Last Night of the Proms 2023: Who is conductor Marin Alsop, did she inspire Lydia Tar, career - achievements

Marin Alsop performing during the last night of the Proms in 2015 (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Marin Alsop performing during the last night of the Proms in 2015 (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

This weekend, the Proms' eight-week run of concerts comes to an end with the famous Last Night of the Proms, a special three hour closing concert featuring the BBC Singers, Symphony Chorus, and Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets to watch the Last Night of the Proms have all sold out, meaning the 5,000 capacity Albert Hall will be packed to the rafters, but you can watch the full concert at home for free.

The show will air in two parts on Saturday 9 September. Part one will be broadcast live on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer from 7pm - 9pm, and part two will be broadcast on BBC One and iPlayer from 9pm - 10.10pm.

In 2013, Alsop became the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms in its 118-year history (Photo: CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)
In 2013, Alsop became the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms in its 118-year history (Photo: CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)

Faced with the prestigious task of conducting the Last Night of the Proms is Marin Alsop, who closes out the festivities after Dalia Stasevska opened them back in July. It's the first time female conductors have both opened and closed the Proms.

But just who is Marin Alsop, what is her background in classical music, and was she the inspiration for a certain, on-screen tyranical conductor? Here is everything you need to know about the musical maestro.

Who is Marin Alsop?

Marin Alsop is an American conductor and violinist, born in New York City in 1956 and known for her significant contributions to the world of classical music and orchestral conducting.

Alsop was born into a family with a strong musical heritage. Her father, Lamar Alsop, was a violinist, and her mother, Ruth Alsop, was also a professional musician. Growing up in a musical household, she was surrounded by music from a young age.

Alsop began studying the violin at an early age - with her father serving as her first teacher and playing a pivotal role in her musical education - and later attended Yale University, where she continued her music studies.

At Yale, she studied violin with Broadus Erle and went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in violin performance.

Her educational journey included further studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where her interest in conducting began to take shape. She studied conducting with Carl Bamberger and David Zinman as her passion for the discipline grew, and she decided to focus on this aspect of music.

Alsop's career as a conductor gained momentum when she won the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize in 1989, a prestigious award which provided her with opportunities to work with major orchestras and conductors.

A pioneering conductor

Throughout her career, Alsop has faced the challenges of being a female conductor in a field traditionally dominated by men. Despite these challenges, her talent, dedication and groundbreaking achievements have helped pave the way for other women in the world of classical music.

In 2007, Alsop made history by becoming the first woman to lead a major American orchestra when she was appointed as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, an appointment that marked a significant milestone for gender equality in the field of classical music.

She made history again in 2013 when she became the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, a role to which she returned to in 2015 - this year will be her third appearance.

She has also conducted many prominent orchestras around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and more, with a conducting style that has earned her a reputation as a skilled and expressive conductor.

Alsop is a strong advocate for music education and outreach programs, and has been involved in various initiatives aimed at bringing classical music to wider audiences and supporting young musicians.

Is she the inspiration for the film Tár?

In the wake of the release of the critically acclaimed film Tár - in which Cate Blanchett plays a no nonsense, high achieving female conductor facing a fall from grace after being accused of misconduct - many critics suggested the character was based on Alsop.

Lydia Tár, like Alsop, was mentored by Leonard Bernstein, conducts a significant orchestra and is married to a female musician. Though New York Times critic Zachary Woolfe noted that, "unlike Tár, Alsop has never been accused of misconduct".

Alsop is even mentioned in the film by Tár, along with a number of other prominent female composers, in a scene in which she gives an interview to a journalist and explains that there is no discrimination against women in the industry.

But, in an interview with The Sunday Times, Alsop shared her dislike of the film, calling it "anti-woman".

"I was offended," she said. "I was offended as a woman, I was offended as a conductor, I was offended as a lesbian. To have an opportunity to portray a woman in that role and to make her an abuser – for me that was heartbreaking."

In response, Blanchett told BBC Radio 4 that the film was a "meditation on power, and power is genderless", and that while her character shares similarities with Alsop, it is a complete work of fiction.