Mortier, who has headed the Paris Opera since 2004 (following a famously controversial tenure running the Salzburg Festival), will be 65 years old on November 25, 2008 — and at that age, by statute, he would normally have to retire from his position. A special decree making an exception to that rule for Mortier is now being prepared for adoption at the next meeting of France's Council of Ministers, Donnedieu de Vabres told AFP.
The culture minister added that his goal is to announce Mortier's successor in December. The incoming executive would begin work next year, with the title of Director Designate, preparing the 2009-10 and subsequent seasons and formally taking on the full directorship in the summer of 2009 upon Mortier's retirement.
Donnedieu de Vabres told AFP that he is actively working on the choice of a nominee, whose name will be submitted to President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin for approval. "I have received some candidates who put themselves forward informally," he told AFP, "since one does not, I would suggest, officially apply for the directorship of the Op_ra de Paris."
Asked if there is a "short list" of three to four finalists for the job, Donnedieu de Vabres replied, "Yes."
The Op_ra national de Paris operates two houses — the ornate 19th-century Palais Garnier and the modern Op_ra-Bastille — presenting full seasons of opera and ballet with a budget of approximately €160 million and a staff of nearly 1,500.