Why Did Gustavo Dudamel Suddenly Resign from Paris Opera?

The conductor, who is slated to become the first Hispanic leader of the New York Philharmonic in 2026, will leave the opera by the end of its current season.

Man stands in suit on balcony
Gustavo Dudamel was appointed music director of Paris Opera in 2021. © Julien Mignot / OnP

Gustavo Dudamel, the star conductor known for his famous curly hair and theatrical expressions, is cutting his time at Paris Opera short.

In a surprising move, Dudamel cited personal reasons while announcing his resignation as music director of the opera, where he has only served two years out of his expected six-year term.

“I have no plans other than to be with my loved ones, to whom I am deeply grateful for helping to continue to be strong in my resolve to grow and remain challenged, both personally and artistically, each and every day,” he said in a statement, adding that he is leaving the opera to spend more time with his family.

Dudamel, 42, will finish out the opera’s current season. Alexander Neef, director of Paris Opera, said he will need some time to decide on the conductor’s replacement, calling him “an immense musician.”

Reports of union issues

There may be more behind Dudamel’s resignation than a desire to spend time with loved ones. The music director has been frustrated by cancellations materializing from union disputes at Paris Opera over tour payments, according to The Times.

The last straw was reportedly the April cancellation of his orchestra’s tour to London’s Barbican Centre and the Vienna Musikverein.

The withdrawal was “due to factors that are currently making touring financially challenging,” said the Barbican Centre in a statement at the time.

Was Paris Opera too demanding?

Dudamel, who took his position at Paris Opera in 2021, was overwhelmed by the institution’s performance and rehearsal schedules, Neef said in an interview with The New York Times.

“In the end, he reached a conclusion that he could just not give to the institution what he believes the institution requires,” said the director, adding that Dudamel began expressing reservations about the opera’s schedule in January.

These issues were clear to the orchestra’s 175 musicians, said Neef, who had noticed a recent change in Dudamel and “felt relief to know what’s been going on.”

Another position waiting in the wings

In addition to working at Paris Opera, Dudamel has been the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009. However, in February he announced that he will leave his position in Los Angeles by 2026 to lead the New York Philharmonic orchestra in a five-year contract.

Coinciding with what was supposed to be the conductor’s final season at Paris Opera, the future role for Dudamel, who is Venezuelan, will make him the first Hispanic leader of the New York Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the U.S.

Dudamel’s early departure from Paris might signify an earlier start for the historic position. Deborah Borda, president of the New York Philharmonic, told The New York Times she hopes the music director will now be able to dedicate more time to the orchestra next season.

Earlier this month, Dudamel had his first show with the orchestra since his future position was announced: a guest-conducting performance that received a seven-minute standing ovation.

A representative for Dudamel declined requests for comment.

Why Did Gustavo Dudamel Suddenly Resign from Paris Opera?