Christian Thielemann chosen to succeed Daniel Barenboim as music director of Berlin’s Staatsoper

BERLIN – Christian Thielemann has been chosen as the new general music director of Berlin’s Staatsoper, months after Daniel Barenboim ended his three-decade reign, the city government said Wednesday.

The 64-year-old German conductor will take the job at the Staatsoper, or State Opera, on Sept. 1, 2024.

“With him, we are ensuring the highest musical excellence for our city,” said Berlin state culture minister Joe Chialo, who described Thielemann as “the logical successor to the great maestro and Berlin citizen of honor, Daniel Barenboim.”

Thielemann, a Berlin native, trained as an assistant to Herbert von Karajan and Barenboim, worked in smaller German houses and was music director of Nuremberg’s State Theater from 1988–1992.

He moved on to serve as music director of Berlin’s Deutsche Oper from 1997-2004 and of the Munich Philharmonic from 2004-11. He has been chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden since 2012-13, a role that already was scheduled to end after the 2023-24 season.

Thielemann also has conducted over 150 Vienna Philharmonic concerts and led more than 180 performances at the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, where he also was the music director.

Thielemann said in a statement Wednesday that the Staatsoper “can look back on a long and glittering tradition” and that he is looking forward to returning to his home city and “leading the house into the future” together with its incoming overall manager, Elisabeth Sobotka.

Barenboim was credited with leading the Staatsoper, which is located in what was communist East Berlin until 1990 and is one of three opera houses in reunited Germany’s capital, to world renown after reunification.

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Now 80, he was general music director from 1992 until he stepped down at the end of January, saying that his health had become too poor to carry on.

Barenboim said in Wednesday’s statement that he has known Thielemann since he was his assistant at the Deutsche Oper as a 19-year-old. “His exceptional musical talent was already evident then and he has since developed into one of the the preeminent conductors of our time,” he added.