Dudamel in Paris: good idea?

Dudamel in Paris: good idea?


norman lebrecht

April 16, 2021

The Venezuelan conductor, who turned 40 in January, has just been installed at the Opéra de Paris with a raft of promises to rejuvenate the company and its audience, using all modern technology and media.

It sounds good, and it’s no more than we expected.

But apart from disclosing a ballet commission to a middleaged English composer, there is no substance in today’s presentation.

Asked how many weeks a year Dudamel will spend in Paris, the company’s German boss Alexander Neef fudged, hedged, flapped and closed the press conference. This does not augur well for transaprency, or for the democracy that Dudamel promised.

It feels more 20th century than 21st.

Dudamel, who is now  Spanish citizen, divides his time between Madrid and Los Angeles, his main job.

Where does Paris come into the picture?

It’s not hugely promising.



  • justsayin' says:

    It’s only Paris – does it really matter?

  • Gustavo says:

    With his LA connection, he could commission an opera to John Williams to mark the composer’s 90th birthday in 2022.

    Just a one act Opera buffa – not a whole Wagnerian cycle.

    It could be paired with one-act works by Prokofiev, Puccini or Rachmaninov.

    • mary says:

      Star Wars The Opera.

      A three opera cycle — made up of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi — to rival Wagner’s tetralogy.

      The music is already written, and more well known than Wagner’s.

      I guarantee that any opera house that puts this trilogy on will be profitable in a year.

      Viva the Paris-LA connection! Viva Hollywood at the Opéra! Hail to Dudamel!mary

      • Gustavo says:

        Aria suggestions:

        “You are my only hope”

        “I have a bad feeling”

        “Use the Force”

        “I know”

        “I am your farther”

        “Someone who loves you”

        “From a certain point of view”

        “You are my sister”

        “You were right about me”

        Perhaps Conrad Pope and William Ross should have a go at this?

        Possibly more suitable to save the MET.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      With a little revising of the text, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” could be made into “Raiders of the Lost Ark of the Covenant”. It could both ridiculous and biblical. Oooorr, it could be made into an allegorical story.

      “Raiders” could be the former Oakland Raiders (now Las Vegas Raiders). The ‘lost ark’ could be about the Davis family, and how they financially raped Alameda County over their terms, favorable to them, regarding the Oakland Coliseum – the now antiquated stadium that the Davis family helped to turn into a mess. John Williams could end it with a “Fanfare for the Common Oaklander”.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Could we please stop focusing on conductors in opera companies! Yes, the conductor is important, but they’re not everything. They’re not even the main ‘thing’. I’ll say it yet again, the biggest problem with the opera world today is the shortage of good and seasoned singers, which makes it almost impossible to string together a full season of strong casts in every production. The second biggest problem are the productions themselves. We all know about that. The orchestra and conductors are of tertiary importance. Important, yes, but they are not symphony concerts.

      • Saxon says:

        “the shortage of good and seasoned singers, which makes it almost impossible to string together a full season of strong casts in every production”

        It has always been thus, despite many people’s sepia-tinted nostalgia.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    My limited exposure to Dudamel in two concerts and several recordings suggests there is much more hype than substance. He’s a great “performer,” but is he a great conductor? To my thinking, that’s really the dividing line between listening with one’s eyes open, and listening with them closed. The former may be gratifying at some level (and for large segments of the audience it clearly is), but the latter is not so gratifying in my (limited) experience. On the other hand, he’s just 40 and so he’s far from a “finished product” as a musician and conductor. But nothing I’ve observed thus far suggests he’s on a growth trajectory that is going to result in something memorable.

    • Pedro says:

      I think he is better with good orchestras than with more limited ones (I.e. the Simon Bolivar). I was very impressed by a Strauss concert with the VPO, and by a few ones with the Gothenburg Symphony and the Radio-France Philharmonic.

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        He did a very good Berlioz Requiem few years ago i hope that he will make a record of that with this new orchestra who can go behond opera like they did briantly in the past with Chung and Jordan

      • Novagerio says:

        Pedro: “I think he is better with good orchestras than with more limited ones (I.e. the Simon Bolivar)” – Well, duh! Rest assured that it’s a lot easier getting a “free ride” with a top orchestra than from a provincial orchestra!

        And by the way, the Bolivar kids are sensational – and the Dude has trained them very well (basically it was reciprocal) – that credit I do give him!

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Stokowski was good with any orchestra.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      But he’s got the gig and you haven’t. It hurts, doesn’t it.

    • tbone bro says:

      As someone who has played under his baton many times, I can say that I believe him to be an outstanding conductor. Some conductors are all flash and in rehearsals are no more than traffic cops (faster here, slower there, louder here, softer there). Dudamel is no mere traffic cop. He (in my opinion) has the chops to actually influence the sound of the ensemble and bring out musical colors and textures unique to his interpretation. Now, whether or not you like his interpretations is a matter of personal preference, but again, as someone who has played under many conductors, he is among my favorite.

  • James Weiss says:

    Apart from that his conducting is all flash and dash and no substance. This is a dreadful choice.

  • Anon says:

    Dudamel promised democracy? The conductor who sucked up to Chavez and Maduro for a decade? Er, no wonder that didn’t get off to a good start.

  • The View from America says:



    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      The history of Opera de Paris is full of musical director who were not welcomed very well by everybody. in the 70’s Georges Pretre was not welcomed because of his caracter and he didn’t stay a long time. In the 80’s Barenboim because he was too close to Chirac and because at the time some thought that he didn’t have done enough opera. The same thing after for Chung not enough famous at the end of the 80’s and I’am sure that some thought that Jordan was too young to have the job…

  • musicman says:

    The problem I see is that, like Yannick when he was hired at the Met, Dudamel has hardly any opera experience. I will never understand why opera companies keep hiring music directors who are either vocal coaches with no formal conducting training or orchestral conductors with no operatic experience.

    And the Met shunned Fabio Luisi, who is a properly formally trained conductor with extensive opera experience AND has been a vocal coach. He has everything, but keeps getting the shaft. The good people are out there, but it is disappointing that even top opera companies want flash and name recognition over substance and the proper qualifications.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I think with no doubts that Dudamel is a better conductor than Yannick. I saw both in concerts even if Yannick is very talented. Fabio Luisi is excellent but I think that he wants one thing for an italian, the graal: to be musical director of la Scala and the sad day Chailly will leave he will be the front runner. Fabio has to wait.

    • John Kelly says:

      You’re right. Luisi is the real deal, Yannick is very very good but hardly has a huge repertoire in opera and is learning as he goes. That being said, he IS good! Marketing has a lot to do with this, what the public apparently wants to “see” as well as hear. Dudamel is great with the Bolivars (fun) but I don’t think he’s a great conductor, a good one yes, but my ears haven’t impressed me listening to him – yet.

    • fflambeau says:

      The dude has conducted opera at La Scala and the Met. He knows more about it than you do, “Musicman.”

  • Gustavo says:

    It’s a bit like when Lenny did Rosenkavalier at Vienna.

    No one knew what to make of that one-night stand.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Nobody can to defend Lenny’s Straussian credentials against, say, Böhm’s or Karajan’s. But it was not exactly a one night stand: Lenny also did Falstaff and Fidelio in Vienna, along with extensive concertizing with the VPO.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    “Dudamel in Paris: good idea?”

    Short answer: no.

    Not worth wasting time with a longer answer.

  • RW2013 says:

    At least our suspicions that Neef is a fudger, hedger and flapper have been confirmed.

  • MacroV says:

    So he’ll spend less time in Madrid, more time in Paris. And once in a while he’ll take off a few days from Paris to conduct in Berlin or Vienna. Having two jobs 9 time zones apart is nothing new.

  • Alexander T says:


  • Adrian Brown says:

    Is he really going to run the Paris opera? Doesn’t look like it. Certainly not like Pappano in London. Meaningless.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “DUDAMEL IN PARIS: GOOD IDEA? It’s not hugely promising.”
    So says the classical music blogger.

  • fflambeau says:

    I think it is good for Paris Opera for marketing purposes, very bad for the Dude.

    Note that he is still retaining his LA Orchestra position, but it is a long flight. It is not that he doesn’t speak French; it is that HE IS NOT FRENCH and this group is nationalistic. I don’t think he can handle, or should handle, 3 jobs simultaneously. He should be fired by LA.

  • Boris says:

    Everyone talks about Dudamel having no opera experience. You’re wasting your breath. It doesn’t matter. If they wanted opera experience they would have hired accordingly. They wanted a name. That’s the stupid world in which we now live. Besides, I sang (Wagner) as a soloist at the Paris Opera with a very, very famous, almost dead (at the time) conductor who was blind drunk most of the time. He slept during rehearsals later in the day. Barely moved on the podium. Didn’t make a damned bit of difference. The orchestra can play beautifully in its sleep. Dudamel is not there for his conducting, rest assured of that. Don’t all be so naïve. This is Paris, ground zero for political appointments in music. And Dudamel is a global brand, thanks to years of massive funding and branding by Venezuela’s despots: Chavez, Maduro and Abreu. Sure, they created a media sensation, but musical director of the ONP? C’est une blague!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Well, that was a bitch slapping and a half. If conductors can arrive at work blind drunk why weren’t they sacked? We’ve just read the story of a young man’s suicide after casual authoritarianism of a different kind and apparently denied any due process. Epic hypocrisy.

      OK for some, it seems. A law for thee and not for me.

  • Guus Mostart says:

    The problem with Dudamel is that he does not breathe with the singers. I have heard and see him conduct La Bohème in Paris and at La Scala. I wouldn’t touch him with a barge-pole. No pulse and no sense of dramaturgy. He is unsuitable for opera, full stop.

  • Arnolphe says:

    ‘à Paris’, s.v.p!

  • Evan Tucker says:

    This has disaster written all over.

    Dudamel has lots of talent within all that flash, but he runs his career as someone who wants to maximize the flash and minimize the talent. By all accounts he’s done superbly in LA, where he can develop away from the critics and nevertheless indulge his obvious taste for celebrity. But rather than put all his effort into LA he takes all these guest conducting gigs for which he’s constantly getting hammered. Now, instead of putting all his eggs into LA where he’s flourishing, or instead of taking a job in Spain where he can learn the operatic repertoire away from the spotlight in an opera house where he speaks the language of his associates, he takes on the Paris Opera, which is a graveyard for so many conductors. Whatever one thinks of Danny, he was more accomplished than Dudamel by that age, and if the appointment killed Barenboim it could crucify Dudamel.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    Does anyone honestly go to an opera based on the conductor?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    They’re probably more interested in equity, diversity and inclusion. In fact, I’m sure they are.

  • Edgar Self says:

    We’ll see. It’s reminiscent of Ozawa at Vienna State Opera, which I never could see. And isn’t an initial six-year contract rather long innings? Perhaps it includes on-the-job training. What are the odds of his serving the full term?