Globetrotter: Sir Nicholas Kenyon

The MD of the Barbican Centre and former controller of the Proms on his travel preferences.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Where do you travel?

I'm often in New York, where I once lived. No city matches London for its range of cultural offerings, but New York comes closest. I also went to a wonderful festival in Beijing recently and watched a Chinese production of a Handel opera.

How do you switch off?

By not listening to music. There's nothing so wonderful as a transatlantic flight where you can't be disturbed and can absorb yourself in a good book. I usually take thrillers and a biography. I don't find it difficult to switch off.

Do you travel alone?

I love travelling on my own. I don't feel the need to strike up conversations to pass the time.

Favourite airport?

Amsterdam's Schiphol is very civilised and trouble-free. I was happy with terminal 4 at Heathrow - 5 involves too much walking.

Favourite city?

Los Angeles. I went to the opening of a great concert hall there a couple of years ago, which featured work by the living composer John Adams, which is quite unusual. In Europe, it's Berlin, which has three opera houses and was the home of my favourite German composer, Bach.

Memorable experiences?

In my 11 years working at the Proms, I was always amazed at the difference in sound between orchestras. My favourite conductor was Valery Gergiev, now conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, who is famous for cutting it fine and being in three places at once.

Worst experience?

The biggest challenge was in the wake of 9/11, which happened just before the last night of the Proms. We had to completely change the programme and many people, including one of the soloists, couldn't travel over from America. In the wake of terror threats in the UK a few years later, musicians weren't allowed to carry their instruments on planes. Many were unhappy with this and several soloists and a chamber orchestra weren't able to come to the Proms. That restriction has now been lifted, after much lobbying.

Jet lag remedy of choice?

I stay up as long as possible to readjust to the time zone. It's harder for musicians. If they feel uneasy, it will come out in their voice or their instrument.

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