Less than four months after a double resignation plunged the company into turmoil, the Royal Danish Opera has filled its two top vacancies. Michael Boder has been named as the company’s new principal conductor and artistic adviser while Sven Müller becomes artistic director. The immediate appointments look like a welcome act of consolidation from the umbrella Royal Theatres, which has faced extreme budget cuts and a maelstrom of negative press coverage.
Müller comes from within the organisation, where he has served as vice deputy director since 2008 with responsibility for building and maintaining the ensemble of soloists. He became acting artistic director in January following the sudden resignation of Keith Warner.
Boder knows the Royal Theatres well, too. He conducted a scintillating Die frau ohne Schatten earlier this year and members of the Royal Danish Orchestra reportedly like him. He becomes – as Jakub Hrůša was set to before his withdrawal from the post – the default boss of the orchestra, which has a good claim to be the oldest in the world. Both men were educated in Hamburg and both are German nationals.
Gramophone wrote in January that the Royal Danish Opera ‘must protect its home and its ensemble’ and the appointments of these two talented figures without superlative international reputations would appear to signal that intent. Boder is a conductor of significant experience and comes straight from a four-year term at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. He regularly conducts the Berlin Philharmonic and at the Vienna State Opera.
The multi-lingual Müller has been a director of revivals and original productions for opera houses all over Europe and has considerable experience dealing with orchestras, not least in Copenhagen where he has programmed the Royal Danish Orchestra’s concert series. ‘My first task is to restore the confidence that is a prerequisite for all artistic undertaking,’ he said of his appointment. ‘Confidence grows out of three things: clear and visionary artistic direction, mutual trust, and caring for the people who are the driving force behind it all.’
Also quoted on the press release, Michael Boder set out more long-term goals. ‘The aim for the years to come will be to create a situation of reliability and stability and, at the same time, to make the people of Denmark feel proud of their Royal Opera, Orchestra and Ballet. There is the potential to be a very important stage in international respect. It would be wonderful if people will come to Copenhagen…because there is important music and opera to be heard.’ Internationally, much of the house’s work has travelled via the distribution of Decca DVDs, including a Gramophone Award-winning Ring cycle in 2009.
Announcing the appointments, Stine Bosse, chair of the board of the Royal Theatres, referred to the wealth of opportunity enshrined within the Royal Danish Opera’s superlative physical infrastructure – it occupies two landmark buildings in the centre of Copenhagen, one less than a decade old. She also cited Sven Müller’s perceived ability to build relationships with existing and new audiences, a vital strategy objective for the company cited by commentators including Gramophone.