Disappearance of Hugues Gall, former director of the Paris and Geneva operas

Disappearance of Hugues Gall, former director of the Paris and Geneva operas
Disappearance of Hugues Gall, former director of the Paris and Geneva operas

Trained alongside Edgar Faure, this music and dance lover spent most of his career at the head of opera institutions, including the Grande Boutique from 1995 to 2004.

Hugues Randolph Gall died at the age of 84, the Academy of Fine Arts announced on Saturday, of which he had been a free member since 2002. A lord disappears. A rare man, sharp mind, British elegance, humor threaded with tenderness, brilliant intelligence. A free man too, recognizing no chapel, except the one he built in his soul and conscience. His native muses? Alphonse Allais and Erik Satie, geniuses born like him in Honfleur, in Calvados, who gave him a taste for lightness and perfection. Added to this is Baudelaire, for the spleen and the ideal.

Hugues R. Gall was born on March 18, 1940, in the house of the widow of General Aupic. “ My father was Bavarian. He had gone into exile in France, not appreciating the rise of Nazism. On the other hand, he had immense admiration for Churchill, hence my middle name of Randolph.recounted Hugues Gall who attended the funeral of the “Old Lion” in 1965. Gall was then 25 years old and left the shores of a certain dilettantism.

Will he be an artist? In Lausanne, where his family moved when he was 7, his mother took him to a concert: Furtwängler conducted Beethoven. Exhausted from a race on the glaciers, the 12-year-old child thought he was sleeping. However, the music captivates him. He sings in a choir where he learns the choruses of great operas, The Magic Flute to Gallant Indiestried his hand at the piano and the violin, but entered khâgne at the Lakanal high school in Sceaux, abandoned Greek for German which he spoke fluently, dodged Normale for the Institute of Political Economy.

Under the wing of Edgar Faure

Will he be a civil servant? Edgar Faure, lawyer for his father’s business before the war, but also a musician and pianist, took him under his protection. He was then Minister of Agriculture. Gall’s first mission is to humanize animal slaughter. The administration’s slowness in implementing the texts exasperates him. “I told the director of the ministry’s veterinary service: “Let’s go see how we apply our decrees.” My calculation worked: tired of getting up every week to find myself in La Villette at 5 a.m., it accelerated the implementation of the cartridge gun”, he said, still laughing at his subterfuge. Edgar Faure took him with him when he took over the Ministry of Education. Hugues Gall is in charge of the music option baccalaureate file and classes with flexible schedules. He works in collaboration with the composer Marcel Landowski, delegate for music at the Ministry of Culture.

When it comes to reforming the Paris Opera, shunned by spectators and stuck in its inaction, Hugues Gall is on board. We must overturn the table, close the shop, harmonize collective agreements, dissolve the choir. In the troop of singers, the best perform abroad, and only the seconds hired for services rendered remain to honor the Parisian evenings. And find a captain to carry out these operations desired by Pompidou at the Élysée, Chaban-Delmas at Matignon and Jacques Duhamel at the Ministry of Culture. Hugues Gall mentions the name of the Swiss Rolf Liebermann. A rare bird.

Liebermann has masterfully directed the Hamburg Opera since 1959. He is also a composer, conductor and director. A foreigner at the head of the Paris Opera? Since Lully, we have never seen this! Liebermann also requests guarantees of budget, autonomy and staffing. The appointment caused a scandal. However, he arrived with his team in 1973. Hugues Gall was his deputy, more particularly in charge of ballet, an art that he appreciated. Gall is close to the stars of the moment, especially Maurice Béjart and Rudolf Nureyev.

The “Grande Boutique”

The Liebermann era opens with a landmark production: The Marriage of Figaro directed by Giorgio Strehler, directed by Georg Solti, with Gundula Janowitz, Mirella Freni, Gabriel Bacquier, José Van Dam and Frederica von Stade. The rest will be as follows: Elektra with Birgit Nilssen and Christa Ludwig under the baton of Karl Böhm, Lulu, given for the first time with its last act, in a production by Patrice Chéreau and under the baton of Pierre Boulez. This is now “Paris Opera level”. On the ballet side, the repertoire opened up: Balanchine, Robbins, Carolyn Carlson and tours in the USSR since with only one stage – that of the Palais Garnier – and 150 dancers, the ballet found itself cramped.

When Rolf Liebermann left in 1980, Hugues Gall left to direct the Geneva Opera. Fifteen years of happiness where he rested from the explosive social dialogue characteristic of the Paris Opera and the French administrative burdens. Whether someone suggested he return there, or consulted him on the advisability of building Bastille, he responded in the negative. “We are only happy at two times when we run the Grande Boutique,” ​​he explains. The day of your appointment and the day of your departure. » When Bastille and Garnier were offered to him, while both houses were struggling to take off, he knew he had to give in. But requires a change of organization which concentrates all the power in its hands, exceptional means to constitute a repertoire at Bastille, an indexation of the subsidy on the payroll and fixed costs.

The Gall era began in 1995, for nine years and 80 opera and ballet productions including memorable Gallant Indies, Alcina, Rusalka, The Boreades, Hoffmann’s Tales,Capriccio directed by Robert Carsen and the fidelity of singers like Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Natalie Dessay, Samuel Ramey, Neil Shicoff and Placido Domingo. Brigitte Lefèvre at his side holds the Ballet. His support will weigh heavily in the appointment of each of his successors

Elected to the Academy of Fine Arts in 2002, Hugues Gall took over the management of Monet’s house in Giverny, succeeding Gérald Van der Kemp whom he admired. The formidable boss of the Paris Opera is transformed into a good-natured patriarch. He interacts with the gardeners, becomes passionate about the history of the reconstitution of the garden, refurnishes the house as Monet had left it… The beginnings of Paradise.

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