Jörn Weisbrodt, 41, is the third part of the German trifecta that is moving and shaking the arts in Toronto. In 2011, he was appointed the artistic director of the Luminato Festival, and thus joins the Canadian Opera Company’s general director, Alexander Neef, and music director, Johannes Debus, as a member of the wunderkind generation of Young Turk Germans making a splash on the worldwide culture scene. (The Neef/Debus Q&A was in last month’s WholeNote.)
When the Weisbrodt/Luminato announcement was made, every news story mentioned the fact that his life partner was Canadian/American superstar, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. (The couple’s 2012 New York celebrity wedding had huge coverage in the international press.) One does not, however, become head honcho of one of North America’s leading festivals of arts and culture by being “husband of.”
What follows is an in-depth conversation with Weisbrodt that gives a perspective on his life history and the life skills that brought him to Luminato.
Tell me about your background. I was born in Hamburg, and I’d describe my life as a typical middle class tapestry. My dad was head of logistics at Unilever and my mother was a housewife. My brother is an engineer with Lufthansa. Instead of going into the army for mandatory conscription after high school, I opted for social service instead. I worked for 15 months in an operating theatre dressing the doctors and nurses, positioning the patients and getting all the equipment together, making sure everything was sterile. I’ve been a great defender of compulsory social service for young people ever since.