A significant collaboration
In 2019 the Philharmonie de Paris and the Paris Mozart Orchestra joined forces to create La Maestra International Competition for Women Conductors. The Competition is uniquely complemented by an Academy, which provides selected candidates with professional support for a period of 2 years. After two emblematic editions in September 2020 and March 2022, La Maestra has become one of the world’s not-to-be-missed classical musical events.
Co-directed by artistic director of the Paris Mozart Orchestra Claire Gibault and Olivier Mantei, general manager of the Philharmonie de Paris, the next La Maestra Competition will take place at the Philharmonie de Paris from 14 to 17 March 2024.
An alarming situation
Why create a conducting competition – with a complementary Academy – open only to women? A legitimate question, perhaps, given that the first signs of changing attitudes towards women conductors are becoming apparent in some parts of the world…
Despite a remarkable shift in attitudes, the place of women at the helm of permanent orchestras is still very low. While only 4.3% of orchestras worldwide were led by women in 2018, we are now at only 8%. In France, the number of women at the head of permanent orchestras has risen from 2.7% in 2019 to 10.8% in 2022: a spectacular leap, but we are still far from gender parity.*
It is difficult to deny the persistence of a glass ceiling when one sees that, among the orchestras considered the best in the world by Gramophone and Bachtrack, all are conducted by men.* On the other hand, remarkably few women candidates are admitted to compete in existing conducting competitions, and very few women serve on their selection panels and juries. Although more and more women conductors are fortunately leading successful careers, they still too often face discrimination.
* Source: Study by Nathalie Krafft for La Maestra 2022
Promoting talented women
Aimed at gifted professionals, La Maestra showcases candidates of the highest musical and technical calibre following a rigorously managed selection process. And there is no age limit. The competition awards generous financial prizes and high-profile professional engagements, with further carefully targeted training, mentoring and career support for all selected candidates through La Maestra Academy.
With La Maestra International Competition and Academy, the Paris Mozart Orchestra and Philharmonie de Paris are together seeking to unite the international musical world behind a strong commitment to women conductors, encourage vocational aspiration among women and offer the youngest among them unprecedented levels of support.
The first two editions of La Maestra Competition were an immediate and resounding world-wide success with each time more than 200 applicants from all over the world, about 50 nationalities from all continents, a great variety of backgrounds, and an exceptional artistic level. Applicants’ backstories revealed personal circumstances which differed wildly from one country to another, which has more than validated our original decision to take a strong stand, and encourages us to renew our efforts.
Society is evolving, more and more female conductors are finally being programmed in musical institutions, and this is an excellent thing; but we also know that the fight for parity must continue in order for it to be firmly and durably anchored in the world musical landscape.
Giving confidence and visibility to the talented women who are emerging as orchestral conductors is a cause La Maestra will continue to champion with commitment and passion. A huge thank you to the patrons of La Maestra for supporting us in this commitment that is so important to us.
Artistic and musical director of the Paris Mozart Orchestra
General Manager of the Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris