Like her mentor Leonard Bernstein
, she was asked at the last minute to replace the scheduled conductor of the New York Philharmonic
, in her case Kurt Masur
. Performing without a rehearsal and from memory, she won unanimous acclaim and was immediately invited back for further performances. One of them was at Central Park before an audience estimated at 100,000. Bernstein
invited her to conduct the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
at the first Schleswig-Holstein Festival. When she made her debut with the Israel Symphony Orchestra, conducting Stravinsky
's The Rite of Spring, the event was televised by the BBC and broadcast live throughout Europe.
She was appointed Resident Conductor of the Houston Symphony
, serving as such in 1988-1991. In that capacity she conducted the orchestra at the 1989 Inauguration of President George H. W. Bush. She was named a Musical America "Young Artist of the Year," was invited to debut in Carnegie Hall during the historic concert venue's 100th Anniversary Celebration, and has guest conducted many important orchestras and chamber orchestras in four continents.
Ben-Dor became the Music Director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. (Annapolis is a small city near Washington, D.C. that is the capital of the State of Maryland and home of the U.S. Naval Academy.) Her next appointment was as Music Director of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra in Boston, followed by her 1994 engagement as Music Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra
. These appointments overlapped. She gave up the Annapolis position after six years, and stepped down from Boston after seven. He contract with the Santa Barbara Symphony
ended in 2006. Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times called Ben-Dor "a star on the rise" and concluded that there was "surely no holding back a conductor with so ferocious a talent."
Gisèle Ben-Dor is married to engineer Eli Ben-Dor and is a permanent resident of the United States. They have two sons and live near the U.S. east coast.