Gustavo Dudamel has announced his early resignation as the music director of the Paris Opera, a decision that surprised many in the classical music industry. The 42-year-old maestro, who currently leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is set to become the music and artistic director of the New York Philharmonic in 2026, cited a desire to spend more time with his family as the reason for stepping down.
Expressing his emotions in a statement, Dudamel acknowledged the difficulty of his decision and expressed gratitude to his loved ones for their support in his personal and artistic growth. His tenure at the Paris Opera, spanning just two seasons, will be one of the shortest in recent history. Such early departures are uncommon in the classical music world, where conductors typically fulfill their contractual obligations and performances are planned years in advance.
Alexander Neef, the general director of the Paris Opera, commended Dudamel for his contributions and the special rapport he developed with the orchestra, singers, and staff. Discussions are currently underway to determine how to proceed with Dudamel’s scheduled engagements for the upcoming 2023-24 season, which included notable productions and concerts.
Dudamel’s decision may also have implications for his involvement with the New York Philharmonic. Previously, it was anticipated that his commitment to New York would be limited until the 2026-27 season due to scheduling conflicts. However, with his early resignation from the Paris Opera, the possibility arises for him to engage more extensively with the New York Philharmonic earlier than expected.
Deborah Borda, president and chief executive of the New York Philharmonic, expressed hope that Dudamel could dedicate more time to the orchestra in the upcoming season, although no concrete plans have been discussed. Borda, who played a significant role in Dudamel’s career and recruitment to New York, characterized his decision as bold and significant.
During his time in Paris, Dudamel conducted notable productions of both contemporary and classic operas, receiving mixed reviews from European critics. While he was generally respected by the orchestra and Neef, a performance of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” earlier this year garnered attention when the soprano was met with boos from the audience.
The Paris Opera itself appears to be facing financial challenges, as evidenced by the abrupt cancellation of planned appearances by the opera orchestra in London and Vienna. The reasons cited for the cancellations were the financial difficulties associated with touring.
Dudamel’s appointment to the Paris Opera in 2021 was considered a significant achievement for the company, which has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Despite his packed schedule and limited experience in opera, Dudamel felt a strong connection with the Paris Opera after his debut performance with “La Bohème” in 2017, describing the atmosphere as akin to being at home.
While Dudamel’s decision to resign may draw criticism, it is seen as a courageous move allowing him to prioritize his personal life while leaving a lasting impact on the world of classical music.