Born: January 10, 1903; Abbéville
Died: April 14, 1975; New York, NY
Regarded by many as second only to Pierre Monteux among conductors of the French repertory, Jean Paul Morel became another of those important musical figures lost to Europe because of WWII. After biding his time in South America, he joined the New York Opera and later, the Metropolitan Opera. As a teacher, however, his effect on America's musical culture was even stronger as he guided a number of gifted students to maturity. ExceedinglyRead more well-trained, Morel had the benefit of studies with several exceptional musical specialists. In particular, his work in Paris with Noël Gallon who taught him theory; with Gabriel Pierné who instructed him in composition; and with famous composer, conductor, and singer Reynaldo Hahn, who worked with him on the song and opera literature, afforded him a grounding that made him a subtle and reliable leader of orchestras and an excellent teacher. Indeed, he began as an instructor at the American Conservatory at Fountainebleau where, at age 18, he was as young as some of his students. He remained at the conservatory from 1921 to 1936, a period in which he also built a reputation as a conductor with a number of prominent French orchestras and with the Opéra-Comique. After the connection ended, he conducted at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro and at Mexico City's Palacio de Bella Artes. Morel's American career opened with an instructorship at Brooklyn College from 1940 to 1943. On November 12, 1944, he made his debut with the New York City Centre Opera (as the company was known then), conducting a performance of La traviata with Dorothy Kirsten as Violetta. Subsequent works under his leadership included Carmen, Mignon, Louise, and La bohčme. Morel remained a respected member of the company until 1951, when he resigned in protest over the company's dismissal of its first general director (and conductor) Lazlo Halasz. The board had actually approached Morel about taking on the directorship and had been met with not only his refusal, but with his wish to resign over the treatment accorded Halasz. The board declined to accept the resignation, claiming that Morel was obligated to remain for another year. When Joseph Rosenstock was hired as general director, Morel again sought his release and was refused. Citing a clause that no member of the musical staff would have pre-eminence over Morel other than Halasz, Morel persisted. Facing the threat of a breach of contract action, the board finally accepted Morel's resignation. In 1949, meanwhile, Morel had joined the Juilliard School of Music staff and began building an enviable reputation for turning out brilliant conductors, James Levine and Leonard Slatkin among them. Five years after his departure from the New York City Opera, Morel joined the conducting staff at the Metropolitan Opera, making his debut with a November 21, 1956, performance of Offenbach's La Périchole premiering in a new English-language production. In a total of nine seasons stretching to 1971, Morel conducted five works from the French repertory, as well as Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Madama Butterfly. His final season at the Metropolitan Opera coincided with his last year at Juilliard. During his more than two decades at the New York school, his instruction and leadership of the Juilliard Orchestra had brought a high level of distinction to its conducting program. Read less
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