City Ballet Conductor Steps Down to Pursue European Career

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The conductor of the New York City Ballet is stepping down after five years in the role. Fayçal Karoui, the French conductor who made his debut with NYCB in 2006, cited increasing conducting commitments abroad as too demanding to maintain the music director position.

Karoui was more than well-received at City Ballet. The company is known for putting music above all else; as a rule the composer’s name is listed above the choreographer's in programs. The orchestra’s sound was consistently praised under Karoui’s baton, as was his passionate charm on the podium.

The diversity in programming offered during his tenure included a large number of premieres and commissions, along with festival efforts like Architecture of Dance, featuring four commissioned scores alongside scenic design by the architect Santiago Calatrava, and See the Music, which featured discussions of the company's scores.

A native of Val-de-Marne, outside Paris, Karoui’s conducting chops were cultivated entirely in France. When he succeeded Andrea Quinn in 2006, he remained music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Pau, a position he held since 2001. Last year, Karoui accepted a third music directorship, with Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris. Perhaps unsurprisingly, managing the three commitments became too much to maintain, prompting Karoui’s departure.

In a statement published Saturday, Karoui said that while he had “a wonderful time with the orchestra, the dancers, and the staff” of City Ballet, managing the music director position “with the rest of my artistic life…is no longer possible.”

Despite the scheduling rift, Karoui is said to be leaving City Ballet on good terms. In a statement, ballet master in chief Pater Martins, whose full-length premiere of "Romeo and Juliet" Karoui conducted in 2007, expressed understanding about the departure. "His thriving career in Europe is now a priority, [and] we do hope that Fayçal will return to NYCB as a guest conductor in the future," Martins said. 

Andrews Sill, currently the assistant music director of NYCB, will replace Karoui as Interim Music Director.


Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect that Fayçal Karoui was the music director of the NYCB and not the artistic leader.