Conductor Aprea fires back at Palm Beach Opera director, claims he was ousted
Conductor Bruno Aprea fired back at Palm Beach Opera general director Daniel Biaggi Friday accusing Biaggi of forcing him out at the company and continually undermining his authority during Aprea’s seven years leading the company.
In an email to South Florida Classical Review, the Italian conductor said that Biaggi’s statement Wednesday that Aprea rejected the new contract presented to him was a “falsehood” and a “game of words,” since the contract Biaggi offered gave Aprea no conducting work at PBO after the 2012-13 season.
To provide his side of the backstage power struggle at the financially troubled company, Aprea has released an August 31 letter that he sent to members of the Palm Beach Opera board of directors. In that letter, printed in its entirety and unedited below, Aprea accuses Biaggi of minimizing Aprea’s role in the artistic decisions made at the company and of engineering a “forced extradition” of the conductor after the 2012-13 season.
In his personal email to SFCR, Aprea added that “I want you to know that I will always keep PBO in my heart and wish a big success to my dear and wonderful orchestra.”
Bruno Aprea statement to the board of Palm Beach Opera
August 31st, 2012
I want to inform you about the letter I received on August 27th by Daniel Biaggi, concerning the proposal for a new contract in which my role as Principal Conductor was minimized, my role as Artistic Director of the PBO was totally abolished and my participation in the musical direction of PBO was canceled starting from 2014.
In the letter (you’ll find it attached) it has been used against me a tone that left me very astonished, mortifying myself as well as my professional career, and which I guess to be full of threats about my behavior.
I really must say that during my career, either as a student, teacher, young or mature conductor, I was not ever be treated in such a rude manner from a General Director!
In Daniel’s mail he mentions that my behavior during the last Board Meeting aimed at provoking controversy and undermine the future success of the PBO and that was “obvious to everyone”. Actually, my behavior was a simple request of clarification about the reasons that led to abolish my role as Artistic Director in my new contract. At that time I realized that the contents of the contract were totally unknown to everyone, as I was able to see from the reactions of the Board. Moreover, as a result of my speech, many members of the Board called me for support and some of them proposed me, a few days later, to be the Chairman of the PBO Guild next March or April.
I don’t want to be bound, as indicated in the letter, in a “forced extradition” from February 28th, 2013, at the end of my last performance of “Cenerentola”. That means that after an intensive period of reharsals and performances I would not even be able to meet all the people that have supported and appreciated my work during these seven years. I consider threatening and blackmailing Daniel’s proposal to let me work in the next season but only in exchange of my silence. I interpret this as a clear desire of him to get me away from the PBO, as if I were a “dangerous enemy.”
It’s unacceptable to me Daniel’s declaration that any of my involvement with the PBO is not expected in 2014. I think this is a very punitive and offensive attitude since my presence as Principal Conductor at PBO was never questioned before.
In a time when the number of PBO productions narrows from 4 to 3 (and it happens the same for the number of performances: from 4 to 3), it ‘s totally ridiculous and pretextual to think about creating a “parade of guest conductors.” These changes are made when a number of productions is growing, not when it shrinks.
These are the basic rules for who has the responsibility of a theater.
These are problems that involve theaters such as Hamburg or Stuttgart, which produce 200 performances per year. It only means to add problems to problems, disturbing the only relationship which in seven years has remained positive: the one between the PBO Orchestra and its Principal Conductor.
PBO has a total of 9 performances (3 x 3) and the Principal Conductor conducts 6 of them (2 operas). To aim at hosting more than one guest conductor every year is really a madness and it’s an obvious sign of hostility.
Although this is legitimate and legal for a General Director, it must be morally justified in order to mantain values that have brought to a common heritage. Furthermore, every management of a theater moving in this punitive direction should ask the opinion of the orchestra. Frankly, I do not think Daniel Biaggi can attribute to himself the task of that decision. It ‘s always the orchestra expressing it pleasure, whether about Karajan or Riccardo Muti.
I intend to keep my freedom of expression and to protect my dignity which I see trampled by Daniel in what I would call a “delirium of power”. He also uses unfair rhetorical expressions such as “for the good of the PBO”, with the purpose to alienate, with my exclusion, one of the sure points of strength and cohesion, in a moment of particular instability.
In the seven years of my artistic direction, PBO has been frequently judged by the press as the first Opera House in Florida for the quality of performances and musical conduction.
The real reasons for the “persecution mania” against me owned by Daniel Biaggi are many: at this moment they play the role of the need caused by the economic crisis but in the past they were different and changing, however all still targeted for the only purpose of giving himself the dual office of General and Artistic Director. This goal was tenaciously pursued by DB for years, strategically always careful to remove power and visibility to the real Artistic Director: in seven years of activity, in fact, he has never mentioned me as the responsible, to a greater or less degree, for what has been seen or heard on Kravis Center Stage, neither in front of the Board nor to the Press. Daniel has practically managed all these years to attribute himself all credits and hide all my work of Artistic Director, an assignment that has been for me 10 times more difficult and challenging than my job as Principal Conductor.
I hope that this Board Direction does not want to interpret my reaction as a determination to keep my own position anyhow. This is rather dictated by a moral and personal dissatisfaction. I don’t want to surrender to the will of a man who is radically opposed to a conjugation of respect, esteem, warmth and affection demonstrated towards me by the Board, Orchestra, Public and Press and which I consider a rare and precious value.
I don’t feel I can passively accept choices which I retain to be erroneous both for myself and for the future of PBO. I do not intend to be part of the destruction of a period of unequalled equilibrium and beauty. A happy and successful marriage!
To say the truth is not the “obvious pleasure to create controversy” (as referred in the letter by Daniel Biaggi) but, sometimes, it is the only way to defend themselves. And this is my case.
I think I needed to tell what my feelings are by describing objectively a situation and an attitude that anyone in my position would consider intolerable.
An affectionate greeting, with the hope to see you soon.