Berlin State Opera on Tuesday announced that it is extending its contract with its Argentine-Israeli general music director Daniel Barenboim through 2027, or, as Berlin’s culture senator, Klaus Lederer, put it: “Daniel Barenboim is an exceptional artist, for whom the world of music and the city of Berlin have a lot to be thankful.”
Back in February, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Barenboim has insulted and physically challenged numerous employees under his control over the years, enjoying a wall of silence due to his considerable talent and stardom.
Willi Hilgers, who used to be the Opera’s solo timpanist and has since moved to the Bavarian State Opera, complained that working for Barenboim had caused him depression and high blood pressure. Having worked under Barenboim from 1998 to 2013, Hilgers said he had been abused and humiliated starting shortly after he began to work for Barenboim.
“Over the last two years, I had to take antidepressants to be able to play again,” Hilgers revealed.
Die Welt cited former state opera trombonist Martin Reinhardt and current violinist Beate Schubert, who confirm Hilgers’ Facebook account of Barenboim’s social “skills.” Apparently there have been reports of similar incidents, even in rehearsals in front of attending journalists – who kept silent about the maestro’s outrageous behavior.
In his defense, Barenboim said Hilgers suffered from “rhythmic weaknesses,” and that it was his job as conductor to point out those shortcomings.
In 2000, Barenboim was given the title of “conductor for life” of Staatskapelle Berlin, the resident orchestra of the Berlin State Opera, which had been under his direction since 1992. Now, at 76, he said he was pleased with the board’s decision.
Incidentally, Barenboim is not only Argenttine-Israeli: in January 2008, after performing in Ramallah, the great man accepted an honorary Palestinian citizenship, becoming the first Jewish Israeli citizen to be offered this status. He also holds a Spanish citizenship.