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Women Conductors Outraged at Petrenko’s Orchestra Comment

Oslo Philharmonic
The Oslo Philharmonic orchestra. Its chief conductor, Vasily Petrenko, outraged women conductors by saying that orchestras react better to a man on the podium. Photographer: Bo Mathisen. Source: Oslo Philharmonic via Bloomberg

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Norway’s women conductors voiced shock and outrage after Vasily Petrenko, the Russian chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, was quoted by the daily Aftenposten saying orchestras react better to men than to women.

Petrenko, 37, told the newspaper that orchestras react better to men, who “have less sexual energy and can focus more on the music” while women on the podium could be distracting, Aftenposten said. Women often find it hard to be as devoted to the job as is necessary once they have children, Petrenko told the newspaper.

The Norwegian conductor Halldis Roenning said she found Petrenko’s comments “ridiculous and totally unreasonable,” Aftenposten reported. Conductor Cathrine Winnes Trevino said Petrenko’s views were “antiquated” and “unacceptable.”

Petrenko, who is also the principal guest conductor at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, later sought to clarify his comments, saying in a post on the orchestra’s website that he was talking about the situation for female conductors in Russia. Petrenko said he has the “utmost respect for female conductors” and would encourage any girl to study conducting.

Muse highlights include Farah Nayeri on film; and Guy Collins and John Mariani on wine.

(Catherine Hickley writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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