domingo, 5 de junio de 2016


Yannick Nézet-Séguin CreditJonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera

For the first time in four decades, the Metropolitan Opera has a new music director. The company announced on Thursday that it was passing the baton long held by James Levine to Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, known for vital, visceral music making.
The generational shift to Mr. Nézet-Séguin, 41, from Mr. Levine, 72, who stepped down last month after years of uncertainty and cancellations because of health problems, comes at a challenging time for the Met, the nation’s largest performing arts institution — and for opera.
While the company had a number of artistic successes this season and enjoys a broad global reputation thanks to its high-definition cinema simulcasts, it is facing financial hurdles that have forced it to make cuts in its $300 million budget and wrest concessions from its union workers. This season it filled only 72 percent of its seats, on average.
The energetic, media-savvy Mr. Nézet-Séguin is meant as a shot in the arm for an organization struggling at the box office and whose musical leadership has been in flux. As Mr. Levine has ailed in recent years, Peter Gelb, who had already assumed more artistic control when he became the Met’s general manager, took on an even greater role in choosing repertoire and artists.
But to land the Montreal-born Mr. Nézet-Séguin, one of the most sought-after conductors in the world, the company had to agree to a long engagement period. Because his schedule is booked for several years, he will not officially take up the Met post until the 2020-21 season, leaving the company without a full-time music director in the meantime.
And Mr. Nézet-Séguin (his full name is pronounced yah-NEEK nay-ZAY say-GHEN) plans to divide his duties between the Met and another storied American institution, the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he has led since 2012. He announced on Thursday that he had extended his contract as music director there through the 2025-26 season.
“I’m very, very lucky, of course — maybe the luckiest music director — to be able to have what I believe to be the two greatest, arguably, organizations in the United States, symphonically and operatically: the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Met,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said in a telephone interview from Japan, where he was on tour with the Philadelphians.

He recorded a video greeting to send the Met musicians on Thursday morning, and in a video chat that the company arranged with Mr. Nézet-Séguin, David Chan, the orchestra’s concertmaster, brought up the elephant in the room.
“As you know, we are at an important juncture in classical music,” Mr. Chan said, addressing his new music director. “There is a trend toward replacing honored traditions while failing to present any meaningful innovation. So today it’s more critical than ever to offer our audiences something new while preserving the artistic priorities at the heart of our great art form.”
When Mr. Levine announced this spring that he was retiring to become music director emeritus, several company members expressed concernat the thought of a long transition. Mr. Nézet-Séguin said that he planned to take an active role as the steward of the company’s musical affairs almost immediately.
Mr. Nézet-Séguin leading the overture to Dvorak’s “Rusalka” in 2014.
But his podium appearances will be limited over the next few years: Beginning in the 2017-18 season, when he takes on the title of music director designate, he will conduct two operas a season; in 2020-21, when he officially becomes music director, he will conduct five. His initial contract will then run for five years, with options for multiple renewals. The Met declined to say how much he would be paid.
“It’s true that in the pit I won’t be more present, which doesn’t mean that I will be out of touch — rather the contrary,” he said, adding that he planned to start discussions with the musicians right away. “I hope it won’t feel like there’s a wait, or there’s a void.”
Long waits (and simultaneous posts) are not unusual in the classical music world, where major organizations and top talents typically plan their schedules four or five years in advance. Mr. Gelb said that the Met was lucky to get the conductor by 2020.
Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who has led a number of critically praised productions at the Met since making his house debut in 2009 with a new production of Bizet’s “Carmen,” will tackle Wagner there for the first time next season with a revival of “Der Fliegende Holländer.” In the coming seasons, he is scheduled to conduct operas by composers including Wagner, Strauss, Puccini, Poulenc and Verdi — including a new production of “La Traviata” in 2018-19.
Mr. Nézet-Séguin, a powerfully built man who stands 5-foot-5, is very likely the first Met conductor with a turtle tattoo on his shoulder. (Mr. Gelb said that they had not inspected any other conductors.) Born the youngest of three children in 1975, he took piano lessons and joined a choir as a child, deciding at a young age that he wanted to conduct. He was 16 when he attended his first opera at the Met: Puccini’s “La Bohème.”
“Somewhere, somehow, in one corner of my brain and my heart there was the thought that maybe one day, one day,” he said. “So this is the fulfillment of this dream.”
His path to the Met began in 2000 with his first major appointment, leading the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal. He plans to step down from another post, the music directorship of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, after the 2017-18 season, but will remain involved with his Canadian orchestra. Among the words of congratulations on Thursday was a tweet from Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who called the Met position “a tremendous achievement.”
Mr. Nézet-Séguin said that he and his partner, Pierre Tourville, an assistant principal violist with the Orchestre Métropolitain, divide their time between Montreal and Philadelphia and would look for an apartment in New York. The short train ride from New York to Philadelphia allowed him in the past to conduct a Saturday matinee of “La Traviata” at the Met, followed by an evening performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in Pennsylvania.
The music director role is evolving. It is rare for opera houses to expect the kind of commitment Mr. Levine made to the Met in his early years, when he seemed to conduct nonstop; he has racked up more than 2,500 performances with the company. The Vienna State Opera decided not to hire a new music director to succeed Franz Welser-Möst after he abruptly resigned in 2014.
Mr. Nézet-Séguin said that he considered the Met “the standard-bearer of our art form in the world,” and that he looked forward to conducting a variety of works there, including forgotten masterpieces that he would like to revive and new works, including world premieres.
“It’s not a question of arriving as a leader and wanting to change completely the direction of the ship,” he said of his plans. “It’s more about my own personality coming through.”

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