After the resignation of Gustavo Dudamel, Alexander Neef, director of the Paris Opera, does not see “this departure as a failure”

Gustavo Dudamel, conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, at Lincoln Center in Manhattan on March 17, 2022.

Two seasons and then goes: the Paris Opera announced, Thursday, May 25, the resignation of its musical director, the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, only two years after his appointment in 2021, four before the end of his mandate in the summer of 2027. The honeymoon will have been short-lived. Was she good? In any case, this is what the director of the Paris Opera, Alexander Neef, defends.

Read the story: Article reserved for our subscribers Appointed musical director of the Paris Opera, Gustavo Dudamel opens a new era

In December 2017, Dudamel’s first appearance at the Opéra Bastille caused a sensation. Musical flagship of the evening in Bohemian, of Puccini, put into orbit in mode Solaris by the director Claus Guth, the baton of the “Dude” was essential. Textures, colors, suppleness of lines, nervousness of attacks, chiseled tempos, between stellar frills and cosmic intoxication: in the pit, the desire was palpable.

He has not dulled musically, assures Alexander Neef, as evidenced by this season, after a handful of Toscaand before the success of Nixon in China, by John Adams, in March-April, the revival of the mythical Tristan and Isoldaby Wagner, in the 2005 production by Bill Viola and Peter Sellars. “I have rarely seen singers so impressed, especially the confirmed Wagneriansassures Mr. Neef, by his way of making music, not easy, but fair − a bit like a Carlos Kleiber. » The compliment is not small.

Explosive Charisma

The miraculous catch of this big pilot fish was a good omen for the director of the Paris Opera. A sure way to restore the image of an institution weakened by strikes, social conflicts and confinement, but capable of seducing, convincing and attaching one of the most “bankable” sticks on the planet. Dudamel’s explosive charisma also ushered in a new era. The unique journey of the Venezuelan, the first conductor to come from Latin America, far from the usual standards, pleaded for another relationship with art, the public and society.

The young violinist had, in fact, studied since the age of 10, within El Sistema, a social model of education for disadvantaged young people developed in the late 1970s, which had made Venezuela one of the leading countries for music (some 160 youth orchestras, and 36 professional orchestras for 27 million inhabitants).

Mounted at the desk at 14, the prodigy “baby chef” could boast of a meteoric career. Gustav Mahler Competition in Bamberg won in 2004, exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2005, musical direction of the Göteborg Symphony Orchestra in 2006, successor to the Finnish Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2009 at the pulpit of the prestigious Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Gustavo Dudamel had never abandoned his Simon-Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, which he had conducted since its inception at the age of 18, and when he saluted it was not on the podium but among the musicians.

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