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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The True North Strong and Free

The Metropolitan Opera has its new music director.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

A savior comes from out the skies: Yannick Néser-Séguinn takes over at the Met.
Canadian superhero "Guardian" copyright 1982 by Marvel Comics. I
mage from Alpha Flight Vol. 1 No. 26. Art by John Byrne.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the next music director of the Met.

Let the revels begin, let the fires be started. The Metropolitan Opera announced yesterday that Canadian conductor Yannick  Nézet-Séguin will be the company’s next music director, replacing James Levine. Mr. Levine, who held that position for forty years, resigned earlier this year for health reasons.

Mr. Nézet-Séguin, who will assume his duties in 2020, burst in the American music  scene with the Philadelphia Orchestra, leading that venerable ensemble out of an artistic morass and a bankruptcy crisis. In that city he has shown himself adept in both symphonic and operatic repertory.nHe led led the orchestra in a thrilling production of Salome and injecting fresh energy into a stodgy environment. 

He conducted his first show at the Met in 2009, a production of Carmen that drew (justified) raves. Since then he has been the go-to guy for operas like Don Carlo and Faust, conducting insightful readings even if their accompanying productions were otherwise shaky.

However, like old Faust’s bargain with the devil, there is a catch. In addition to his duties on Broad Street, Mr. Nezet-Seguin is currently committed to leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic until 2020. New York will have to wait until 2017-18 for the conductor to take over his position on an acting basis. In this courtship period, he will only lead two operas per season.

In the interim, the Met still has Mr. Levine. In the newly created post of Music Director Emeritus, he will continue to conduct repertory pieces and fine-tune the orchestra, which went from competent to extraordinary during his long tenure. He has relenquished some of his duties, including next season’s new Der Rosenkavalier and his beloved Carnegie Hall concerts. 

As the Met limps toward the end of this decade, there is no escaping the fact that the health issues that have plagued Mr. Levine will continue to get worse.  The recent Carnegie concerts showed a conductor struggling with his Parkinson's, a degenerative condition that had already manifested in tremors in his vital left hand. In a time when Met subscriptions are shrinking and repertory classics play to a half-empty house, Mr. Nézet-Séguin’s arrival cannot come fast enough.

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