Sir Antonio Pappano is to step down as music director of the Royal Opera House to succeed Sir Simon Rattle as chief conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO).
Pappano has been at Covent Garden since 2002, the opera house’s longest-serving music director.
He said his new job, beginning in September 2024, was a “dream come true” and he felt humbled and excited. “I am committed to keeping London as my musical home and look forward to this most important journey that awaits me, full not only of discovery but also of continued exploration of technological and broadcast opportunities to convey the message of music to an ever greater audience.”
Rattle announced in January that he was leaving LSO to take charge of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich, a surprise to many who believed London was his last big post.
He said the reason was to be closer to his family in Berlin. Many others have speculated that Brexit and the dwindling chances of London getting a new concert hall were also big factors. In February plans for the concert hall, to have been built where the Museum of London is, were formally scrapped.
Pappano will continue in charge at Covent Garden until the end of the 2023-24 season.
Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said he was delighted Pappano had decided to make the UK his long-term musical base.
“This is fantastic news for London as we collectively rebuild the arts following the pandemic,” he said. “I look forward to the next three seasons of remarkable music-making together at Covent Garden, Tony’s operatic home, and to many years of close friendship and association.”
Pappano was born in Epping, Essex to Italian parents and lived in a council flat in Victoria, London, until his family moved to America in his teens.
“I’m a child of immigrants,” he told the Observer. “It’s helped me develop a work ethic, a sense of responsibility for myself, which I’m trying to apply to something I love: music and opera.”
His departure opens up one of the biggest jobs in opera and speculation will now begin over who succeeds him. One of the favourites will be Edward Gardner, former music director of English National Opera and currently chief conductor of Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.