The critically acclaimed film TÁR has propelled orchestral conducting to the centre of a lively global discourse.

The film is an extensive portrait of Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), fictional Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. She is extremely talented, also abusive and tyrannical, and gender is central to the film.

Its arrival in Australian cinemas is a timely opportunity to take stock of the state of the local industry and imbue nuance into a conversation that too often devolves into reductive stereotypes and tired assumptions.

TÁR Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett as conductor Lydia Tár. Photo © Focus Features

According to season brochures published by Australia’s six state orchestras in 2021 and 2022, women made up 20% of conductors and directed 14% of programs. These figures include the statistical heavy-lifting that Simone Young is doing as the new Chief Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I don’t think the orchestras deserve a pat on the back for these mediocre numbers, but they do represent an improvement on the single digits of the past decade.

The first lesson in nuance, however, is to...