being no society where women are not significantly more oppressed than men and assuming that was not a joke on your part, let’s try any country other than Israel in the Middle East.”

            It wasn’t a joke, but – that’s not what I said – at all. Please read more carefully what I actually wrote before you kneejerk to conclusions which have nothing to do with my actual point but with what you maybe want to hear (or read). Thank you.

            In fact, I think I made that quite clear when I said “the degree of women’s inequality in a society is a reflection of the degree of lack of true freedom in general, even though it may not always be that obvious”.
            Maybe that wasn’t clear enough after all, but I tried to be brief and to the point. Maybe my second response to Cynthia explained that point a little better.
            If we want to see the situation of women – or any group of people which suffers inequality – improved, we have to see the bigger picture and ask us what is leading to those conditions, and in whose interest it is to maintain them, not treat them as isolated phenomena. Men in grossly inequal societies do not freely choose to suppress women. They do not have such a free choice. They have very few free choices themselves. They are themselves brought up and conditioned to behave in that way because it is in the interest of those who control the men.
            But I think I am repeating myself, so again, hopefully my second post about the subject explains my point a little better than my first.

            BTW, Israel is pretty far down on the list in the WEF Global Gender Gap Report, too, at #56 (just before France!). That surprised me, too. Still far ahead of the other ME countries though.

      • Christian says:

        It’s very easy to argue against Montavani. Very easy, in fact. So easy that I can’t understand why people chose to go bananas rather then taking the fight. Or is it so, that when some delicate subjects are touched upon – like sexism – it’s ok just to condemn the messenger because he is such a big idiot that he should understand himself that he is a fool, and therefore deserves no arguments in return? This way of “discussing” only gives us a stifled debate climate, and should be avoided at all costs.

  32. Working conditions for musicians of all types are definitely not family-friendly, but this works to the disadvantage of *both* male and female parents. The difference is that fewer women have a stay-at-home husband to change nappies, take kids to school, and so on and so forth, than do men. Instead of using this unhappy state of affairs as a means to legitimise the marginalisation of women conductors, as Mantovani (who should resign) is doing, this should be the time for all musicians to come to the support of better conditions, more support for childcare, and so on, in classical music – and if necessary start taking industrial action if this does not happen.

    But that is probably unlikely to happen as many senior male musicians have higher callings, and the serenity of their art, to put first. And too many people who admire them far too much for it :(

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Conductors who are any good usually make pretty good money, often very good money. So a woman pursuing a conducting career successfully shouldn’t have too much trouble hiring a nanny or someone who can help with taking care of the children.

      Actually, it just occurred to me that one could easily turn Mantovani’s “argument” on its head: if women are more likely to want to stay close to their children, that would mean they are more inclined to stay and work in one place instead of constantly flying around the work. So from that point of view, one could argue that a woman with family would be a better choice for a music director post because she would actually spend more time where her primary job is. Which would be a good thing, especially these days when many conductors hurry from one gig to the next and rarely focus on one major task.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        …instead of constantly flying around the *world*…not “work”!

      • Michael Schaffer’s remark is the BEST POST thus far on the subject…. The problem with conductors being all over the place is that modern orchestras tend to sound more or less the same, while in the pre-flying years conductors and orchestras stayed more solidly in their home town and developed a characteristic, authentic, individual sound. Again one of those examples showing the eroding effect of modernity.

  33. Reading what Mantovani actually said, I can’t understand the outrage. He stated the fact, that women do not apply in numbers for conducting studies. Then he speculated about some possible reasons. The physical stamina one is a bogus one, but who here has presented a better reason, why women don’t apply for conducting studies and careers? Instead the usual boring PC bashing.
    Can someone please point me to his exact words, that justify the outrage?

    • David, many people on this blog have provided ample reasons, you have decided upon your position so no matter what anyone has to say, you don’t wish to really hear it and put yourself in the position of a woman who is deluged with every sort of questioning of her competence and even overt hostility if she does not live up to some antiquated idea of femininity created by men who clearly disdain the female gender. The worst insult you can give to most men is that they in any way, shape or form are womanly. And the best compliment many men can give to a woman is that she is as good as a man at some thing or other. Does any of this resonate at all?

      • Having read and listened to the various original published items in French and English about what M Mantovani actually said, I find the vile and very personal attacks made on him here extremely offensive.

        Women clearly still have less opportunity in most professions, even when, sometimes especially when, they are the equal or superior to male colleagues, but in addressing some of the possible reasons why women do not enter the conducting profession M Mantovani was not trying to justify any of them.

        A woman could have said what he did and would not have been attacked. It is a great pity that a man can be vilified, not for the actual content of what he says, but simply because he has a penis, whether or not he uses it to conduct.

      • Lauren, what you say is based on your own projection, not much on what actually has been said. You are beating that – in this discussion totally absent – straw man “who clearly disdains the female gender” really hard.

    • After 120 comments, nobody has really given a good answer as to why fewer women apply for conducting courses than men. I still think this is the question we should be asking. If you’re 21 and you’ve got a dream to do something then you go for it, regardless of perceived career opportunities etc. If we want equality we need to pro-actively encourage more women to start the journey towards becoming a conductor in the first place.

      • Women who study choral conducting are treated like conducting students. Women who study conducting in order to become school orchestra or band directors are treated like conducting students. Women who want to conduct orchestras (opera or otherwise) in non-educational settings are treated differently by their teachers and the students they work with. Their potential employers often (but not always) treat them differently, particularly if they are really good at what they do. As long as men rule the musical establishment they will be threatened by competent women. A lot of competent women don’t want to deal with all the extra-musical junk that comes with having their competence questioned at every turn.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        “After 120 comments, nobody has really given a good answer as to why fewer women apply for conducting courses than men.”

        As I said in one of the 120 comments, in the late 1980′s and 90′s, the ratio of women to men studying conducting at Peabody was 50-50, and I believe that was true of Michigan for awhile. Those are 2 of the top programs in the US. The other programs were virtually closed to women. Every woman I know has a story of a private instrumental teacher or a conducting teacher discouraging them from pursuing conducting, on the basis of gender. Otto Werner Mueller told Marin Alsop that since her hands were too small to adequately play the piano, she couldn’t conduct, and she was a top notch violinist. Leonard Bernstein didn’t see that as problem for her.

        So the answer, Luciano, is that woman might not apply in the same numbers because they are actively discouraged. And programs that weren’t open to women certain affirmed that discouragement. Then there’s the 100 to 1 ratio of men to women in the artist management companies. Opportunities for women in conducting are highly rationed.

        If the programs are more open now, there is still the cultural hurdle. Without seeing enough role models the prospect may seem more daunting – that’s how it used to be with doctors and lawyers, but that has changed. The sciences and music (in conducting) seem to be behind. And in politics, women hardly represent 50 percent of world leaders.

        At the very least, Mr. Montovani is contributing to the cultural aspects, and he isn’t showing the leadership to support talent wherever it is found. He certainly isn’t leading any change in the cultural landscape.

        • Maybe, but there might be also some more fundamental aspects of the conducting job, that just make it less appealing to women… And yes, science has shown us, that there are (in average) differences in male and female psyche and mentality. The ideological mantra of the sixties, that all humans are equal, differences were only in the upbringing and social conditioning, have been proven wrong for quite a long time now. So let’s move on…

          There are simply professional fields that women do not apply in equal numbers. Mechanical or electrical engineering for instance. Other specialized science and technology fields. The same applies to some fields, where men are not equally interested.
          So maybe orchestra conducting doesn’t appeal so much to women in average. Maybe because the image of standing on an elevated podium, being a alpha animal that directs and commands, is not attractive as much to the female psyche than to the male one?
          Maybe choir conducting – where the conductor usually stands on the same level than the singers without a podium, being more a primus inter pares, is a more attractive and socially interactive image to a female? Just speculating.

          Knowing Simone Young, one of the few successful female orchestra conductors a bit, I remember how she dressed in her early days as Barenboim’s assistant. In a Domina outfit with leather pants and boots. Clearly playing with the image of being a female but dominant “animal”. Conducting and is very much “animal kingdom”. Orchestra musicians, female and male alike, mostly want that “alpha animal” on the podium. Ask female orchestra musicians…

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            “Orchestra musicians, female and male alike, mostly want that “alpha animal” on the podium.”

            !!! What an amusing statement !!!

            All the talk for the last 2 decades has been about a collaborative approach! I know of no orchestral musicians in the US who want an “alpha” conductor! They want good musicians who can connect with them, the audience, board, staff, and donors. They want a person with a compelling vision, with which they can enjoy engaging, and that brings success to the orchestra.

            This psycho-whatever babble definitely helps clarify things, however. Thanks, David.

          • “Ladies and Gentlemen, how do you like to phrase that? Let’s discuss, every string player please speak his opinion for 30 seconds. Let’s do this the collaborative way.”

            Good one. haha

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            ““Ladies and Gentlemen, how do you like to phrase that? Let’s discuss, every string player please speak his opinion for 30 seconds. Let’s do this the collaborative way.”

            Good one. haha”

            Guess you’ve never heard of chamber music.

          • I have, but I guess you never heard that there usually are no conductors in chamber music.

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            “I have, but I guess you never heard that there usually are no conductors in chamber music.”

            So rigid! There are many circles where conducting in the spirit of chamber music is much appreciated. It is so much nicer than control freak conducting. Of course, the control freak method is safer. The give and take of the chamber music variety requires more skills. But it’s more fun, and the result is often greater than the sum of its parts, even if the parts are quite excellent. And no “alpha’s” are required to produce this beautiful result.

  34. I re-read the text of his statement and find it just as offensive as the first time around. The man is a sexist. There is nothing more to say really. If some do not see this after all of this discourse then there is absolutely nothing that can be said to alter that fact. I hope that this decade is the last gasp of the ole’ boy’s club strange-hold upon the world. Women and non-white males now make up a large majority of the planet and we are not going to sit by and be passed over for work, under-paid for our efforts, and not speak up when we are being actively disrespected by the powers that be any longer. I am sure that many posters here do not like this turn of events – too bad for you.

    • I meant to say “strangle-hold. upon the world.”

    • IT IS ALL ABOUT DIVERSITY
      Let there be space for everybody with capacities, which should not close our eyes for real differences between the sexes, which also have their rights to exist. To force everybody into one mould of total accessibility of anything, denies important aspects of reality. Women, blacks, etc. etc. may be as ‘good’ as anybody else in anything, but accepting that there are differences between people, of any kind, is not in itself racism, sexism, etc. Equal rights does not mean that people are equal. Let there be diversity…. which means that there should also be place for the idea that women are better in certain things than men, and vice versa. Nothing wrong with that.

      This whole discussion is about bias, and mr Montovani does definitely NOT exhibit bias, he just reflected upon the various aspects of the question. I still don’t understand the outrage, which is much more primitive and biassed than Montovani’s utterances.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        Excuse me John. The outrage is that Montovani’s cites “the maternity problem,” and that of “physical strength.” These are not bars to women becoming neurosurgeons, gold medal winners in the Olympics, leaders of Germany, Israel, the UK, India… These false notions that maternity and physical strength are limitations to conducting is an enormous obstacle that men don’t face. And it is kind of stupid when you think of women instrumentalists and opera stars.

        Suppose the public perception is that “men can’t succeed in the new environment where collaborative approaches are more valued,” or “men can’t inspire the next generation of young people…” or “men represent the tired old elitism associated with classical music that must be purged”… or something like that?

        Men don’t have the same baggage and obstacles. And I know of no program that is closed to men. Affirmative Action (in the US) only means that if you audition 4 conductors, at least one should be a woman, even that doesn’t happen.

        If you can’t see the outrage, perhaps personal blinders are the cause?

        • Yes indeed, Cynthia. I was thinking the same thing but have grown weary of talking to those who will not even try to put themselves in the shoes of others and work towards equality for all.

          • AGAINST EQUALITY
            Wait a moment, ladies (Cynthia and Lauren). In sports, there are SEPARATE categories for women and men, based upon the reality check that their body build is DIFFERENT. For politics, physical strength is indeed irrelevant, it’s about mental stamina, where indeed there are no differences. And as long as men find it difficult, for personal/emotional reasons, or practical reasons (work load on the day), to take care of children and part of the housekeeping and shopping, it is not dehumanizing if their female partner, in freedom, takes responsibility of that side of practical life. The point is, that there should be freedom to choose, but this will always be within the limitations of actual circumstances: there is no total freedom in life if you are not born in a miljardair’s nest. I know of women who prefer to stay at home with the kids and feel guilty about it, feeling the silent disapproval of their friends. Did you have children, ladies? And did you find the upbringing degrading, dehumanizing, disappointing? The raising of children is as creative and meaningful a job as conducting a Mahler symphony. In fact, it is a symphony of quite another kind (the one on love). This thoughtless head shaking about men who don’t fully buy the feminist agenda is as biassed as male chauvinism.

            It should be obvious that physical strength CAN be a factor for a conductor’s career, and possibly more so for women given their build, and on top of that the procreation job if they want to partake in it, and of course this kind of hindrances can be overcome. To merely mention these hindrances as observations, as Montovani did, doe NOT qualify him as a biassed sexist mysoginist male pig. He may have been a bit thoughtless in his formulations, but after all, he was not giving a lecture for a left-wing feminist gender conference audience. The condemnations landing on his head are exaggerated and plain STUPID, like the Jacobins during the French Revolution chasing nobility in the dark corners of society.

            ‘Equality for all’ is a very simplistic slogan. People are NOT equal and there is nothing wrong with this. This slogan is part of the egalitarian consensus which wants to lay a grey blanket over diversity. It is mental darkness and naive nonsense. There is ample reason to be against patriarchal bias, of course, but the other extreme is as bad and as primitive.

            To end on a personal note: my dentist is a young, very capable woman, my best performer is a woman, my gardener is a very strong lady threatening me with her utensils when collecting her salary, the stables are populated with women and girls, my driver and cook are a women and now I think about it – all my housekeeping is executed by women of very different background (mostly Maroccan and Turkish) and they do a formidable job. Some of them are physically very, almost frighteningly strong as I experienced yesterday when I could not get a window opened. I pay them a generous salary because without them, I would be helpless. So, I and the girls are very happy with the unequality between the sexes. If I were married, it would probably also be with a woman, which would turn my direct environment into a completely female world. But my music has as yet not been performed by a female conductor, which I would wholeheartedly welcome and encourage.

            (PS My piano tuner is also a woman, and she attacks my grand with a physical furor that is no less than Marin Alsopp’s.)

          • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

            I’m glad that you are well endowed with women serving you!

            You make the argument that conducting is too physically demanding, but all your female hired help are formidably strong, opening windows when you can’t?

            Very interesting. I must be in that physical category, somehow I’m just not that exhausted after conducting Philip Glass’ Third Symphony or La Boheme… gigs punctuated by significant travel and taking care of elderly parents and whatnot… And there’s still energy for hiking, biking, teaching, and volunteering.

            To my colleagues who are professional level instrumentalists or singers who also conduct, please chime in: which is more physically taxing, playing, singing, or conducting? Conducting is a mental work out, I’m only physically exhausted if I’ve killed myself “over conducting” (and I make that error occasionally with youth orchestras, not generally with professional orchestras).

            Maybe the guys who think women can’t conduct have inefficient technique? That wouldn’t be a surprise.

  35. We have women in this country who are firefighters and in the police – and their training is far more rigorous than a conductor on a podium. I would say singing and playing as a soloist are far more taxing than conducting. Too much over-conducting for show, and not enough substance most of the time – and that’s before you get any women conducting. So much chauvinist talk on this blog, I’m off to do something more worthwhile than argue!!! :) ie learn some more singing for my next concert, and do an hour’s daily singing technique before I even start.

    • In Germany the gender mainstreaming ideologues have achieved, that the physical test for becoming a firefighter had to be changed, since women were not able to successfully pass the physically demanding test. Instead of the originally required pull ups, which women usually could not do, now the applicants have to drag a 150 pound sandbag over a distance of 20 meters.
      We are still awaiting the results of the investigations, if the fires also complied with the new regulations and didn’t pose unreasonable risks that might require pulling yourself up with your own arms to the female fire fighters.

  36. John wrote: ” . . . my dentist is a young, very capable woman, my best performer is a woman, my gardener is a very strong lady threatening me with her utensils when collecting her salary, the stables are populated with women and girls, my driver and cook are a women and now I think about it – all my housekeeping is executed by women of very different background (mostly Maroccan and Turkish) and they do a formidable job. Some of them are physically very, almost frighteningly strong as I experienced yesterday when I could not get a window opened. I pay them a generous salary because without them, I would be helpless. So, I and the girls are very happy with the unequality between the sexes.”

    I just threw up in my mouth a bit reading this. Your little “Lord of the Manor” rant is truly nauseating. Listen boys, it’s 2013 not 1320. Change is coming whether you like it or not. Do you have any idea how arrogant and sexist your words appear? I suppose you do and simply don’t care. I think that even most of the men on this thread who have played dumb about what all the fuss is about are bristling over your post.

    I deal mostly with rock and jazz musicians and I thought they were a bit sexist at times but other than gangsta rap, classical music has to be the most misogynist art form around and it is heartbreaking to learn of it.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “classical music has to be the most misogynist art form around and it is heartbreaking to learn of it”

      I, too was puzzled by what you aptly, and amusingly called John’s “Lord of the Manor rant” although it looks to me like he was trying to be funny in a self-deprecating way, portraying himself as a feeble and helpless male in a world of strong and capable females. I am just wondering what world that is that he lives in in which he has a driver and a cook, a gardener and stables and so many housekeeping employees that he actually has to think about it for a moment in order to realize who they are and where they all are from. I guess he meant himself when he talked about “there is no total freedom in life if you are not born in a miljardair’s (sic!) nest”.
      As such, he is hardly representative of society in general, nor of “classical music” just because he wrote a few pieces nobody has ever heard.
      However, you and he have more in common than you may think or be willing to admit. You both think in fairly crude stereotypes and tend to generalize wildly, as your statement at the end of the previous post shows. That kind of thinking is just as much an obstacle to true progress in society as his.

      • Michael: I am glad to know that you do not buy into base-level sexism. I do want to state that I have nothing in common with John to the Manor Borne. It is oft said that women are more emotional and have fragile natures but I have found that it is men (not all obviously) who cannot tolerate ANY form of criticism, however mild. I realise that many men have difficult, even torturous lives, and I empathise. I am, however pointing out that women generally have a more difficult time on every level in every society than their male counterparts. I do not blame men as a whole for it, I blame the institutions that must create unequal situations within their given sphere to stay on top. Those institutions are overwhelmingly male run. Men as a whole think they are better off in an unequal society because the odds tip in their favour but the truth is that if equal opportunity (not necessarily equal outcomes) were the norm, EVERYONE would benefit. It is not “crude” to point out a crude reality.

        • “Men as a whole think they are better off in an unequal society…”

          What a sexist (and silly) comment to make.

          • You, sir, are an insufferable bore. If there are any women in your life and they allow to to disrespect them the way you have the women on this thread then I am sorry for them. I, however have no desire to interact with someone like you any longer. You have a seventeenth century attitude in a twenty-first century world and it is boring and irritating.

      • Of course my description of ‘my life’ was a joke… apart from the dentist… in an attempt to show that reality may be a bit more complex than theory may suggest, and indeed that there will be many situations in which women are strong and capable in spite of outward appearances. Which does not mean that things have to remain as they always have been, of course. My impression is that societies which are female-friendly are also more tolerant, peaceful, and civilized. Wagner complained already about the hidden primitivism of the men in his time, merely covered by a thin layer of outward civilization, and indifferent to art and music, while women were much more open to it – especially HIS music. In the brilliant movie ‘Halfaouine’ (by a Tunesian filmmaker), which offers a fascinating insight into traditional muslem family life, the apparent power structure between men and women is subverted all the time by the women, who let their husbands indulge in their macho theatre towards the direct environment, but in reality it is the wife and the daughters who run the family and let the men work for them to earn the necessary money. The anthropologist Colette Harris has written about these issues in an enlightened way.

        And by the way, quite some people have heard my music, and my contacts with orchestras in Berlin and Vienna promise to reduce the number of ignoretti considerably. It is always wise to be on the cautious side when judging composers one has not heard of. You might miss-out on something you would regret later-on.

  37. Michael Schaffer says:

    Maybe – maybe not. Maybe I already listened to some of the music posted on your website? ;-)
    I guess Lauren was right though. Many guys are just as fragile and easily offended as many girls.
    Sorry, didn’t mean to put you down. Just messing with you… :-)

    Seriously now, I do tend to agree to some degree with your observations about patriarchal societies – in my own observation, the men often really don’t have much to say at home and the women hold their strings while amongst each other, the men can act “like men”.
    But that doesn’t mean that it’s the women who are really free in such societies. They are not. But nor are the men, however macho they may act when they prance around outside. They are themselves subject to very strict control, to very strict norms and rules they can not break without risking being severely punished or outcast.
    That was basically the point I was trying to make earlier, when I said that the degree of inequality – real or apparent – is usually directly related to the degree in which a society is governed by strict rules in general.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      BTW, what’s an “ignoretto”?

      • An ‘ignoretto’ is a small-sized, often young person who does not know that he/she is ignorant about something. But, still in terms of size, also very old people can fall into that category. In northern Italy, custom dictates that people over 1,30 cm are freely allowed to be ignorant and are thus exempt from the label. In South Italy however, the margin lays at 1,20 cm, related to the average height of the indiginous population. One can thus begin life as an ignoretto, outgrow it at adulthood and sink into it again on shrinking, due to old age, and remaining ignorant one’s whole life but only open to the accusation in early youth and old age. According to Luca Pacioli the term was initiated by Pope Alexander VI who was ignorant on many subjects but needed some license (Pacioli: ‘De viribus quantitatis’, 1502), but this has been disputed by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (‘On Growth and Form’, 1896).

    • With the last paragraph I fully agree. That was also something I meant to say. On those points our own Western society still has some trajectory to go. But please, no fanatic gender war.

  38. Karen Kamensek says:

    Enlightening debate to have read before I conduct Meistersinger in Hannover tomorrow afternoon!

  39. Mason B. Meers says:

    Let’s just be clear about one thing. People used to speak like Bruno Mantovani in almost every field of endeavor (science, engineering, politics, higher education, even culinary arts!). The difference between him and everyone else is that the rest of us have figured out that folks who said women couldn’t or didn’t want to do these things… were ignorant, sexist, and were in fact part of the reason women were discouraged from participating in these fields. No respectable orchestra should employ him.

    • This thread doesn’t enlighten us much about Mantovani’s words, since obviously barely anyone bothers to read and comprehend them. But it tells us a lot about the paradoxically sexist and ignorant of point of views – ideologically hardened – of many people who claim to promote women’s equality.
      What an absurd show of nonsense, literally.

      All Mantovani did, was speculating about the FACT, that women are not interested much in average, to become orchestra conductors.

      • TRUE.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        “All Mantovani did, was speculating about the FACT, that women are not interested much in average, to become orchestra conductors.”

        These facts are is some dispute. But worse is that he dug up the most absurd “reasons” for this non fact.

        Apparently you have accepted the non facts, because it fits with your world view. It doesn’t fit with mine, where half my colleagues were female. Our problem was lack of opportunity.

        Please do tell me which orchestras/managers are HUNGRY for women conductors. Eventually, I’ll have a dual passport (US/EU), so please direct me to those situations that are hungry for women conductors.

  40. Karen Kamensek says:

an ArtsJournal blog