George Prêtre was born in Douai and followed a musical education at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris. He starts conducting in 1946 at the Opera de Marseille at the age of twenty-two years before joining in 1956 at the Opera Comique, where he conducts the whole repertoire.
He remains chief conductor at the Opera de Paris until 1963.
Meanwhile, he conducts several consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, continues to work closely with the Scala of Milan and conducts all major American orchestras.
In 1966 he was appointed Director of Music at the Paris Opera. He conducts the largest Philharmonic Orchestras: Berlin, Vienna, London. In 1986 he is appointed for five years as Principal Guest Conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, of which he is now the chief of honor for life.
In July 1989 he is conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra National de Paris for the inauguration of the Opera Bastille.
In 1995 he is guest of honor at the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart. In 1998 he gives the Martyr de St. Sebastian with the Vienna Philharmonic and makes a triumphant tour in Japan with Orchestre de Paris.
In 1999, the centenary of the birth of Francis Poulenc, he gives several concerts in memory of the composer.
During the season 2000/2001, he works with the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle, he starts a short tour with the Wiener Philharmoniker and conducts Verdi’s Requiem amongst other cities, in Verona and Rome on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Verdi’s death. The same year he returns with a triumphant success at La Scala in Milan, where he conducts a new production of Turandot.
In 2002, he starts an important collaboration with the Staatskapelle Dresden.
George Prêtre remains a privileged conductor of the major orchestras with whom he tours extensively throughout the world, Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony Vienna and Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre de l’Opera National de Paris, European Youth Orchestra, etc..). He often conducts major orchestras in Italy: La Scala of Milan, Rome Santa Cecilia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, RAI Turin and San Carlo in Naples.
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, George Prêtre is one of the few French artists to have won the highest awards in France and abroad.
He was the first French chef invited to conduct the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic on January 1st 2008.
He is an Honorary Member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Philharmonic Orchestra of La Scala di Milano.