The most comprehensive article online about trailblazing conductor Antonia Brico is this one, and it makes her sound very scary.
“She had this stern look on her face that could have melted parts of Greenland.”
She was a “horrid prima donna.”
“She knew how to maneuver people.”
“I loved that lady tremendously, but sometimes I could have wrung her neck.”
So when I cued up Judy Collins’s Oscar-nominated 1974 documentary “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman,” I sat back and waited for a monster to appear.
Instead, I saw a quietly self-possessed woman standing in front of a rehearsing orchestra. When she speaks, she says tyrannical things like “eight after B” and then “diminish the quarters, please.”
After watching the whole documentary, I don’t doubt the imperiousness is there. (You need imperiousness to be the first woman to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic.) But Antonia Brico was clearly more than just a frustrating (and frustrated) manipulative genius Greenland-melter. She could also be self-deprecating, brutally honest, and hilarious.