Alain Lombard is among the leading French conductors from the latter half of the 20th century. He has held numerous prestigious positions both in the operatic and orchestral realms. Lombard is best known for his interpretations of French opera, particularly of Bizet's Carmen, Gounod's Faust and Romeo et Juliette, Delibes' Lakmé, and Massenet's Werther. He has also garnered notice for his Puccini and Verdi, as well as for instrumental works by Berlioz, Debussy, and Ravel. Lombard's repertory is hardly limited to French and Italian music, however, as it takes in chunks of Prokofiev, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, and many others. He has made numerous recordings since the 1960s for a range of labels, including EMI, Elektra, Erato, Forlane, and Valois.
Lombard was born in Paris on October 4, 1940. He was a prodigy, studying at the Paris Conservatory and receiving his first appointment before his 21st birthday, that of assistant conductor at the Lyons Opera in 1961. He was soon appointed principal conductor there, but departed in 1965. The following year he won the Dimitri Mitropoulos International Conducting Competition in Athens and also accepted the post of conductor of the Greater Miami Symphony Orchestra, having earlier scored a notable success in the United States: his New York debut was at the American Opera Society in 1963 when he led a highly praised performance of Massenet's Hérodiade.
Lombard became an assistant to Leonard Bernstein and in 1967 debuted at the Metropolitan Opera with Gounod's Faust. From 1974 to 1980 Lombard served as director of the Opéra du Rhin, based in Strasbourg, but also performed in Colmar and Mulhouse. By 1980 Lombard had become a major force on both opera and concert stages.
In the 1980s he held a string of impressive posts: from 1981-1983 he was music director of the Opéra National de Paris, then served in the same capacity at the Paris-based Opéra-Comique (1983); and in 1988 he accepted the dual posts of music director of the Bordeaux Opéra and the Bordeaux Aquitaine Orchestra. In 1990 he was appointed director of the Bordeaux Grand Théâtre.
Lombard was also busy in the recording studio, especially throughout the 1990s and the new century, turning out recordings of Lakmé (1990; EMI), the Mahler Fifth Symphony with the Bordeaux Aquitaine Orchestra (1998; Forlane), and several of Carmen, including the 2004 DVD of the Franco Zeffirelli/Verona production on TDK.