The New Orleans Opera board of directors and staff are saddened to share the passing of General and Artistic Director Emeritus Robert Lyall, on January 5, 2024. 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.
Robert was a true maestro, whose keen intellect and love for opera and symphonic works shaped a long and distinguished career. His life in music began with a resounding triumph – winning the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conducting Competition. He continued to refine his craft, soaking up wisdom from Dr. Richard Lert at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, and studying with the acclaimed conductor Kyril Kondrashin in Amsterdam. With support from the Fulbright and Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundations, Robert pursued a Ph.D, and always remained ardent about both learning and teaching.
Robert brought his artistic vision and leadership to six institutions: the Victoria Symphony; the Oak Ridge Symphony; the Knoxville Opera; Mississippi Opera; Opera Grand Rapids; and finally, the New Orleans Opera, completing an astounding 23 seasons from 1998 to 2021.
And he wasn’t confined by borders. Robert’s music-making echoed across the globe, from Carnegie Hall to the grand stages of Russia, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands and Turkey. As Principal Guest Conductor for the Istanbul State Opera, he built bridges through music. Robert was extremely active with New Orleans’ own French Consulate, and in 2017 was knighted by the French government for his immense impact, receiving the prestigious “Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.”
Maestro Robert Lyall will live on in our hearts as we remember his infectious passion for opera, his dedication to creating beautiful productions, his amazing mind and musical talent, his sense of humor, his generosity of spirit, his collegiality and true friendship, and his deep commitment to our company and community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family, friends and everyone whose lives were touched by this extraordinary man.