The director Bernadette Wegenstein reviews in ‘The conductor’ the story of the musical director who ended the male feud on the podium
The documentary film is part of the In-Edit festival program that starts this Thursday at Aribau cinemas and on the in-edit.tv platform
“My idea was to make a film about the woman who was Leonard Bernstein’s assistant that appears at the end of the film. The last thing she wanted was to see me for 90 minutes on a screen. But the director Bernadette Wegenstein wanted to tell my story,” she explains Marin Alsop, pioneer in orchestral conducting (New York, 1956) who currently conducts one of the three most important orchestras in the Austrian capital, the Vienna Radio Symphony. This is how modest this teacher is despite being a great fighter who has broken the glass ceiling in the classic. His feat is reflected in ‘The conductor’, documentary film which can be seen in the new edition of the In-Edit festival. The event, which starts this Thursday in the Aribau cinemas with ‘American rapstar’, features films such as ‘Jane by Charlotte’, a portrait of Jane Birkin made by her daughter Charlotte Charlotte Gainsbourg; ‘Laurent Garnier: off the record’, focused on the universe of electronic music; ‘L’ home drawn. A conversation with Jaume Sisa ‘, and’ We are nothing. La Polla Records’. Some titles are also available on inedit.tv and Filmin.
Wegenstein chronologically follows Alsop’s story, showing photographs, delving into his memories and the feelings of that girl who decided to be a conductor at the age of 9 after attending a New York Philharmonic concert. On the podium was the legendary Leonard Bernstein, composer and magnetic musician who would become his tutor in his first year at Tanglewood many years later, after a tough journey, when Alsop was 33 years old. The road was not easy. “Sometimes you didn’t know if you were rejected for being a woman or for not having enough experience.” Each refusal led her to overcome. At 25, after not being accepted into a conducting course at Julliard, where she studied violin, he set up his own orchestra, Sting Fever, a swing set created with female students from the same school. And three years later he created the Concordia Orchestra thanks to the help of businessman Tomio Taki who financed the project. “Over the years I have seen that all that was a great life lesson that I now share with my students. They are also going to receive a lot of rejection and you must learn to face it.”
Although Bernstein himself acknowledged that the music directed by her had nothing different from what a man would do, the truth is that with Alsop came a debate that now seems to have been overcome. “Today’s girls are not surprised that a woman can be a director. That is magnificent. But it is not so common to see women on the podium. There should be more directors, women of all kinds. And that is still a long way off.” She, what was the first woman to lead the farewell concert of the BBC Proms in London with the Sau Paulo Symphony (Brazil), of which she is honorary director, hopes that the film will serve to inspire new generations to fight for their dreams.
The film also collects his controversial landing as a starter at the Baltimore Symphony, one of the most important orchestras in the USA. His attitude to the situation and his gifts to achieve his artistic goals silenced the criticism. This summer he has left with honors leaving an important legacy after 14 years. Beyond the 16 albums recorded, he is proud of the connection made through concerts and the Ochkids social and educational program for underprivileged children. “I started with 30 children whom we taught to play and now there are already 2,000 and they are incredible,” he recalls.
We need more women on the podiums and one day to see a female director in the top five of the world rankings
Like Bernstein in his day, he has also wanted to transmit his passion for music to others. Alsop has developed a scholarship program for teaching female baton pledging. Since 2002 she has been mentoring more than twenty and 19 of them are in professional orchestras such as Marzena Diakun (Poland, 1981), who She has premiered this season as the new director of the Orchestra and Choir of the Community of Madrid. But despite all the progress, much remains to be done. “It is shocking that in the Vienna Philharmonic the first woman entered the orchestra in 1997 and that there are currently only seven”. For her, being in the capital of the waltz and leading one of the three main orchestras is important. But insufficient. “We need more women on the podiums and one day to see a female director in the top five of the world rankings.”
She does not believe that in her country they are more advanced than in Europe in terms of equal opportunities for female directors. “Many of our attitudes are old school, there are still many prejudices in our society due to gender and race issues. In this sense I prefer Europe. Here they can tell you: ‘We are never going to hire a woman’. In the US, instead, they hide behind the fact that you’re not good enough and things like that. ”
Was it her love of music or her desire to fight the wall in front of her that led her to persevere? “There was something of both. It is possible to turn rejection into gasoline to get what you want. It is hard to be rejected, nobody likes it. But if you know how to turn it around it is a powerful force.”