UK journalist: Hrůša will have “two jobs” at Royal Opera House

Jakub Hrůša

Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša is set to become music director of the Royal Opera House in London. The 41-year-old Hrůša, who is currently chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, will take over from Antonio Pappano in 2025. However, he will serve as a guest conductor at the famous Covent Garden venue in the previous season.

Jakub Hrůša | Photo: Veronika Paroulková,  Czech Radio

I discussed Mr Hrůša’s appointment with Neil Fisher, deputy arts editor for the British daily The Times, and started by asking whether he was surprised by the choice.

“I think both yes and no. I myself had been running through the candidates in my head over the last few months and even the last few years as speculation intensified over what the plans were for the Covent Garden.

“Hrůša was not on my shortlist, but actually I think he should have been. He is an excellent conductor, first and foremost, and he has been part of British operatic life for a long time.

Glyndebourne | Photo: Mark Bridge,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“He has been conducting in Glyndebourne for over a decade and he has done some very impressive things there since he was very young. And there is of course his work with the great orchestras in the rest of Europe.

“But I think the real challenge is that there are sort of two jobs involved in this position. There is the job of being an excellent conductor of great productions and there is the job of being a sort of cultural ambassador and a champion for opera and high culture, which is really quite threatened in Great Britain right now.”

So would you say he is up to the task?

Jakub Hrůša | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

“Well, of those two jobs the second one comes with a question mark. He does live in London with his family, which is, I think, incredibly important. It is essential that the music director of the Covent Garden is based in London and is part of the art scene there.

“But I think that as he steps up to this role, and I think he intends to do this, he needs to be more visible and has to have a stronger profile. And when he has to make arguments for the importance of government support for the arts, for example, he has to get out there and roll his sleeves up, as you say.”

What shape will the opera house take under his leadership? Do you expect any major changes in the repertoire to take place under his leadership?

The Royal Opera House in London | Photo: Russ London,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

“Judging on his comments so far I think it is unlikely there will be big changes. For one thing, his predecessor Antonio Pappano’s legacy is so great – many people would have happily have him stay for another decade, if he were willing to – that I think it would be a mistake to tear everything up and start again.

“He has spoken of wanting to conduct works by Prokofiev, Janáček and Britten. It is great to see him championing Benjamin Britten, who is United Kingdom’s greatest 20th century composer.

“He will be working with great directors. He already has a relationship with Barrie Koski, who is a very interesting, probing director and they will do a new Ring cycle together.

“So that really builds on the same sort of work and approaches that Pappano had. So I would see evolution, and I think that fits with Hrůša’s character, rather than wanting to make some great or radical statement.”