Ukrainian Oksana Lyniv makes history with three-year posting at Bologna’s Teatro Comunale
Oksana Lyniv says young female conductors should ‘grab the opportunities and go for it’ Photograph: Oleh Pavliuchenkov
The Guardian-Angela Giuffrida in Rome
A female conductor will take the helm at an Italian opera house for the first time in January.
The Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv said she was surprised to learn she was making history after receiving the offer from the Teatro Comunale opera house in Bologna. The 43-year-old begins the three-year posting as musical director on 22 January.
“I didn’t realise, when I received the letter from the Teatro Comunale, that I would be the first female conductor of an Italian opera house,” she said. “I am very honoured and happy to be part of this historical turning point.”
It is not the first time Lyniv, who was previously principal conductor of Austria’s Graz Opera, has broken new ground. In July, she became the first female conductor to open Germany’s Bayreuth opera festival in its 145-year-history. She conducted Richard Wagner’s Flying Dutchman to a rapturous audience that included the former German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Born in Brody, western Ukraine, to musician parents, Lyniv conducted her first orchestra at the age of 16 before going on to study at the Lysenko music school in Lviv.
She said it was difficult for female musicians to get on at the time as the majority of conductors and teachers were male.
“There was no live example of a woman who we could learn or get advice from,” Lyniv added. “But it is less of a struggle now – in orchestras today you see many more women. The conditions are much better now as society is thinking more about equal rights – so young female conductors should not hold back, they should grab the opportunities and go for it.”
Lyniv said Italy was “a very important place for the arts and opera” and that “it’s important that this change is happening now”.
Her first opera production will be Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano and she will also conduct the music of some of her favourite composers, including Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Richard Strauss and the Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshinsky.
Bologna’s Teatro Comunale opened its doors in 1763 with a performance of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Il trionfo di Clelia (The Triumph of Cloelia), and went on to host Wagner as well as some of Italy’s greatest composers, including Verdi, Rossini and Bellini.
Lyniv said that one of her goals during her tenure would be to get more young people interested in the opera.