Goodbye, Kasper

9 Dec

So the ROH has announced that Kasper Holten will be departing. Conspiracy theorists will be wondering if he’s paying the price for too many unpopular new productions and one or two comments seem to suggest that the departure isn’t unwelcome to some.  There’s little in the release itself to suggest this is the case – the reasons are persuasive (if I had children, I’d probably rather bring them up in Copenhagen than in London) and the statements from Beard and Pappano far more fulsome than duty requires (we wanted to keep him until 2020 but couldn’t…).

I’m in the camp that says that it’s a shame that he’s going.  Any opera director is going to have an interesting time finding his feet with a new audience and it actually looked as though Holten might be doing so.  This is is the first season he’s fully planned and the signs so far are good: Orpheus and Morgen und Abend have been seriously good events, Cav and Pag has been well reviewed (I’m seeing it next week) and the revivals, by all accounts, have been fine.  I may not like the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as a venue but the events there were excellent and just what London needed.  I felt he was just getting into his stride.

Yes, there have been problems.  I’ve hated some of the productions, but there’s nothing new there.  The place seems to be less starry than it used to be (not helped by some unfortunate cancellations) and this is a theatre that needs the stars in their big roles.  But you couldn’t doubt Holten’s seriousness, his intelligence and his enthusiasm.

He’s a major figure in the world and he’ll do well wherever he’s based.  However, I do wonder about how to attract his successor.  How attractive it is to run a theatre in a cash-starved environment with a section of an audience that can be as unpleasant and vitriolic as some of those can be.  I hope we can find someone with comparable imagination and drive.



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