Debut: Constantinos Carydis

A portrait of the Greek conductor

Constantinos Carydis
(Photo: Thomas Bril)

He is one of the quiet, cautious, and nigh-on punctilious individuals of his craft. Constantinos Carydis only seems to feel at ease where he can pursue his favourite activity – at the conductor’s desk. From there – whether the orchestra pit of the opera house or on the concert stage – the Greek conductor exerts a fascination that has taken him to the musical world's foremost orchestras. Now he makes his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker. If anyone is the antithesis of the all-powerful, baton-wielding conductor, then it is Constantinos Carydis. His appearance alone reveals the subtlety and distinction also inherent in his conducting. He delves into scores, studies them with the precision of a forensic accountant and then, as soon as he takes his place at the desk, transforms himself into an ingenious artist who makes the air bristle.

Debut with Bizet

It all begins with the craft itself: Carydis first studied music theory and piano at the Greek National Conservatoire in his home town of Athens before moving to Munich, where he learned the art of conducting under Hermann Michael. He was still determined at that time to pursue a parallel career as a pianist. Eventually, however, the moment of truth arrives for everyone. For Constantinos Carydis, it was his debut at the Munich Gärtnerplatztheater. After that, he was flooded with offers and his career as a pianist was over. Munich was followed by the Staatsoper in Stuttgart, then things moved at great speed: in 2006, at the age of just 32, Carydis made his debut at the Vienna State Opera with Bizet's Carmen. His debut went so well that the management could not help but invite the young genius to return immediately – for 16 performances of La Bohème as well as for the opera of all operas, Mozart's Don Giovanni. That was the ultimate accolade, and the road to the top seemed finally open.

Praise from the press

Carydis’ sensational success is neither a coincidence nor a whim of fate. It is the expression of the great appreciation for his inimitable way of conducting. Someone who once described this beautifully is the renowned music journalist Karl Harb, who always treats artists with respect. He heard Carydis at the Salzburg Festival and came to the following conclusion: “For each piece,” Harb noted, “Carydis finds a suitable, specific sound aura, and develops a richness of colour which can only come about if you pay attention to even the smallest nuances, ornaments, phrasing details, and take it seriously, and if you understand how to listen to the innermost part of the works.”

Into the heart of the music

Carydis doesn’t conduct from the top down, but from the bottom up, right into the heart of the music. It is enough to look at the list of opera houses and symphony orchestras that have engaged him to understand quickly how deeply he looks into this heart, not just in the field of music theatre, but also and more often in the field of symphonic music. New York, Munich, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Berlin – line upon line can be filled with the world’s most renowned centres of music where Carydis has conducted – without ever raising a baton. The Greek conductor dispenses with the magical-powerful baton, even in large-scale works, because he does not need this instrument of power. To him, the power of the music itself is far more important.

This text is the abridged version of an article by Jürgen Otten for the magazine 128 (volume June 2019). Copies of the issue (in German) are available in our online shop and in the Philharmonie shop.