After 30 years, the pianist and conductor has chosen to leave his position as general music director of the opera house due to his declining health
Daniel Barenboim, 80, has been general music director of the Berlin State Opera since 1992. After a 30-year tenure, he will step down as of January 31, 2023. This follows his decision in October 2022 to step back from performing after being diagnosed with a serious neurological condition.
“Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated significantly in the last year. I can no longer provide the performance that is rightly demanded of a general music director,” Barenboim explained in a statement. “Therefore, I ask for your understanding that I will give up this job…I ask the Senator for Culture [Berlin] to dissolve the contract between us at the specified time.
“The years have inspired us musically and personally in every respect,” he added. “I believe that the Staatsoper and I were very lucky for each other. What makes me particularly happy and proud is that the Staatskapelle has chosen me as chief conductor for life. We have become a musical family over the years and will remain so. I appreciate all members of the Staatskapelle, including those who have since left…as long as I live, I will remain closely connected to music and I am willing to work as a conductor in the future, also and especially with the Staatskapelle Berlin.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to professional piano players, Barenboim made his public debut at age seven and his international debut at age 10. He went on to become an acclaimed concert pianist and conductor. In 1991, Barenboim became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Sir Georg Solti, and a year later, his tenure with the Berlin State Opera bolstered his global influence as he completed international tours and made award-winning recordings.
Barenboim played a significant role in German culture, including raising the Berlin State Opera to international prominence after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Additionally, in 2017, he pushed for a costly renovation of the opera house, which now has over 500 employees and a budget of over €81.4 million.
Barenboim co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with Edward Said, which provides musical collaboration between young Arab and Israeli musicians, and in 2016, co-founded the Barenboim-Said Akademie music conservatory. As reported in The New York Times, he also became the leading figure behind the building and opening of its Pierre Boulez Saal concert hall.
“[We owe] Daniel Barenboim an infinite debt of gratitude!” said Berlin Opera House’s artistic director, Matthias Schulz. “For more than 30 years he has let his inexhaustible strength as an artist personality with worldwide charisma benefit this house and his Staatskapelle Berlin.
“There is great respect that Daniel Barenboim is now taking this step in the interest of the institution and resigning from his duties as General Music Director at the end of this month. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Daniel Barenboim to take this step. We all wish Daniel Barenboim all the best for his continued recovery! Daniel Barenboim will always remain connected to this house and the Staatskapelle Berlin.”