This is a more prestigious position than it might seem to some American readers. Most of us who are even aware of the Komische Oper's existence probably tend to think of it as the third (in status) of Berlin's three opera houses, following the historic Staatsoper (on the famous Unter den Linden boulevard in the former East Berlin) and the Deutsche Oper. Yet the Komische has a significant pedigree: founded in 1892, its former music directors include Otto Klemperer and Kurt Masur; the job's current occupant is Kirill Petrenko. And with the constant threat of closure for one of the capital's three opera houses due to the city's severe budget crisis, the Komische Oper — which gives all its performances in German — is reportedly secure politically.
The 54-year-old St. Clair takes up his Berlin position in the fall of 2008, at which point he gives up his current German job — as music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle in Weimar. Yet he and the Pacific Symphony (which sent out the announcement of St. Clair's new appointment yesterday) stress that he will not reduce his commitment to his California orchestra.
The term of St. Clair's Berlin contract is six years; he will spend six months at the house each year, leading an average of 58 performances annually.