Photo: Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra is one of the world's top conductors
The head of the Paris Conservatory, Bruno Mantovani, has caused controversy by saying that conducting is too demanding for women.
The comments were made in an interview with the radio station France Musique during a programme discussing the lack of top female conductors.
He said: ‘The profession of a conductor is a profession that is particularly physically testing, sometimes women are discouraged by the very physical aspect – conducting, taking a plane, taking another plane, conducting again. It is quite challenging.’
Mantovani went on to discuss ‘the problem of maternity’.
‘A woman who wants to have children will have a hard time having a career as a conductor, which can mean changing tack abruptly overnight for several months… Raising a child at a distance isn’t easy.’
His comments have been met with anger in the music world. Speaking to The Times, female conductor Laurence Equilbey said: ‘It’s really a question of power and the fact that people are worried at the idea of having a woman in a position of authority.’
American journalist Anastasia Tsioulcas writing on the NPR Music website said: ‘What I find perhaps most astonishing is the number of assumptions made about women’s lives. What the feminist revolution was about was advocating self-agency for women. It is incredible that in 2013, Mantovani et al assume that a woman’s first priority is having a family.’
In a comment on that website Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra (pictured above) said: ‘All I can say is that last night I conducted a concert of Mexican contemporary music in the first half and then Sheherazade in the second half; I am four months pregnant and I have never felt this amount of energy before.’
Mantovani’s interview comes after a controversy over an interview with the conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko, in which he suggested female conductors on the podium were a distraction for orchestral players.
The Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov also said in a recent interview, quoted here in The New Yorker, that ‘The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.’