Goodbye Paris: Gustavo Dudamel to quit his Opera role

Dudamel poses at the Paris Opera after taking the post in 2021
Dudamel poses at the Paris Opera after taking the post in 2021 Copyright Copyright 2021 The AP
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The world-renowned conductor has announced he will quit his post in August after just two years at the helm


Gustavo Dudamel, the renowned conductor, is set to leave his post as music director of the Paris Opera in August, quitting the role after just two seasons and some four years ahead of schedule.

The 42-year-old, who announced in February he would leave another job as the lead at the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the role of music and artistic director of the New York Philharmonic in 2026, said he was stepping from the Paris Opera to spend more time with his family.

Just last month, he told Euronews Culture he intended to use his position in Paris to shine a light on upcoming artists and open the doors to a new generation of opera-goers. However, his two-year tenure marks one of the shortest ever in the Opera’s recent history.

In a statement, the music maestro said, “It is with a heavy heart and after long consideration that I announce my resignation,” adding, “I have no plans other than to be with my loved ones, to whom I am deeply grateful for helping me to continue to be strong in my resolve to grow and remain challenged, both personally and artistically, each and every day.”

Copyright 2023 The AP
Dudamel is also set to take up a new role in New York in 2026Copyright 2023 The AP

His quitting is unusual by the standards of the classical music world. Conductors usually honour their entire contracts, and performance seasons are traditionally planned years in advance. There have been reports, though, that Dudamel raised concerns as early as January about his ability to fulfil his duties across intense rehearsal and performance schedules.

Dudamel and the Paris Opera are currently in talks about how to manage his plans for the 2023/4 season, during which he was set to lead productions including Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and Thomas Adès’ ‘The Exterminating Angel’.

The world-famous conductor, known not just for his rare talent, but for his charisma and intense energy, is one of the most successful products of Venezuela's network of musical schools, El Sistema. In 2007, he started a youth orchestra, YOLA, which has helped upwards of 1,500 young people, providing them with free instruments and instruction.

His appointment was considered something of a coup for the centuries-old company and thought of as an unlikely relationship due to Dudamel’s busy schedule and work in Los Angeles. He was known more as a symphonic conductor, rather than an experienced opera leader.

He appeared to be popular with the Paris Opera's staff, but drew mixed reviews from European critics. Earlier this year, a production of Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ made headlines when the soprano was booed by the audience.

Dudamel’s departure will likely prove tricky for the opera. Its director Alexander Neef  has explained that the orchestra will manage Dudamel's departure with the help of guest conductors and will soon kick off the search to find the best person for the job.

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