Report from the 25 May 2024

The Paris Opera pays tribute to Hugues R. Gall, its director from 1995 to 2004

26 April 2024Exhibition "Le Serment d’Opéra" 30 May 2024Creation of the Paris Opera Junior Ballet

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Hugues R. Gall, who was Director of the Paris Opera between 1995 and 2004.

To pay tribute to Hugues R. Gall is to celebrate a man who devoted his life to the development of opera and ballet. Assistant to Rolf Liebermann, whom he greatly respected, at the Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux, director of the Grand Théâtre de Genève for fifteen years, Hugues R. Gall left an indelible mark on the world of the arts.

Many years after the Liebermann era, the Paris Opera entered the Gall era. This was a seminal period for the establishment, with the reconstitution of a repertoire and the establishment of a new governance and economic model that still prevail today.

His term of office was marked by the success of the Opéra Bastille project, associated with the Palais Garnier, whose splendor he brought back to life after renovation, and where he reinstalled part of the operatic repertoire. To his credit, 360 performances and almost 900,000 spectators a year on both stages, and 80 new opera productions.

The Gall era was thus the era of an ambitious artistic project, with a policy of commissions that brought four new works to the Opéra Bastille: Salammbô (Philippe Fénelon), K (Philippe Manoury), Perelà, l'homme de fumée (Pascal Dusapin) and L'Espace dernier (Matthias Pintscher). He loved and knew ballet like no other, and deeply admired George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev and Jiří Kylián, who became a close friend. Sixty new works were added to the Ballet's repertoire, including Signes (Carolyn Carlson), Clavigo (Roland Petit), Casanova (Angelin Preljocaj), Nosferatu (Jean-Claude Gallotta) and Wuthering Heights (Kader Belarbi).

Faithful to those who accompanied his career, he entrusted the stage to Jorge Lavelli, Jérôme Savary, Andrei Serban, Francesca Zambello and Robert Carsen, as well as to Lev Dodin, Herbert Wernicke, Willy Decker, Graham Vick and Laurent Pelly. He nurtured the same loyalty to lyric artists, particularly Renée Fleming, who had made her European debut at the Grand Théâtre de Genêve, and who sang the Countess in Capriccio for his last performance at the Palais Garnier in June 2004.

The Gall era finally saw him take over the direction of the Paris Opera, a task he carried out with great determination in a house rich in diversity, but often turbulent and conflict-ridden, which affected him. But he pursued his project, with the public as his sole compass, reminding us that "the audience is my electorate". With 95% attendance and the average age of the public down from 56 to 44 by the end of his term, he was happy to leave the house in better shape than he found it.

A member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Hugues R. Gall had received numerous honors, including Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur et des Arts et Lettres, Grand officier de l'Ordre national du mérite, and "Bourgeois d'Honneur de la ville de Genève".

Many people who knew him will remember him as a free, charismatic man, with a sharp intelligence, fair and often implacable words, who naturally commanded respect.

In a profession where there is no school, Hugues R. Gall will leave the mark of a great opera director, and an inspiration that will never fade.

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