Georges Prêtre, French orchestral and opera conductor, Died at 92


Georges Prêtre was born on August 14, 1924, in Waziers (Nord), and died on January 4, 2017.

He was a French orchestral and opera conductor.

He attended the Douai Conservatory and then studied harmony under Maurice Duruflé and conducting under André Cluytens among others at the Conservatoire de Paris.

His early musical interests were jazz and trumpet.

After his graduation, Georges conducted in a number of small French opera houses sometimes under the pseudonym Georges Dherain.

Georges Prêtre’s conducting debut was at the Opéra de Marseille in 1946.

Prêtre also conducted at the opera houses in Lille and Toulouse. His Paris debut was at the Opéra-Comique in Richard Strauss’s Capriccio.

Prêtre was director of the Opéra-Comique 1955–1959.

Georges Prêtre conducted at the Lyric Opera of Chicago 1959–1971. He was conductor, 1959, and music director 1970–1971, at the Paris Opéra. He was principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony 1986–1991.

Prêtre’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, debut came in 1965, with first appearances at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, and La Scala, Milan, also coming in the same decade.

Georges Prêtre, worked with Maria Callas on a number of occasions, and made recordings of Carmen and Tosca with her.

Other than opera, he was best known for performances of French music, having conducted long and difficult works like Debussy’s La mer and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé without a score (i.e. from memory).

Georges Prêtre was especially associated with Francis Poulenc, giving the premiere of his opera La voix humaine at the Opéra-Comique in 1959 and his Sept répons des ténèbres in 1963.

During 1999, Prêtre gave a series of concerts in Paris to celebrate the centenary of Poulenc’s birth. In 1988 Marcel Landowski dedicated his Fourth Symphony to Prêtre.

To all the many music lovers, however, Pretre’s name will forever be associated with the 1959 world premiere of Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra, Op. 81, with Virgil Fox and the Paris Opera Orchestra.

Georges Prêtre passed away at 92 years old.