Thomas Guggeis will stand in for Daniel Barenboim

The legendary conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim will be unable to open this year’s Prague Spring for health reasons. At Barenboim’s behest, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will instead be conducted by 28-year-old Thomas Guggeis for the performance of the festival’s signature composition, My Country by Bedřich Smetana.

“Withdrawing from this tour is painful,” said Daniel Barenboim, who had to be hospitalised with vasculitis. “My work with the WEDO is very special to me and I was greatly looking forward to performing Smetana’s Má vlast with them. However, at this time, I must prioritize my health and I am grateful that Thomas Guggeis has agreed to take over the tour. ‘Má vlast’ is a very poignant piece for the WEDO to be taking to European capitals, especially at this time. ‘Má vlast’ means ‘my homeland’ and it is very significant and symbolic that our orchestra, which still does not have a homeland, will be performing this piece in Prague,” noted Barenboim with regard to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, in which young Israeli and Arab musicians play side by side. The orchestra appears regularly at the major festivals in Salzburg and Lucerne and at London’s BBC Proms. It has also played before Pope Benedict XIV and at the UN headquarters.Thomas Guggeis will be standing in for Barenboim for the course of the whole tour of European metropolises. My Country will be performed in Paris, Milan, Munich, Brussels, and Luxembourg, culminating in the opening concert for the Prague Spring.

“We wish Mr Barenboim a speedy recovery. He will be sorely missed at this year’s Prague Spring. However, we have full confidence in Barenboim’s choice and we share the hopes that he sets on the young Thomas Guggeis. We look forward to his interpretation of My Country with much interest. Incidentally, Jakub Hrůša was also 28 years old when he opened the Prague Spring in 2010,” responded the festival director Roman Bělor.

The conductor Thomas Guggeis, who served as Daniel Barenboim’s assistant for many years, came into the limelight in March 2018, when he took over the reins of the Berlin State Opera’s acclaimed production of Strauss’s Salome after Christoph von Dohnány. Since the 2021/2022 season, he has held the post of “Staatskapellmeister” at the famed venue, and he has conducted a number of operas there – Verdi’s Falstaff, Wagner’s Lohengrin, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, or Janáček’ Jenůfa. He followed this up with a debut at the Vienna State Opera (Strauss’s Salome and Korngold’s The Dead City). The upcoming season of 2022/2023 will see him debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York; he is also slated to serve as music director of the Frankfurt Opera. His symphonic experience includes performances with Orchestre de Paris, Staatskapelle Dresden, or the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.