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Sarah Caldwell
Female conductors crack the glass podium
Female conductors crack the glass podium

In March, Xian Zhang made history: The Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra in Milan appointed the 35-year-old conductor to the position of music director, making her the first woman to earn that title with an Italian symphony orchestra. Pope Benedict XVI attended her inaugural concert at the Vatican alongside Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and afterward compared the music to prayer. Zhang has been associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, won awards and appeared with major orchestras around the world, including the L.A. Philharmonic at Disney Hall, where she is leading a program of works by Bartok and Prokofiev this weekend. But opinions about Zhang's new role bouncing about the...