Dudamel confirms he speaks no French and commissions an English ballet

Dudamel confirms he speaks no French and commissions an English ballet


norman lebrecht

April 16, 2021

In his opening statement as music director of the Opéra de Paris, Gustavo Dudamel is speaking fluent, heavily accented English.

He is being translated simultaenously into Spanish and French.

Gustavo is paying tribute to his Venezuelan mentor José Antonio Abreu for arousing his love of opera. The pair are pictured here with the former Venezuelan dictator Chavez.

He has also announced a ballet commission to the British composer Thomas Ades.


  • Michael Güttler says:

    That’s not Maduro. It’s Chavez.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Tom Adès – what a daring, imaginative choice….

  • Sam Wigglesworth says:

    Hello Norman

    Just to be clear: the Adès ballet is not a new commission but a co-production of The Dante Project, which premieres at Covent Garden in October.

    Here’s some more info from the ROH site:

    The Wayne McGregor’s much anticipated The Dante Project will be given its world premiere in October 2021. The Royal Ballet’s first ever co-production with Paris Opera Ballet takes its inspiration from Dante’s Divine Comedy and is presented as part of the 700th anniversary celebrations of the poet’s death in 1321. Dante’s epic journey through the afterlife is realised in this collaboration between three trailblazing forces of the contemporary arts scene: the multi-award-winning McGregor, acclaimed composer Thomas Adès, who creates a brand-new score, and artist Tacita Dean, celebrated for her pioneering and poetic film and media work. The creative team is completed by McGregor’s regular collaborators lighting designer Lucy Carter and dramaturg Uzma Hameed. Part 1 of the work is based on Inferno, which received its premiere in Los Angeles in 2019 as part of The Royal Ballet’s international tour with Adès conducting the LA Philharmonic in his virtuoso new score. The production will also be an opportunity for audiences to celebrate the extraordinary career of Edward Watson who performs the role of Dante.

    The score for Dante was commissioned by the LA Phil and Covent Garden, and Dudamel gave the concert premiere of its first part – Inferno – in LA back in May 2019.

    I hope that this clarifies things

    All the best

    Sam Wigglesworth
    Faber Music

  • Christoph says:

    Maybe a non-Frenchman will do them some good and help rouse them into speaking better English, as seen in other parts of Europe.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Klaus Makela at Orchestre de Paris doesn’t speak French either–at least he didn’t when appointed. But he’s a quick study and I wouldn’t put any accomplishment beyond him.

    • Ben G. says:

      The newly appointed conductor of the Strasbourg Philharmonic, Aziz Shokakimov, doesn’t speak French either- but they say he will learn!

  • J Barcelo says:

    Maybe I’m wrong…but John Pritchard once told me that you just cannot conduct an opera in a language you don’t speak fluently; you’ll never get it right. Add to it Dudamel’s complete lack of experience as a repetiteur. Yes, I think he’s a bad idea: there are many highly skilled young conductors who are much more qualified. Conducting opera is far, far more complex than symphonies.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      I agree with you, but you overlook one supreme factor in all such appointments, namely the boundless egos of those who come to regard themselves as chosen exclusively for the special qualities they bring to the game. There have been a number of questionable appointments to leading orchestras and opera-houses (in the past and more recently too) where the absence of appropriate experience was what stood out most of all. Bernard Haitink, for all his qualities and an admittedly limited amount of experience at Glyndebourne, was made Music Director at the Royal Opera House without much that could be said in his favour. Indeed, John Pritchard was heard to remark on hearing of the appointment, “I didn’t realise that Brahms had also written operas”.

      • ex-gibbo says:

        Yet Haitink managed to rescue the ROH from the lacklustre later years of Colin Davis, and conduct consistently superb performances.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A whiff of what can be expected:


  • Alexander T says:

    Am I the only one who finds Thomas Ades one of the most uninteresting composers alive?

    • John Borstlap says:

      No, you are a member of an ever growing community. Ades is a clever manipulator of material, but he has been a product of the British new music establishment, and was pushed right from the beginning, when it wanted to have a Wunderkind. So, he had to become one. I think his gifts are mediocre, but they are compensated with cleverness and a support group. His music is a reflection of the times and the support group (subjects: misery and nihilism) – i.e. of the environment, and that is never a signal of a great creative personality. My impression is that he is a cultural prisoner, not a ‘free agent’. But he cannot help it that the music world and especially, the new music circuits everywhere, are so crazy and underdeveloped. And also there are the bills to be paid.

      A real British ‘Wunderkind’ was, for instance, James Francis Brown, rather unknown, but developing into a very distinctive composer. There may be more, but not well-known because they don’t follow conventions, they have their own ideas.

  • Lucy says:

    Ades’ “work” is like Hades to the ear.

  • Jack says:

    Neither did Wagner