Just as I was posting my online piece "Women, Gays, and Classical Music" last week, a controversy was erupting in France over comments uttered by the composer Bruno Mantovani, the director of the Paris Conservatoire for music and dance. Chris Swithinbank has a full report and a translation of Mantovani's remarks, which include the following: "The profession of a conductor is a profession that is particularly testing physically; sometimes women are discouraged by the very physical aspect: conducting, taking a plane, taking another plane, conducting again." It is tempting to pile invective upon such thoughtless statements. For one thing, the "physical aspect" or the "problem of maternity" hardly impedes the careers of female pianists, violinists, or opera singers. What is the difference with conducting? Entirely one of image: the art of conducting is wrapped up in mythologies of male power. But it would be more constructive for every male participant in this discussion to examine himself, his record, his biases, spoken or unspoken. I do not exclude myself: as many readers noted, my book The Rest Is Noise failed to give adequate attention to female composers, and a review of my New Yorker pieces would find a severe gender imbalance. (I believe I've done somewhat better on this blog, at least in recent years.) The blurtings of Petrenko, Temirkanov, and Mantovani are extreme instances from which it is easy for the rest of us to distance ourselves, but silent neglect can do just as much damage as open contempt.
Previously: Even the Score.