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Yannick at the Met: Leading and Learning

Credit: Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera, 2017
Yannick Nézet-Séguin rehearsing with the Metropolitan Opera";

Yannick Nézet-Séguin has been entering the Metropolitan Opera through the backstage artists' entrance for years, though now it’s different: He’s now among those who run the place. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns met him there prior to his April to May run of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman.

[Music: Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman]

David Patrick Stearns: He seems so at home. Now in his first season as music director designate of the Metropolitan Opera, Yannick Nézet-Séguin is happily immersed in the working culture—established by predecessor James Levine—that’s about making singing easier and expression freer.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin: A conductor should always be an enabler, someone who puts everyone in confidence, in a sense of trust. It’s difficult for a singer to do that because there are so many variables...

DPS: And so much to consider while steering this operatic behemoth with a $300 million annual budget. Though Nézet-Séguin likes to be liked, he knows he won’t always be the most popular person in the building.

Already this year there were quite a few decisions I had to make that aren't the easiest ones.

YNS: Already this year there were quite a few decisions I had to make that aren’t the easiest ones. But when it’s done properly, we all do it for the sake of this institution and therefore for this art form.

DPS: Even orchestral matters aren’t necessarily familiar territory. In Philadelphia, the orchestra is the main attraction. At the Met, it’s one of several, and requires different interaction.

YNS: I try to observe how the Met orchestra is consistently able to play while listening. It’s the immediacy of knowing. If it’s a forte it doesn’t mean it’s not forte but forte under a singer.

DPS: But being the boss gives him the option to change procedures. When he conducted The Flying Dutchman in 2014 in Vienna, he had all of one rehearsal. So, at the Met, we stand to find out how Nézet-Séguin really thinks Wagner should go.