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Berlin conductor Barenboim resigns at opera over ill health

World-renowned conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim said on Friday he was stepping down as general musical director of Berlin’s State Opera due to deteriorating health.

Argentina-born Barenboim has been acclaimed for a stellar career which saw him begin performing internationally as a pianist aged 10 and then become a leading conductor. 

“Unfortunately my health condition significantly worsened in the last year,” Barenboim said in a statement announcing his resignation from one of the world’s top opera venues.

“I can no longer deliver the performance rightly expected of a general musical director.”

Barenboim, who had held the position since 1992, said his decision to resign was effective January 31 and had asked Berlin’s top culture official Klaus Lederer to release him from his contract at that time.

It was not immediately clear who would succeed Barenboim but the State Opera said it would release a statement later in the day.

The 80-year-old conductor said his years at one of Berlin’s three premier opera houses had been “musically and personally inspiring in every way”.

“I believe the State Opera and I brought each other great happiness,” he said, adding that he was “especially pleased and proud” that the venue’s Staatskapelle orchestra had elected him chief conductor for life. 

“Over the years we became a musical family and will remain one,” he said, also expressing his “veneration” of the opera house’s solo singers, choir and staff.

He thanked former German chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Schaeuble for their loyal attendance of his performances and Lederer for standing by him “in difficult times” in a reference to past allegations of him bullying musicians.

“I will of course remain — as long as I live — deeply connected with the music and am ready to continue conducting, especially with the Staatskapelle Berlin,” he said. 

– ‘Eternal gratitude’ –

In October, Barenboim said he would be dropping “some of his performing activities, especially conducting engagements”, in the coming months after he was diagnosed with a “serious neurological condition”.

Barenboim had already cancelled a series of concerts for health reasons last year.

State Opera house director Matthias Schulz said the venue owed Barenboim its “eternal gratitude” and expressed his “great respect” for his decision to step aside.

“For more than 30 years he has let his inexhaustible strength as an artistic personality with global renown benefit this house and his Staatskapelle Berlin,” he said in a statement. 

“One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Daniel Barenboim to take this step. We all wish Daniel Barenboim all the best for his continued recovery. Daniel Barenboim will always remain connected to this house and the Staatskapelle Berlin.” 

– Training Middle Eastern musicians –

There are few musicians alive today with comparable knowledge or breadth of repertoire. 


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