Georges Prêtre

French conductor Georges Prêtre, 92, died on Wednesday in Navès, France. He was what one could a Grand Seigneur de la Baguette.

He studied with Maurice Duruflé and André Cluytens. His official conducting debut was at the Opéra de Marseille in 1946. He was director of the Opéra-Comique from 1955 to 1959. At the National Opera in Paris he was music director from 1970 to 1971. He also was principal conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker from 1986 to 1991. He conducted at many opera houses, Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala in Milan and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

He worked with Maria Callas and made recordings of Carmen and Tosca with her. He was a specialist of French music and closely 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. He also conducted the world premiere of Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra in 1959.

Prêtre conducted the Vienna New Year’s Concert twice, in 2008 and in 2010. He was the only French conductor to have been appointed for this role so far.

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