In its 119th season, the Last Night of the Proms will for the first time be conducted by a woman, Marin Alsop. That’s right; it has been 119 years before a woman was picked to conduct this historic event.
It’s curious that it’s taken so long considering there has been near parity in British Symphony orchestras for a long time and in the string sections women have been, I read in one report, in the majority on occasion.
New York born Alsop is currently the principal conductor of the Sao Paulo State Symphony Orchestra.
She left it to others to comment on the interest this has stirred and stopped short of making any reference to being the first woman to conduct the event; instead she said: “As an American, I am doubly excited to be invited to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, since it is such a quintessentially British occasion. I have felt at home from the first moment I conducted in the UK.”
“I always enjoy working with the British orchestral musicians and I’m particularly looking forward to interacting with the audience, who play such a crucial role in making this a night that is utterly unique and special. It is a great honour that I know will be a highlight for me.”
Critics say much cultural conservatism exists on this issue, but surely it won’t be too long before a British woman takes the helm of a British orchestra.
British women conductors of huge talent already exist, Jane Glover is the director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music, and is also music director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque. Sian Edwards was the music director of the English National Opera in the 1990s and Julia Jones has been the principal conductor of the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos since 2008.
All three are talented, inspirational women conductors-so its rich pickings for the future of the Last Night of the Proms.