Gustavo Dudamel Talks About Why He Resigned From The Paris Opera

Gustavo Dudamel at the Opéra Garnier, Paris, April 15, 2021.

On May 25, 2023, Gustavo Dudamel stepped down as music director of the Opéra de Paris, just two years into a contract that was to run until 2027. It was a major blow for the Parisian opera house, which had made the internationally renowned conductor the figurehead of a cultural policy open to the world. There are still many questions surrounding his decision, the suddenness of which took many by surprise. The 43-year-old Venezuelan maestro, who will be at the Philharmonie de Paris on May 30 and 31 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, was keen to clarify the circumstances that led him to make this difficult decision.

An enigmatic sentence accompanied the press release announcing your resignation. It mentioned ‘personal reasons.’ What did you mean by this?

I had reached a point where I didn’t have the physical time to digest everything that was going on in my professional and personal life. I wasn’t happy, and I think that was the main reason I made the decision I did. The pandemic also changed things for me, fueling the desire to do fewer things, but more intensely. At the end of the day, what do you have left? Family.

Why talk now?

I thought I’d been transparent about my desire to be more present for my family. But my decision gave rise to a great deal of speculation, with some people inventing mysterious hidden reasons. Sometimes in life, you have to make decisions alone that affect a large number of people. I understand that this can be difficult to accept, but I don’t want people to think that it’s just a whim or that I made this decision lightly.

What role did the cancellation of the orchestra’s tour scheduled for late April 2023, following a disagreement between management and musicians over compensation for travel time, play in your decision?

If I told you it had no impact, I’d be lying. Yes, it may well have been the last straw. I had great ambitions for the Orchestre de l’Opéra. My friends at London’s Barbican Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall, who had generously offered us prestigious debuts, were disappointed. We had also received an invitation from the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a 10-day residency, to celebrate our relationship between Olympic cities. Organizing tours and securing travel arrangements with the Orchestre de l’Opéra’s unions is not my responsibility. The organization is very complex. There are a lot of people with good intentions. But sometimes, wanting to do too much can become negative and lead to conflict. Personally, I realized that I couldn’t fulfill my artistic ambitions.

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