Marin Alsop of the U.S. has been working as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the prestigious orchestra based in the U.S., since 2007. Australian conductor Simone Young received positive feedback for her album of the complete cycle of Brahms' symphonies recorded with the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra in 2013. She will become the first female conductor to lead Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth Festival, a German festival to celebrate Wagner’s operas, in 2021.
The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra of Finland, a country known for its talented conductors, is led by female conductor Susanna Mälkki. Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is also making a name for herself as a conductor specializing in modern music. South Korean female conductor Sung Shi-yeon is actively performing in Europe, especially in Germany, after serving as an associate conductor at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and a permanent conductor at the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra.
The movie “The Conductor” showcases an interesting storyline that makes viewers wonder about what will happen next, however a lot of it is based on imagination. Social prejudices of the 1920s and 30s featured in the movie against not just female conductors but female professionals, in general, feel excessive at times.
If that makes viewers uncomfortable, how about these facts? Russian-born British conductor Vasily Petrenko was harshly criticized for his comment during an interview in 2013 – “A sweet girl on the podium can make one's thoughts drift towards something else.” Three years later, Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov garnered negative attention for saying, “The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.” In fact, Dutch female conductor Antonia Brico, the protagonist of “The Conductor,” had been active until the 1970s with countless “first-ever” records, however, there is no album with her name on the cover.
Conductor Chang Han-na’s performance can be enjoyed at the Concert Hall of the Seoul Arts Center on next Wednesday. The former cellist prodigy, who is serving principal conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra of Norway since 2017, will conduct “Pathétique Symphony,” Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, and Grieg’s Piano Concerto, to be played along with pianist Lim Dong-Hyek, during her first orchestra performance in South Korea.