His debut was all the more moving as he conducted a long series of “Carmen” by Bizet at the Opéra Bastille (until February 25), his first memory at the Opéra.

“I was three or four years old and it was Christmas. The Opera orchestra played the overture to Carmen like every year; I also remember a huge Christmas tree and Santa Claus at the Palais Garnier”, remembers the 47-year-old conductor with a smile.

Fed up with classical music from an early age, also with a harpist mother and a violinist older brother, he was immersed in the pit even before learning an instrument – the trumpet -, before later converting to the orchestral direction.

“As a child, I went more into the pit than into the room itself. I knew behind the scenes before the place of the set”, explains the maestro who grew up in the Yvelines.

– “Latent desire” –

“The first time was one evening when the orchestra was playing Norma (by Bellini). My father said to me: You are not moving. let no one see me,” he recalls.

He was then fascinated by the musicians, by the enveloping sound of the orchestra but also “the voices of the public above the pit, the applause and the backstage”.

“He even dragged me into the Folies Bergère pit and, there, it was feathers falling,” he laughs, referring to the glory days of this former cabaret.

At 16, he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory to study the trumpet and, the same year, the Paris Opera called on him to play during an evening dedicated to the opera “Elektra” by Richard Strauss.

But conducting has always been a “latent desire”. When he was 14 years old, in 1989, he remembers seeing the legendary Carlos Kleiber conducting the New Year’s concert in Vienna.

Fascinated, this lover of the French repertoire began this new career at the age of 27; a long process during which he trained alongside eminent maestros such as Sir Colin Davis, before embarking on an international career. For many years he became musical director of the Orchester symphonique de Québec.

Before him, his father and grandfather had rubbed shoulders with the greatest.

His grandfather, who also played with the Lamoureux Orchestra, worked with composers Igor Stravinsky, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Igor Markevitch or Bruno Walter. His father knew the era of Rolf Liebermann, administrator of the Opera between 1973 and 1980 who attracted big names.

“One evening Lorin Maazel was conducting Pelléas et Mélisande, the next day Georg Solti was conducting “L’Or du Rhin” and the following week Karl Böhm was there for Elektra, knowing that the latter two had themselves worked with Richard Strauss. They were living legends,” says Fabien Gabel.

His experience as an instrumentalist taught him humility and above all to be sensitive to the moods of the musicians facing him.

“The orchestra is a micro-society. (…) There are nervous musicians, who need help, others to whom we can talk openly”, he underlines.

In his career, he says he has seen “very harsh bosses towards the musicians, with behaviors that were not necessary, but that has changed”.

Afterwards, he nuances, “this does not prevent rigor and authority because someone has to regulate things”.