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To Pierre Boulez

Homage from the Paris Opera — By Octave

It is with great sadness that the Paris Opera, its director Stéphane Lissner and its staff have learned of the passing of Pierre Boulez on Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

Last December, an evening of tribute to mark his ninetieth birthday provided an opportunity to revisit the history that linked the composer and conductor with the Paris Opera. The homage he received was addressed not only to the man of theatre and the inspiration of choreographers, the conductor and composer, but also to the organiser of concerts, the creator of programmes, the founder of institutions and ,above all, to the man, the friend.

Pierre Boulez conducted his first opera production in 1963. It was at the Palais Garnier, where Georges Auric had asked him to collaborate on the production of Wozzeck directed by Jean-Louis Barrault. Fifteen years later, in the same orchestra pit, the conductor turned his talents to the world premiere of the complete version of Lulu. The work was staged by Patrice Chéreau - a young director he had met several years previously with the aim of producing a centenary Ring cycle in Bayreuth.  

Although the two operas that Boulez brought to the Paris Opera repertoire are impressive (Lulu in its complete version), his presence here was not limited to Berg's two masterpieces nor to the operatic repertoire. He subsequently conducted concerts - devoted to Mahler, Schoenberg, Messiaen, Debussy, Bartók ... - and, beyond his personal involvement, there came the choreographic works set to his music - Le Marteau sans maître and Dialogue de l’ombre double in particular... In the late 1960s, Pierre Boulez also worked on a report with Jean Vilar and Maurice Béjart concerning the renovation of the Opera and which went so far as to give a precise description of a complete season at the Paris Opera. He who had declared in 1966 that he wanted "to blow up opera houses" was far too much a man of the stage to accept the slightest compromise with the backward-looking attitude he observed in most opera houses. Then came the project for the creation of the Opéra, Bastille for which he was mobilised once more.    

Like other institutions, the Paris Opera has been the focus of statements whose virulence betrays above all the dedication, commitment and deep affection of a man whose thoughts on music have never neglected reflection on its place in the city. The Opera is also a place for creation where musicians, singers, directors and stage managers have all shared the pleasure of encountering a man of great affability, whose rigour and intransigence were the mark of his profound desire to create. Our gratitude for this shared journey is immense.    

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