Obituary: French Conductor Georges Prêtre Dies At The Age Of 92

By Francisco Salazar

The Teatro alla Scala has announced that Georges Prêtre has died at the age of 92.

The company released a statement that said, “Georges Prêtre, one of the greatest conductors of our time, had a fifty-year relationship with La Scala. He made his debut in 1966 conducting a legendary production of Gounod’s ‘Faust’ with Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda and Nicolai Ghiaurov, directed by Jean-Louis Barrault. Two years later he led Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ directed by Margherita Wallmann, and, a few days later, ‘Die Walküre’ with Régine Crespin and James King.”

The company went not on to list other works Prêtre conducted including, Saint Saens’ “Samson et Dalilah” with Shirley Verrett, Puccini’s “La Bohème,” directed by Franco Zeffirelli with Luciano Pavarotti and Ileana Cotrubaş and many more.

La Scala added that the “the last operatic commitments of Prêtre at La Scala were ‘Turandot’ directed by Keita Asari in 2001 and ‘Pelleas et Melisande’ directed by Pierre Médecin, but he continued to give countless concerts with the orchestra.” He was scheduled to conduct a number of concerts this year with the company’s orchestra.

Prêtre also conducted in other houses as he was the director of the Opéra-Comique in Paris from 1955 to 1959 and also conducted at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Paris National Opera. He also conducted at the Metropolitan Opera from 1964 to 1977 and appeared numerous times at the Royal Opera House. He was also the principal conductor for the Vienna Philharmonic from 1986 to 1991.

Prêtre also conducted the famous Vienna New Years concert twice in 2008 and 2010 and has the distinction of being the only French conductor thus far to lead in the renowned gala.

The conductor made numerous recordings including Bizet’s “Carmen” with Maria Callas, Massenet’s “Werther” with Victoria de Los Angeles and Nicolai Gedda and Verdi’s “La Traviata” with Monserrat Caballe. Other notable recordings include Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” with Anna Moffo and Puccini’s “Tosca” with Maria Callas and Carlo Bergonzi. He also conducted Franco Zeffirelli’s film of “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci” starring Placido Domingo.

Georges Prêtre died in his home in Vienna.