Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel | Credit: Julien Mignot/Paris Opera

Los Angeles will be sharing Gustavo Dudamel from now on. The LA Phil’s music and artistic director has taken another post: music director of the Paris Opera.

Dudamel’s Paris appointment begins in August and goes for six seasons, through the 2026–2027 concert year. The conductor’s current contract with the LA Phil overlaps for five of those seasons, ending in 2026. Dudamel, who started in Los Angeles at the age of 28, will have been with the orchestra for 17 years by then.

In an official statement on Friday, April 16, Dudamel wrote that he is “tremendously excited and deeply honored” to join the Paris Opera and that this new position would exist “alongside [his] continued commitment to the LA Phil and … El Sistema,” the Venezuelan music-education program that he’s both product of and champion for.

LA Phil CEO Chad Smith, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, affirmed that Dudamel’s weeks in L.A. won’t be changing. “With Paris as a place where Dudamel can delve more deeply into opera, it creates a perfect balance with his orchestral home in L.A.,” Smith said.

Dudamel’s dual workload won’t be an exception in the industry. Yannick Nézet-Séguin also balances an American orchestra (Philadelphia) and a storied opera company (the Metropolitan Opera). Dudamel won’t even be the only L.A. conductor traveling thousands of miles between jobs; starting this fall, LA Opera Music Director James Conlon is serving in an interim capacity with the Baltimore Symphony, following Marin Alsop’s departure. (In fact, Conlon himself was the Paris Opera’s music director before coming to Los Angeles.)

But the LA Phil conductor will be on new turf. Dudamel’s only prior engagement with the Paris Opera was a 2017 production of La bohème, which he described as a “decisive encounter — feelings of trust, connection, musicality, and a shared vision.” Paris Opera General Manager Alexander Neef echoed the sentiment in an announcement from the company on Friday, saying, “I was drawn from the outset to this exceptional conductor.”

Neef’s tenure at the Paris Opera began last fall and, thanks to coronavirus cancellations, has been marked by everything but music. Fortunately, Dudamel’s appointment promises an artistic way forward. The latest update on the Opera’s website envisions performances resuming in late May on the company’s historic stage, the Palais Garnier, and in June on the mainstage, the Opéra Bastille.

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