The point that many long-standing European music traditions exclude women is not news. Neither is the fact that blatantly sexist practices continue, in small or large ways, to this day. Anyone who has ever followed the Vienna Philharmonic can attest to that.
However, through all of the debates and conversations about the importance of upholding and/or breaking traditions, Italian news agencies reported that history was made this week when Susanna Mälkki led a performance at La Scala. It was reported as first time a woman has ever wielded a baton at the over 200 year-old theater.
That the honor would go to Susanna Mälkki is not surprising. The conductor, born in Finland, is an active opera conductor. At La Scala she led the world premiere of a La Scala commission, Quartett by Luca Francesconi. Past performances have included the Finnish premiere of Thomas Adès Powder her Face in 1999, and performances of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin and La Passion de Simone, and in February of this year she conducted the Boston Symphony in a performance of Unsuk Chin’s cello concerto.
Congratulations to the Susanna Mälkki! I look forward to hearing what is more to come.