BERLIN — One of Daniel Barenboim’s visions for classical music, Berlin and the Middle East was achieved Thursday night when the Barenboim-Said Academy, named for the maestro and the Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, opened in the historic heart of the German capital.
Mr. Barenboim and Mr. Said, who taught for many years at Columbia University, founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a project uniting Israeli and Arab musicians, in Weimar in 1999.
They then set about raising funds for an academy that would offer music students from all over the Middle East training in classical music and philosophy, and other instruction in the arts.
Mr. Barenboim, 74, who spearheaded the effort after Mr. Said died in 2003 and is also the musical director of Berlin’s State Opera, himself seemed a little stunned by Thursday’s opening.
“I’m sure you will believe me if I tell you that I once felt this day would never happen,” he said. The academy currently has just under 40 students, a total that is set to rise to 90 by the academic year 2018-19.
The German culture ministry provided two-thirds of the 35-million euro construction costs (about $37 million) for the academy — with the remainder coming from private sponsors. The building contains a brand new concert hall, designed pro bono by Frank Gehry and named after Pierre Boulez, an avid supporter of the idea and a good friend of Mr. Barenboim.
Mr. Barenboim surprised the invited audience of some 400 by effectively inaugurating the hall, conducting a brief, unannounced concert by West-Eastern Divan Orchestra musicians, who played Haydn and Mozart.
Now for his next big goal: to conduct the first opera in the State Opera building that is just a few hundred yards from the new academy. In a city notorious for delays on its major construction projects, extensive renovations started in 2010. The reopening is now scheduled for Oct. 3.
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