Obituary: New Orleans Opera General & Artistic Director Robert Lyall Passes

By Francisco Salazar

General and Artistic Director Emeritus of the New Orleans Opera Robert Lyall passed away on Jan. 5, 2024.

The New Orleans Opera announced the news and said, “With courage, grace and a sense of humor, Maestro Lyall had bravely battled cancer since April 2023, as well as resulting complications in recent weeks.”

The company added, “Robert was a true maestro, whose keen intellect and love for opera and symphonic works shaped a long and distinguished career.”

Lyall began his career winning the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conducting Competition and studied with Dr. Richard Lert at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, and conductor Kyril Kondrashin in Amsterdam.

He would go on to lead the Victoria Symphony, the Oak Ridge Symphony, the Knoxville Opera, the Mississippi Opera, and Opera Grand Rapids. He would also become the General and Artistic Director of the New Orleans Opera where he would remain for 23 years from 1998 to 2021.

He also conducted the Seattle Opera, Cleveland Opera, The Chautauqua Festival, Opera Carolina, Hawaii Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Lyall was also a known guest conductor at Carnegie Hall and also toured in Russia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Turkey. He was the Principal Guest Conductor for the Istanbul State Opera and conducted such orchestras as Las Palmas Symphony, Guadalajara Symphony, Guanajuato Symphony, The New World Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Prince George Philharmonic, the Asheville Symphony, Corpus Christi Symphony, Knoxville Symphony.

Lyall received numerous awards including being Knighted by the French government in 2016 as a “Chevelier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.”