The Minnesota Orchestra has announced that CEO Michael Henson will leave his position this summer. Henson, who became a target of musicians' ire for his role in the long orchestra lockout, will leave by "mutual agreement" Aug. 31.
Former Music Director Osmo Vanska had said last month that "For any healing to begin at the orchestra, Michael Henson must go." Vanska resigned his position during the lockout, and fans have been clamoring for his return.
Fred Child, host of the Classical MPR program Performance Today, and arts correspondent Euan Kerr join The Daily Circuit to discuss the latest developments. Highlights from that conversation:
Lockout's legacy would have been hard to get over:
"It's tough at this moment to look beyond that lockout. No American orchestra has ever gone through anything of this magnitude or anything quite like this. It was just such a divisive time in the history of the orchestra. I mean, losing almost a year and a half of concerts — that's what the orchestra exists for — losing a year and a half of concerts. It's really hard to see beyond that. And especially at the beginning of the lockout, the rhetoric was so severe and so divisive. And at this point, I think it's a reasonable question to ask: Why was the compromise that was finally reached not offered sooner, not at least approached sooner? ... At the same time, yes, a $50 million renovation of the hall, of the performing space, that's nothing to sneeze at. That's an important thing. And Michael Henson was also there during a time of tremendous growth in the orchestra's reputation, nationally and internationally." (Fred Child)
Potential directors and funders might have stayed away:
"There was a question of the future leadership of the orchestra. ... What quality music director, including Osmo Vanska, would want to come back to lead this orchestra artistically with Michael Henson in place? Now, there probably are people, because after all it is the Minnesota Orchestra, and a lot of people are ambitious. But it was clearly a problem. Another thing that was an issue there is that a lot of people are very publically saying that they have money that they want to give to the orchestra ... but they weren't going to give it until Michael Henson left, and then some are saying they wouldn't give any money until Michael Henson leaves and Osmo Vanska comes back." (Euan Kerr)
Path is open, at least, for Vanska:
"From observing Osmo Vanska for the past year and a half ... we can take him at his word. He's had integrity through this entire process. He has meant what he has said and he has said what he has meant. ... He didn't say, 'I will come back if Michael Henson leaves.' His words were, I'm paraphrasing, 'Michael Henson has to leave for any healing to begin.' Now, that seems to imply he would be open to having that conversation ... and I think there's a good chance that those conversations are going on right now." (Child)