Stéphane Lissner is out, Alexander Neef is in at Paris Opera

The drawn-out drama of Stéphane Lissner’s exit from Paris Opera is over. Lissner has left the company, with his replacement Alexander Neef arriving a year ahead of schedule.

Lissner was originally due to leave in 2021, but announced earlier this year that the company was “on its knees” and that he intended to leave early. However, his replacement Neef had a contract with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) that he said intended to honour.

Then came an intervention from the French minister of culture Roselyne Bachelot, who asked COC to allow Neef to hold both positions concurrently. COC, it seems, agreed.

“The COC Board of Directors has agreed to the minister’s request for an earlier start in Paris for Alexander,” said COC board chair Jonathan Morgan in a statement. “We believe he can ably lead both companies in this dual capacity, particularly given the current suspension of fully staged opera in Toronto due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.”

Commented Neef: “This year’s pandemic has asked so many of us to adjust to unexpected shifts in circumstance, and I am grateful for the complete support of the COC Board in arriving at this solution. At a time when there are countless obstacles to the creation and sharing of opera, I am heartened to see our art form persist, and find new audiences, across the globe through innovation and adaptation.”

According to Lissner, Paris Opera is currently €40m debt. The company has been hampered by COVID-19 and a strike that saw performances in late 2019 and early 2020 cancelled.