Israeli conductor named La Scala music director

Controversial conductor Daniel Barenboim, known for Palestinian rights activism, will direct Italian opera house for the next five years.

October 13, 2011 20:46
1 minute read.
Daniel Barenboim performing in Gaza

Daniel Barenboim performing in Gaza 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Abed)


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Milan's La Scala opera house said on Thursday that Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim would serve as its new music director from December for the next five years.

The Argentine-born musician will help prepare operas, concerts and tours at the glitzy opera house for about four months each year, La Scala said in a statement.

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The conductor, known for his Palestinian rights activism, made waves in February when he performed a concert in Gaza, enlisting musicians from across Europe in the endeavor.  It was not the first time he courted controversy.

He co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Workshop, a cooperative of young Israeli and Palestinian musicians, with late Palestinian academic Edward Said in 1999.

Two years later, he performed a piece by Richard Wagner, an anti-Semitic 19th-century musician known to be a favorite of Adolph Hitler, at an Israeli music festival.

After performing a concert in Ramallah in 2008, the Buenos Aires-born pianist - who moved to Israel with his family at the age of 10 - was offered and accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship.

Barenboim the recipient of numerous prizes for both his musical accomplishments and his political activism, was nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Since 2006, he has been principal guest conductor at La Scala. The 233-year old institution has not had a music director since Riccardo Muti's exit in 2005.  Barenboim is also currently music director at Berlin's Staatsoper.

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