Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

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lennygoran
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Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by lennygoran » Fri Apr 16, 2021 5:44 am

Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

In a coup, the venerable company has hired as its next music director the rare classical artist to have crossed into pop-culture celebrity.

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By Zachary Woolfe and Laura Cappelle
April 16, 2021Updated 6:30 a.m. ET


When Alexander Neef was named the next director of the mighty Paris Opera in 2019, he did not have a particular candidate in mind to succeed the company’s music director, who was leaving after a decade. “I felt I should consult with the musicians,” Neef said by phone recently, “and see who for them, what for them, how for them the future looked like.”

One surprising name kept coming up in those conversations: the superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the musical leader of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009 and the rare classical artist to have crossed into pop-culture celebrity.

He had made his Paris debut in 2017, with “La Bohème,” and hit if off. “I felt this connection with the house, the musicians, the choir, with the whole team,” Dudamel recalled in an interview on Thursday at the company’s ornate Palais Garnier theater. “I was here for one month and a half and I was feeling like I was at home.”

Yet it still seemed an unlikely marriage, given Dudamel’s packed schedule and the fact that, even if that “Bohème” was a success, it had still been his only engagement with the company. Indeed, while he has dipped his toe into the operatic repertory in Los Angeles, at the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere, he has been largely known as a symphonic conductor.

“But I thought,” Neef recalled, “why not ask?”

That ask eventually resulted in a coup for the company, which announced on Friday morning that Dudamel would be its next music director, starting in August for an initial term of six years, overlapping for much of that period with the Los Angeles position, where his current contract runs through the 2025-26 season.

The appointment marks a turning point in the heady career of an artist who made his name as a wunderkind with orchestras in North and South America and is now, at 40, taking the reins at one of Europe’s most venerable opera companies, founded in 1669 as the Académie d’Opéra by Louis XIV.

Dudamel said he had not required much convincing when Neef offered him the permanent position.

“It’s a big and beautiful responsibility,” he said.


Dudamel — who was born in Venezuela in 1981 and was trained there by El Sistema, the free government-subsidized program that teaches music to children, including some in its poorest areas — occupies a unique position in music. He is sought by leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. But he also appeared in a Super Bowl halftime show; was the classical icon Trollzart in the animated film “Trolls World Tour”; is conductor of the score for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film version of “West Side Story”; and inspired a messy-haired main character in the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle.” In 2019 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

His renown will surely be a shot in the arm for the Paris Opera, which like other arts organizations is warily eyeing the need to reintroduce itself to its core audience after the long closures of the pandemic, at the same time as it aims to capture new operagoers. Handsomely subsidized by the French government, the company has expanded its audience in recent years, but still faces the pressure of roiling debates about racial representation and the relevance of expensive-to-produce classical art forms.

“Our future is not validated by our history,” Neef said. “This Covid crisis has put us in a pressure cooker and reinforced and amplified the need to give people real artistic reasons for why we need to exist, why this has value.”

He added that Dudamel was “already a very credible ambassador for that. What he’s done successfully is, he’s broken down barriers.”

It is no longer the norm — especially outside German-speaking countries — for opera music directors to start as pianists and singer coaches and work their way up through the ranks, as Philippe Jordan, 46, Dudamel’s predecessor in Paris, did. While Dudamel lacks that upbringing in the nuances and logistical complexities of the art form, and his operatic appearances have been sporadic, he is not unknown at major houses. He made his Teatro alla Scala debut in 2006, when he was in his mid-20s, and had his first appearance with the Berlin State Opera the following year. He first conducted at the Vienna State Opera in 2016, and at the Met in 2018, with Verdi’s “Otello”; on Wednesday he finished a run of “Otello” in Barcelona.

“I have been developing my opera career in the way that I wanted to do, and I feel very good about that,” he said. “I took my time.”

Neef pointed out that Yannick Nézet-Séguin, 46, the Met’s music director since 2018, did not start there with an enormous repertory, either. “The question is not about quantity,” Neef said. “And these things are a little bit deceptive: When you look at the list of operas Gustavo has conducted, it’s from Mozart to John Adams. He’s been conducting opera as long as he’s been conducting symphonic music.”

Asked which works he is most looking forward to tackling, Dudamel replied, “Everything.” In Paris this fall he is scheduled to conduct Puccini’s “Turandot” and Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.” In addition to mainstream repertory, he said he hoped to work with living composers from Europe as well as North and South America, including Adams, Thomas Adès and Gabriela Ortiz.

He added that he is keen to conduct the Paris Opera Ballet, the company’s in-house dance company. Dudamel said his mentor, José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, often took him to the ballet to learn about conducting.

“It was part of my education,” he said. “Even for my way of seeing the music.”

His appointment will involve significant travel between Paris and Los Angeles, but his commitment to the Philharmonic is one Dudamel said he has no intention of curtailing. “I will share my time between the two families,” he said. What he will cut back on is guest conducting, a process he said he started a few years ago in order to shift his focus to longer-term projects.

“The way we’re going to organize it is the way he works in L.A., too,” Neef said. “Long periods that hang together, rather than a lot of travel.”

Neef added that Dudamel would be a charismatic and visible link between the company’s main stage productions and its educational endeavors. In Los Angeles, Dudamel has contributed to the Philharmonic’s robust educational outreach, especially the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, a program inspired by El Sistema that was founded in 2007.

He also continues to also hold the post of music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, but after he criticized the Venezuelan government in 2017, the country canceled his planned international tour with that ensemble. While he has not been able to perform with the Simón Bolívar since then, he still works with it remotely and has sometimes met outside Venezuela with groups of its players; during the pandemic he has had sessions with them over Zoom.

His appointment comes two months after the release of a report on discrimination and diversity at the Paris Opera. The report focused on changes to the repertory, school admissions process and racial and ethnic makeup of the ballet company. At the same time, opera companies around the world have been called on to make their staffs, artists and productions more representative.

Dudamel said in the interview that he would press for that conversation to continue at the Paris Opera over the long term. “Sometimes we pretend to do changes,” he said, snapping his fingers to indicate overly fast decisions. “In that way, you cannot develop something that is strong for the future.”

Neef said that alongside Ching-Lien Wu, the company’s recently appointed (and first female) chorus master, Dudamel’s hiring was part of an effort to change the face of the company’s executive ranks and how it thinks about diversity and equity.

“It’s already what he lives and who he has been in L.A. and other places,” Neef said. “I think there’s great opportunity to be gained from that experience for us, to have someone with that experience at the table at the highest level.”

The next step is for Dudamel to learn French. “I’m starting!” he said, before adding, “I’m very bad with languages.”

One carrot will be the opportunity to finally read one of his favorite books — Rousseau’s “Confessions,” which he discovered as a teenager and brings with him everywhere — in the original. “I will try,” Dudamel said, smiling.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/arts ... opera.html

maestrob
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by maestrob » Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:00 am

Hmmmm...

Not so sure I'm on board with this.

The scores of Boheme and Otello, even Verdi's Requiem are crystal-clear about how they should be conducted, which is all Dudamel has done so far. Not so Traviata, Rigoletto, Donizetti or Bellini, where a knowledge of tradition is vital. Massenet's operas are OK, but Carmen has enormous problems that need to be worked out, especially if it's presented in the Opera-Comique version with dialogue. Nezet-Seguin has the cultural background to do this. I'm not so sure Dudamel does.

Will Dudamel know how to coach "Sempre libera..." properly? There are problems just in that piece that need to be solved with traditional fixes.

I wish him every success, and he is a quick learner, but I have my doubts.

That said, when Myung-Wha Chung had the post, he was quite successful, but he had been trained here at Juilliard by Jean Morel, who knew very well how opera worked from his many appearances at the MET.

Dudamel has not been entirely successful as a symphonic conductor either, IMHO.

THEHORN
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by THEHORN » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:20 pm

I wish Gustavo the best of luck . It's easy enough for cynics to dismiss him as a shallow glamor boy, but he is remarkably gifted and able conductor - the real thing .

barney
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by barney » Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:37 pm

I hope you are right. I am sure that whatever happens, it will be lively and interesting. Brian makes interesting and valid points, but I also agree it is easy to dismiss Dudamel because of his constant publicity.

lennygoran
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel-Tommasini Weighs In- Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by lennygoran » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:20 am

lennygoran wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 5:44 am
Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera
Now Tommasini has weighed in. Regards, Len


Gustavo Dudamel Hasn’t Conducted Much Opera. That’s OK.

This classical superstar, just named as the Paris Opera’s next music director, isn’t the first maestro to jump to the theater.


By Anthony Tommasini
April 18, 2021

The conductor Gustavo Dudamel has accomplished so much in his blazing career that it’s easy to forget he’s only 40. The music world has wondered for a while what his future would hold beyond the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a hotbed of adventurousness where he has been the musical leader since 2009. Major orchestras around the world have pursued him. Anything seemed possible.

Still, the announcement on Friday that he will be the next music director of the Paris Opera was somewhat surprising. Snagging this superstar for a six-year appointment, which roughly overlaps with Dudamel’s current contract in Los Angeles, is being touted as a coup for the 352-year-old company, which, like classical music institutions everywhere, is grappling with issues of relevance and diversity. Dudamel will bring dynamic musicianship and charisma to this influential post. Hopefully he will make the company a more welcoming home for new and recent operas.

Yet the elephant in the room is that he really isn’t known for conducting opera. He has only appeared at the Paris Opera once, with “La Bohème” in 2017. It’s true, he has led works at major houses in Milan, Vienna and Berlin, and in Los Angeles he has done standard and more offbeat repertory at both Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. He made his Metropolitan Opera conducting debut in 2018 with Verdi’s “Otello,” a performance that, if not revelatory, was seething and sensitive.

But almost all his renown has come from his exhilarating performances with symphony orchestras. Does lacking operatic experience matter in landing an important opera post?



Historically, European opera houses were the traditional training grounds for young conductors of all kinds. Before being entrusted with leading performances, aspiring conductors would start off coaching singers at the piano, rehearsing the chorus and assisting senior conductors. (This was the path taken by Dudamel’s predecessor in Paris, Philippe Jordan, 46, who has moved to the Vienna State Opera.)

Direct work with singers was, and remains, crucial. If all instrumentalists to some degree imitate the human voice, conductors in opera gain a special feeling for the art of shaping a long lyrical line: They learn to breathe with singers, to anticipate the melodic pace and flow of fine vocalists. Yet they must also guide, and almost rein in, those singers, lest their lines slacken with too much expression. This sensitivity develops with long practice. Opera also compels young conductors to hone their skills as musical traffic cops, coordinating singers and choristers (often spread far apart onstage) and the players in the pit.

The traditional path of learning the conducting profession through opera was exemplified by Gustav Mahler, who in his youth worked in opera houses in Prague, Leipzig and Hamburg, then rose to become the director of the Vienna State Opera and, briefly, a principal conductor at the Met. During this period, he also led major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic from 1909 until his death in 1911. Even if he was best known for his visionary symphonies and never wrote an opera, Mahler did most of his conducting in opera houses.

Toscanini spent the first half of his long career immersed in opera, working tirelessly in Italian houses. By today’s standards he would be considered a new-music specialist, since he led many premieres, including “La Bohème” in 1896, the year he conducted his first symphonic concert. In 1898 he became the principal conductor of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and left to take the chief position at the Met in 1908 before returning to La Scala. Then, in 1928, he became the music director of the New York Philharmonic, and never ran another opera house. In 1937 NBC created the NBC Symphony, an orchestra of top-rank players, for him, and its broadcasts gained a huge following (including for an influential series of opera performances).

George Szell is so well known for his long tenure as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (1946-70) that it’s sometimes forgotten that he spent a great deal of his early professional life in opera. This includes what became the Berlin State Opera, where the young Szell was mentored by Richard Strauss; Szell eventually become principal conductor there. During the 1940s, Szell conducted regularly at the Met, including two acclaimed “Ring” cycles. Then, in 1950, Rudolf Bing, who disliked Szell, took charge at the company, and Szell’s last performance there was in 1954. No matter: He was by then ensconced in Cleveland and never looked back.



For many opera fans, Leonard Bernstein was the one who got away. He clearly had a flair for drama, though early on he channeled that energy into his Broadway scores. Even during his college days, Bernstein was groomed for the podium by Dimitri Mitropoulos, an important mentor. And after Bernstein made his sensational, last-minute debut with the New York Philharmonic at 25, his destiny seemed set in the symphonic world.

Now and then he worked in opera. His 1964 Met debut with Verdi’s “Falstaff” was a scintillating performance, and in 1972 there he presented a boldly reimagined, gravely compelling — some critics said ponderously slow — take on “Carmen.” In Vienna he had tremendous success with “Der Rosenkavalier” and “Fidelio.” But he mostly whipped up music drama in the concert hall leading major orchestras in symphonic works.

Many leading conductors have balanced work between opera houses and symphony orchestras, readily transferring techniques and styles between the two genres and repertories.

Georg Solti had storied tenures as music director at the Royal Opera in London and, for 22 momentous years, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Daniel Barenboim spent time at the helm of the Orchestre de Paris, the Chicago Symphony, La Scala and, since 1992, the Berlin State Opera. Riccardo Muti, formerly a driving force at La Scala, also served as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and continues to thrive now at the Chicago Symphony. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s current music director, is also director of the Philadelphia Orchestra; he worked at the Opéra de Montréal early in his career.

Dudamel is not the only conductor to win a major post in opera without extensive experience in the field. After 29 seasons leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa became the principal conductor at the Vienna State Opera in 2002. He had some significant opera credits, including leading the premiere of Messiaen’s “Saint François d’Assise” at the Paris Opera in 1983, but was hardly famed for his theatrical work. Even James Levine, who was among the major conductors of our time most closely associated with opera, was not broadly experienced in the repertory — and hadn’t come up through an opera company’s ranks — when he rose quickly at the Met in the 1970s.

As Bernstein did, Dudamel instinctively conveys the drama of everything he conducts. In works like John Adams’s teeming opera-oratorio “The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” he has demonstrated skill at handling sprawling vocal, choral and instrumental forces and bringing shape to a long, teeming score.


But does he have a feeling for, say, classic Verdian style? Can he coax an orchestra to support a singer in a deceptively simple aria with a bare oompah accompaniment?

He may well end up displaying a gift for all of this. And even if not, the Paris Opera can bring in more experienced hands to handle such works while Dudamel focuses on his strengths. He can be a charismatic face for the company’s outreach to new audiences while advancing a compelling, contemporary artistic vision.

Plus, let’s not forget that he’s a terrifically exciting conductor. And a good relationship between a maestro and a company can transcend a nontraditional path to the podium. During his 2017 “Bohème” in Paris, Dudamel recalled recently, he felt an immediate connection to the house.

“I was here one month and a half,” he said, “and I was feeling like I was at home.” That’s the most promising sign there could be.


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/18/arts ... opera.html

maestrob
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by maestrob » Mon Apr 19, 2021 8:16 am

So, Tomassini is jumping on the bandwagon.

The problem with being such a high-profile conductor is that you have to do your learning in public. When Dudamel made his debut with the LA Philharmonic with, shall we say, a highly individual interpretation of Mahler I that was broadcast around the country on PBS, I was critical, but hopeful. Then, there was a youtube of Mahler II some years later with his Venezuelan band, and I expressed the same opinion about that one.

Then, a magnificent Verdi Requiem from the Hollywood Bowl was telecast, and I was really very impressed and said so. I also gave a mixed review to a rather bland but well-shaped CD of Richard Strauss recorded in Berlin. Didn't see/hear the Otello from the MET, but heard good things.

Still, learning about how to coach and conduct great voices is something that should happen in a less visible position, and Dudamel has not had that experience yet. He is especially unaware of the traditions in Verdi & Donizetti, let alone French opera, where there are multiple corrections that need to be made (Think of the Card Scene in Carmen, or the various misprints in Lucia, or even the practice in early Verdi where the composer writes a series of eighth notes, assuming that the singer will create dotted eighths and sixteenth notes to accommodate the rhythms of the Italian language).

There are also many musical decisions that are traditionally done in order to heighten the drama of the music. How will he learn those? Will Dudamel take the time to actually listen to recordings of great performances of the operas he'll be conducting? Will he be able to make the time to study? I sure hope so. Such detailed knowledge is usually acquired slowly over time, and that may not be possible here.

First things first. He must learn how to conduct singers slightly ahead of the voice, so that they feel quite comfortable with him vocally. In Otello and Boheme, that's easy, as those two scores a crystal clear about what to do once you know a couple of traditional clarifications that were pioneered by Toscanini at the 1896 premiere. Other works need more experience, sometimes much more.

I'm glad he's eager. Let's hope he's humble enough to learn at a rapid pace. His take on Mahler has, frankly, put me off. Let's hope that, at 40, he's lost most of that brashness of youth and can serve his art well.

barney
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by barney » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:07 pm

Thanks for these thoughtful comments, Brian. I agree with you.

THEHORN
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Re: Gustavo Dudamel, Superstar Conductor, Is to Lead Paris Opera

Post by THEHORN » Sat Apr 24, 2021 5:11 pm

Maestro B, from information I've recently read about Dudamel, he actually has more experience conducting opera than you realize and has been conducting opera for about as long as he has been doing orchestral repertoire .
Possibly his relative lack of experience in opera will enable him to approach familiar operas freshly, without having having years and years of routine behind him .
I certainly wish him well . He's not just a flashy ,overhyped flash in the pan, but a genuinely gifted conductor . It's easy enough for cynical music critics to sneer at him as they do with so many other musicians of the younger generation .

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