Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Seemingly-Inevitable Comes to Pass

Here's the press release from the Metropolitan Opera confirming what has been the rumor for the last....year? two? about their next Music Director: it will, indeed, be Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

I have not heard him conduct live or on record or on a Met broadcast, so I have no personal opinions about his conducting. I do, however, have an opinion about these points from the Met press release:
In the Met’s 2017-18 season, Nézet-Séguin will assume the interim title of Music Director Designate. He will become Music Director in the 2020-21 season, the first season in which he is available to take over the full responsibilities of the position. However, he will immediately become involved in the company’s artistic planning, which happens many years in advance.
[several paragraphs later]
Since 2012, Nézet-Séguin has been Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which announced today that he has extended his contract with them through 2025-26. (A separate press release on that announcement is available.) Given the close proximity of New York and Philadelphia, Nézet-Séguin will be able to easily commute between his two posts, and the Met and the Philadelphia Orchestra will also be exploring the possibilities for artistic collaboration between the two institutions.
He is also the Music Director of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain and of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, a position he will resign at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.
So...it will be four years before YNS can take up his full responsibilities; he will remain MD of the Philadelphia Orchestra (an important job at an important orchestra that, like the Met, has some big problems), and he will retain his longterm job at the Orchestre Métropolitain. 

This worked out so well when James Levine was at the Met and the Boston Symphony. Yes, YNS is 30 years younger and a lot healthier than Levine. Still. How many of these jobs can a music director do, and do well? Why don't organizations realize that there's enough conducting talent in the world to limit the talented to one job each?


La Cieca said...

"Why don't organizations realize that there's enough conducting talent in the world to limit the talented to one job each?"

Maybe because you are defining "talent" in a different way from how the organizations do. A really superb musical director curates repertoire, builds the orchestra talent and serves as the public face of the organization. Plus one hopes his name on the poster sells tickets and all of that is above and beyond rehearsing and conducting.

Whom do you think would do a significantly better job for the Met at this complicated set of tasks?

Lisa Hirsch said...

No, I'm thinking of all of those things. And I'm not going to bite at your "significantly better," but provide a name or two of conductors who could do as well as YNS. I would of course be very interested in hearing how YNS's stints at Montreal, Rotterdam, and Philly have met the criteria you state, beyond his obvious excellent as a conductor and his ability to front the organization better than Levine has.

Alternative candidates:

- James Conlon; proven greatness as a conductor in a wide range of repertory, proven success at LA Opera
- Mark Elder; proven greatness as a conductor, proven administrative ability at the Halle
- Vladimir Jurowski; proven excellence as a conductor, proven administrative ability at a couple of British organizations

I'm not even mentioning the man who wasn't there because he has zip, zero interest in this job, but who has an impressive record in everything you state. (No, I have no evidence that the above are interested either.)

I'm not, you know. arguing against this appointment, except for fact that YNS will not be giving the Met 100% of his attention. YNS at 100% would be even better than YNS at 50%.

Evan Tucker said...

I don't think YNS is a prudent appointment either, but ftr, Conlon and Elder are barely younger than Levine and could be no more than interim appointments (though there would have been worse ideas...), same I suppose would go for Runnicles. Meanwhile Vladimir Jurowski already is the music director of orchestras in Moscow, London, and Berlin. It's like he's on a mission to become director of the second-rank orchestra in every major world capital... maybe if the City Opera came back...

My own choice would have been Manfred Honeck. To my knowledge, he's never conducted the Met, but he has extensive operatic experience, he's clearly willing to get his hands dirty with fundraising and knows what it's like to keep a great but struggling organization afloat. The Pittsburgh Symphony is a great orchestra that he's made even better, but Pittsburgh can never give him the eminence he deserves.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Conlon is 67, Elder 69, and either of them could be around for another 10-12 years, well beyond "intermim" status. Runnicles is maybe 62 and could easily be around another 15 or longer, but the chances of him leaving DOB (except maybe for the Met!) seem to me to be slim.

I did not know Jurowski was so busy or in that way!

I have never heard Honeck and have no opinion on him or his suitability for the Met.

Evan Tucker said...

I would never doubt Conlon or Elder's ability to rise the occasion, but running the Met in your 70's would be tough for anybody. I feel particularly bad for Conlon. Elder's at least found a wonderful situation in Manchester, but Conlon seems as though he's been waiting for the chance to take over from Levine for 30 years. He probably could, had he wanted to, his pick of the second rank American orchestras at any point during that period, but he turned them all down. I certainly remember that during the post-Slatkin search in DC that eventually settled on Eschenbach, Conlon was the hands-on favorite for the job.

As for Honeck, I realize that nothing can approximate hearing an artist live, but if you feel like judging his opera chops, check out this unfortunately cut up Don Giovanni. Star-studded cast in a semi-staged version, but Honeck gets some great Mozart out of these Verbier students: