THE CONDUCTOR – Review by Loren King

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The Conductor is an illuminating portrait of Marin Alsop, distinguished orchestra conductor, protégée of Leonard Bernstein, and the first woman to serve as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Bernadette Wegenstein’s supremely entertaining film succeeds as a compelling portrait of the artist. But it is about so much more: an inside look at the rigors and politics of the classical music world that denied Alsop opportunities because of her gender and how the low-key but tenacious Alsop achieved her dream despite the obstacles.

While still at Juilliard in the 1980s, told that a girl couldn’t become a conductor, Alsop formed an all-women classical jazz ensemble, shown performing in irresistible clips. She studied conducting with Bernstein who not only nurtured her talent and determination but advised her to celebrate her singular, irrepressible style.

The wealth of photographs and clips include many of Bernstein’s performances as well as Alsop at various stages of her life and work including her current teaching at Juilliard where she displays keen professionalism but is generous and kind, making her respected and liked by students. She also continues her mentor’s legacy in making classical music accessible to children.

Alsop is a magnificent and inspiring artist and The Conductor, which features various orchestras playing the majestic music of Mahler, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Dvorak, Bernstein and many others, is an essential documentary for anyone who appreciates great art.

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Loren King

Loren King's features and film reviews appear regularly in the Boston Globe, Boston Spirit magazine and the Provincetown Banner. She writes Scene Here, a localfilm column, in the Boston Sunday Globe. A member of the Boston Society of Film Critics since 2002, she served as its president for five years.