Gustavo Dudamel heads to Paris Opera after 12 years at helm of LA Philharmonic

16 April 2021, 11:19 | Updated: 16 April 2021, 12:06

Venezuelan star conductor Gustavo Dudamel to conduct Paris Opera
Venezuelan star conductor Gustavo Dudamel to conduct Paris Opera. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

One of classical music’s most in-demand figures is moving from Hollywood symphonies, to operas on the Seine.

Gustavo Dudamel, the brilliant Venezuelan conductor, has been appointed music director of Paris Opera.

The superstar maestro, who has led the LA Philharmonic since 2009 and promises a “continued commitment” to the US orchestra, has signed with the company for the next six years.

Paris Opera announced today, Friday 16 April, that Dudamel will take up the position from 1 August.

Director Alexander Neef said in a news conference in Paris that Dudamel was the only candidate.

Dudamel said his aim will be “to build on the success of the past, honouring the extraordinary history of the Paris Opera, but at the same time looking toward the future: working with new composers, new choreographers.”

Read more: Gustavo Dudamel: ‘In music, there are no walls between cultures’ >

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Philharmonic in Tchaikovsky's 'Hamlet'

Born in Venezuela in 1981, Dudamel took up music from an early age and was trained there by El Sistema, the government-subsidised programme offering music education to children in some of the country’s most deprived areas.

Dudamel, affectionately nicknamed ‘the Dude’, is known as one of today’s most charismatic, in-demand musicians, once named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

A beloved pop culture figure, Dudamel appeared on Sesame Street in 2012, conducting an all-penguin choir singing the ‘Ode to Joy’, and is conducting the score on Spielberg’s upcoming film remake of West Side Story.

He even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Gustavo Dudamel to conduct Paris Opera
Gustavo Dudamel to conduct Paris Opera. Picture: Julien Mignot

Paris Opera, whose previous music director was Philippe Jordan, was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV.

Over the past year, the company has undergone a reckoning with race and inclusivity, after its dancers circulated an open petition to end racist practices at the historic institution.

Read more: Paris Opera bans ‘blackface’ after staff pressure to end racism >

Dudamel, who has also served as principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony in Sweden, is currently also the artistic director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela.

At the Paris news conference, Dudamel announced one of his first ballet commissions – to the British composer, Thomas Adès.