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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Way the Big Wheel Spins

A look at possible music directors for the Metropolitan Opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Met faces difficult odds in its quest for a new music director.
Photoshop by the author.
The James Levine era at the Met is ending and the opera house stands poised to announce its next choice in the crucial role of music director. Although this subject has been touched on before it seemed time for Superconductor to take a look at available candidatess to lead the Metropolitan Opera and its orchestra. Considering that the posts of Music Director and Principal Conductor are both open, the Met needs to broaden its horizons and look at some new options on the podium.

Here are some candidates that come to mind. All this is mostly speculation written under the fever of deadline:

Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Our comrades of the Internet at parterre box have all but declared that Yannick will be next Met music director. The music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra is a compelling and engaging opera conductor whose performances of Verdi and Bizet have drawn swooning reviews in New York. Mr. Nézet-Séguin is also in the middle of a flashy DG recording contract and a cycle of the major Mozart operas for that label, which only adds to his cachet.

Jane Glover
Ms. Glover is a British conductor whose expertise in the music of Mozart, Haydn and Gluck makes her an attractive option. She works extensively with Juilliard students bound for the Met and has led engaging performances of Die Zauberflöte in 2013 to good reviews.

Alan Gilbert
It's curious that Mr. Gilbert, on the brink of his last season as music director of the New York Philharmonic is currently without an anchor position or any mention of one. He conducted Don Giovanni at the Met last year and led the 2008 world premiere of John Adams' Doctor Atomic. Like Ms. Glover, the head of the Juilliard conducting program works extensively with young musicians at the conservatory, which has close ties to the opera house.

Gustavo Dudamel
The Venezuelan conductor is an audience favorite, both with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in his native country. Raised in the Venezuelan El Sistema educational program, he has become a fiery conductor of oratorio and symphony. Whether he would accept the challenge of revitalizing the moribund Met remains to be seen.

Susanna Mälkki 
The new chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra is a specialist in contemporary music, which might make her an unlikely fit in the tradition-bound Met. However, she is an insightful conductor and has a strong working relationship with modern composers including current Met favorite Thomas Adès. She will make her Met debut conducting Kaija Saariaho's L'amour de Loin next season. Since she has not yet conducted at the Met, she is the longest shot on this list.

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Rumor has it that Mr. Salonen turned down the New York Philharmonic when offered the post of music director, preferring to dedicate time to composition. However, in last night's review of the Met's new production of Elektra, New York Times reviewer Anthony Tommassini hinted that the Met podium might be a suitable fit for the Finnish conductor. Hey, you never know.

Gianandrea Noseda
The Italian conductor has worked at the Met since a 2002 production of Prokofiev's War and Peace. Since thn the music director of the Teatro Regio di Torino and the new director of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. has accepted some of the toughest conducting assignments at the Met, including Verdi's La Forza del Destino and the rarely performed Borodin opera Prince Igor. Would he be willing to accept a second American post?
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.