The Québécois Yannick Nézet-Séguin is likely one of the hottest cooks on the planet. Appointed musical director of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2018, he has additionally directed the Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal, his hometown, for greater than 20 years and has simply been named its chief for all times. He’s additionally discovered on the head of the Philadelphia Orchestra which he has directed since 2012, that of Rotterdam of which he’s the honorary conductor, and different formations with which he collaborates because the European Chamber Orchestra.
Interview carried out by Jean-Baptiste Urbain
Jean-Baptiste Urbain: Most of the conductors direct a number of orchestras. For you, was it not sufficient to be the director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York?
Yannick Nézet-Séguin : It’s a career which is based on a precept of change. In my view, it’s wholesome that every establishment has a musical director who stays for a number of weeks, a number of months alongside an ensemble. Likewise, it’s good that the musicians of every establishment, every orchestra or opera home work with different conductors. And conversely, every conductor should have the ability to talk with totally different teams of musicians. It’s a circulation of concepts, inspirations, requests, which enriches everybody and nourishes the music that we make. Geographically, the three establishments for which I’m accountable will not be too removed from one another. I’m generally known as “the maestro of the Northeast Hall” as a result of Montreal, New York and Philadelphia kind an arc. Sadly, that signifies that I journey much less in Europe … However there is no such thing as a query of selecting between America or Europe. It was a option to focus geographically on an amazing opera home, an amazing historic orchestra and an equally nice orchestra that’s newer, youthful.
So it's not hyperactivity, bulimia, or worry of vacancy main these three orchestras?
No, I’m not hyperactive or bulimic and I’m particularly not afraid of the vacuum, as a result of after I empty, imagine me, I actually do! Relatively, it’s a deep love of music and musicians. If I carry plenty of power to what I do, I get simply as a lot. This career brings me a lot! In actual fact, many people musicians are very lively. When you ask the Met musicians or the Philadelphia Orchestra how they spend their time between a rehearsal within the morning and a live performance within the night, they’ll say that they train, they do chamber music, up to date music … It’s within the nature of the musician to wish to dedicate as many hours as attainable to music.
The place do you reside now, in Montreal or New York?
The one reply is: the place do my cats dwell? They dwell in Montreal. I'm nonetheless a Canadian citizen, that's the place I spend most of my time. However for work, proper now, I'm largely in Philadelphia. The dimensions will change a bit subsequent yr, I shall be extra in New York. However that doesn’t forestall me from coming again to Montreal for the weekends, the weeks when I’m free, and for all my tasks with the Metropolitan Orchestra. So I’ve three homes, in three cities! However the place my three cats dwell is my fundamental dwelling! They dwell very properly when I’m not there however we’re all the time very blissful to fulfill once more.
Do you’re feeling extra Anglo-Saxon than Francophone right this moment?
While you're Montrealer, you prefer to really feel precisely in between, each French and North American. I’ll most likely all the time really feel Quebecois first, even when I work lots in the USA. The one downside with the language is once we give interviews … I lose my French a little bit as a result of more often than not, they’re in English. Typically my mind self-translates from English to French! This additionally occurs to me throughout rehearsals. After I discover the Orchester Métropolitain in Montreal, I are likely to wish to converse English as a result of with different orchestras, I usually repeat in English. However the French language stays crucial for Quebecers, it’s with it that I used to be raised, which is why it occupies a big place in my life.
“From the tip of my adolescence to the early twenties, I got here to the present with the dream of discovering myself someday within the pit. However to make your goals come true, you must work”
For over a yr now, you've been in workplace on the Metropolitan Opera in New York. What’s your first reminiscence as a spectator on the Met?
It’s TheBohemia, an ideal reminiscence as a result of it was a manufacturing of Zeffirelli which is – if I dare say – a vacationer attraction, however in the perfect sense of the phrase. It’s an ageless manufacturing, which is extraordinary, spectacular, which is gorgeous, which speaks, which says every part. Anybody coming to the Met for the primary time would discover this present unforgettable. I’ve usually come to New York earlier than to go to the Opera and hear, be taught the repertoire, no matter Aida, Nabucco, Rigoletto, Susannah of Carlisle Floyd that we don't actually play anymore, or Parsifal, Pelleas… From the tip of my adolescence to the early twenties, I got here to the present with the dream of discovering myself someday within the pit. However to make your goals come true, you must work.
The primary time you carried out the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra was inCarmen, simply ten years in the past, in January 2010. ThisCarmenBizet, would you run it the identical method right this moment?
There are issues I’ll do in another way, for certain. However I don't deny the best way I led it on the time. I arrived with the will to offer this music all of the love I might do, with this want to inject most power into the rating and its performers. It’s a very stunning reminiscence for me. I additionally wished to attempt to get away from the routine as a lot as attainable. Routine doesn’t combine properly with music. Opera productions and scores that come up fairly often could be harmful. Right here, the orchestra has an amazing sense of ethics. I by no means get the sensation that persons are at the back of their seats, a bit jaded.
How has your relationship with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra developed in ten years?
This can be the perfect evolution: get to know one another slowly, in small doses, a few times a yr, after which actually work collectively. So there is no such thing as a shock impact, which is superb. Final yr, the orchestra and I left with plenty of baggage, which allowed us to go on to one thing deeper. The work of a musical director with an orchestra is completed over time, it’s by no means completed. It’s nice to really feel that I’m laying a brand new basis for the long run, and I hope for a few years to come back.
What’s the specificity of this orchestra? I watched you in rehearsal and observed that within the pit, the musicians are quite younger …
Completely! On the one hand there are the oldest, those that arrived a little bit over ten years in the past. It's an amazing opera orchestra, right here it's the perfect! Admittedly I’m not impartial, however nonetheless, I imagine it. It’s an orchestra which is all the time on the most of its focus, which is important to the opera. It is usually an orchestra that listens. I rapidly understood that if my baton was not fairly with the singers, the orchestra would observe them greater than I did, and they’re doing properly. Now I’ve to domesticate this with the youngest. There are various nice new musicians within the Orchestra. They solely ask to be guided in an aesthetic or a method of conceiving music that differs from the symphonic, for a lot of causes. To begin with, it requires humility as a result of on the Opera, the orchestra is sort of all the time in an accompaniment function. The singers are proper and we now have to adapt to what we hear. This artwork of listening isn’t passive however lively, it's like large-scale chamber music. It’s additionally a query of sound magnificence, however by no means for an finish in itself. Music should all the time be conceived in relation to historical past. For instance, a big diminuendo can symbolize somebody who’s falling asleep or one thing that’s passing out, transferring away. I’ve to develop a extra colourful vocabulary based mostly on the dramatic content material of a piece. This makes the taking part in of the orchestra completely distinctive. We are able to ask musicians for extra character, extra articulation or very technical issues, however generally a visible, poetic or dramatic reference will give music the fitting character.
“The musical director is somebody who’s central to the lifetime of the Opera”
What precisely is a musical director? Is it only a conductor or are there different features? What’s your function in voice distribution, casting, the selection of singers, the selection of operas offered this yr …?
It’s suddenly. There’s additionally the hyperlink with the choir, there are only a few in Wozzeck however we labored in depth with him in Turandot of Puccini. What is known as the music employees, the musical workforce, is below my duty: the music leaders, the vocal coaches, the pianists, the blowers, the assistant-chiefs … Total the musical director is somebody who’s on the middle of the lifetime of the 'Opera. I see myself as a communication agent who tries to facilitate the change between all its departments. What makes opera what it’s is when all of it comes collectively to go hand in hand. In a giant home just like the Met, it is extremely vital to have the sensation that we’re an amazing workforce and I really feel that my function is to facilitate this sense.
On the selection of works for the approaching seasons, there are extra hardly ever performed operas, extra historical, baroque music … I think about you’ve got your say?
Completely, these are largely discussions between Peter gelb, the director, and I. We then have group conferences no less than as soon as every week for the selection of distributions. I don't essentially have management over all the roles, however typically phrases. We attempt to develop trajectories with the singers who’re a part of the home. We wish there to be an evolution from yr to yr. for instance Peter mattei has been singing on the Met for years, he's one in every of our best artists. It is very important have the ability to let him play roles that he is aware of but in addition that he can have role-plays like this Wozzeck, and have the liberty to do it on the very uncovered stage of the Met. He’s right here with the household, we all know him, he is aware of the administrators, the music leaders, so there’s a security zone in order that the artist may give the general public one thing new. And sure, we’re programming extra baroque operas, extra up to date operas but in addition rarer works. What’s fascinating is that we dwell lots sooner or later. For instance, this week we had discussions for the 2023-2024 season. And total, we now have already decided the 2024-25 season. We additionally know some firsts that we are going to do in 2026-27 … it's loopy, however I find it irresistible!
Will there all the time be as many French operas?
We are going to even attempt to give extra! France has many great singers. Proper now we're speaking lots about Benjamin Bernheim who’s going to come back and sing right here. I’ve an amazing love for the French repertoire. Final yr, I directed flagship works comparable to Carmelite Dialogues, Pelleas and Mélisande, and this yr there shall be Werther (Editor's notice with Piotr Beczala within the title function and Joyce DiDonato in Charlotte's). It’s one thing that may come again yr after yr.
Till January 22, you directWozzeckfrom Berg. The illustration of January 11 shall be broadcast in cinemas all through France and on France Musique. Opera within the cinema, what does that change for you?
This is likely one of the largest issues that has occurred to the Met previously twenty years. Since I arrived ten years in the past with this Carmen, I skilled an evolution in the home. At first, it was very intimidating for everybody. There was stress, we mentioned to ourselves: “it will likely be dwell in HD, we must do it in another way, focus shall be tougher, and so forth.” The singers started to play quite for the cameras, had been much less related with the remainder of the room or with the pit. At this time, all this has turn into extra pure and infrequently, the perfect illustration is that which is broadcast. It’s stunning to say that we share our artwork with a whole bunch of hundreds of individuals around the globe and that in additional than 70 nations, there’s a unity, that every one these individuals dwell the identical emotion with the singers. It's plenty of stress, however it's additionally the enjoyment of sharing.
Do you assume it's daring to doWozzeckOn the movie show ?
On this account, every part is daring! In Wozzeck, we now have an amazing distribution with nice singer-actors: Elza van den Heever or Peter mattei for instance … The cinema will look for lots of particulars which are misplaced in a big room. The 2 experiences are very totally different. In our cinema program, I additionally admire having interviews throughout breaks, then earlier than and after the efficiency. In Wozzeck there aren’t any breaks, however there’s nonetheless a pre and a post-program the place the general public can have entry to our backstage, to the “kitchen”.
On thisWozzeckdirected by William Kentridgethere are projections, shadow puppets, animation like charcoal … Do you’ve got time to benefit from the present?
Final week once we had been rehearsing with piano on stage, I mentioned to William Kentridge “I retailer all the photographs I can as a result of I shall be busy with the orchestra afterwards!” However lastly, I’m sufficiently away from this partition to have the ability to retailer the photographs. They arrive a little bit extra like a flash, to encourage me. Typically I want I might sit, watch, hear and let myself be invaded by this excellent world. After we are operating a manufacturing as a chef, we now have no world imaginative and prescient, we’re too shut and our mind is simply too busy maintaining every part afloat. However there are nonetheless sure photographs that I’ll feed on to encourage me.
What appeals to you a lot on this rating ofWozzeck? I learn that you simply evaluate it to theArdour in keeping with St. Matthewby Jean-Sébastien Bach: you say that it’s the most advanced rating of the 20th century …
For me it’s an absolute masterpiece, every notice and much more! There’s the formal masterpiece, therefore the comparability with Bach. We see a transparent homage, all of the Baroque varieties are discovered there, from the sequence of dances (sarabande, gavotte), to the variations, very pricey to the Baroque period, but in addition to fugues. Even individuals unfamiliar with music, however who love baroque music, can acknowledge these totally different varieties. Though very tortured in its topic, Wozzeck is to begin with a piece the place the music is extraordinarily touching when it begins to sing, to cry. There are moments of nice chaos, of violence, however there are these moments of very human ache, particularly in orchestral interludes, which reveal the feelings that the characters can not specific as a result of they’re too oppressed. The orchestra provides voice to their feelings. This is the reason I feel that it’s a good work, of an ideal period, roughly 1:30. We couldn’t add one other minute as a result of it’s a very intense work. Isn't this exactly what artwork can carry us, this fixed depth?
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, while you arrived on the Met you declared that you simply had achieved the dream of your life. Does this dream proceed? Has it ever disenchanted you?
On a regular basis I take into account myself the luckiest man on the earth. I’m fortunate to have all these musicians and singers who give their expertise, their power to the general public. On the identical time, it permits me and asks me to offer the perfect of myself. It’s removed from simple or stress-free, there’s plenty of stress, however it’s a happiness, there is no such thing as a remorse.
Ought to we shake this home which is usually mentioned to be a little bit conservative?
It’s sure that it should be shaken, however with out violence. We should above all take heed to all of the expertise, the thousand and some individuals who work on this home, who’ve one thing to say, to carry with all their dedication to this artwork. After they really feel heard, we are able to impress the troops and attempt to make even, much more than a thousand, we really feel like in a single and the identical household, within the service of the opera.
This season there arePorgy and Bessby Gershwin, who had not been represented for a really very long time,Akhnatenby Philip Glass … are these works that you simply wish to work on, discover, and maybe direct?
I’ll direct Porgy in a couple of years, I fell in love with the manufacturing!
It will likely be on February 1st on the cinema in France …
It's an amazing season, with nice success, with a Porgy and Bess which is so full that we had been in a position so as to add representations. This had not been seen within the trendy Met period. And Akhnaten of Philip Glass which has been so widespread … All of this confirms what we now have been considering for a very long time: as a substitute of being supposedly conservative, our public is asking for extra information, and that’s what we are going to give them. After all, we are going to all the time preserve the massive ones Verdi and Puccini, however we additionally want works that replicate our time and our actuality.
It's in venture!
After 20 years on the helm of the Orchester Métropolitain de Montréal, you are actually the musical director for all times. Does that scare you?
It’s a distinctive emotion. I by no means thought it will occur in my life, however on the identical time it’s the logic of the connection I’ve with these musicians. Nothing can substitute old flame … It isn’t essentially that it all the time lasts, however generally it does. There’s a lot repertoire that I found with them and which was additionally a primary time for the orchestra… it's an irreplaceable relationship. As well as, asking myself each three, 4 or 5 years till when I’ll keep is insecure. I like Montreal, I’m dedicated to my metropolis so turning into a music director for lifetime of the Metropolitan has turn into logical. A bit like the remainder: we should neglect the worry and take this stunning mark of confidence that the orchestra provides me and that I supply to the orchestra.
And will you be tempted by the French journey, a day when French orchestras are far too unruly for a North American conductor such as you?
I had excellent relations with French orchestras like that of Toulouse, the Nationwide Orchestra of France … Clearly, I don’t conduct a French orchestra for the straightforward cause that I do nearly nothing as visitor conductor , it's so restricted. In 10 years, when I’ve finished a few years with Philadelphia and with the Met, I shall be 54 years previous! At this age we’re nonetheless thought of a really younger chef. So I’ll nonetheless have time to have a maybe extra European interval.
To complete, the yr 2019 was very wealthy for you in discs: there have been the Rachmaninov 2nd quantity with Daniil Trifonov and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mozart with theMagic flute, there was additionally a Sibelius with the Orchester Métropolitain de Montréal and a Verdi recital with this orchestra … Will 2020 be such a busy yr?
Very quickly there would be the publication at Deutsche Grammophon of the Eighth of Mahler, which shall be revealed in a couple of weeks in January. It makes me very proud, very blissful, it’s a dwell recording of three years in the past for the hundred years of the premiere of the work which had been given by the Philadelphia Orchestra. We may also report the 9 symphonies of Beethoven with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe that we are going to play on the Philharmonie in April, identical to our Schumann with the European Chamber Orchestra and the Mendelssohn. We’re additionally persevering with to publish Sibelius with the Metropolitan, and I simply performed the Winterreise with Joyce DiDonato which was recorded at Carnegie Corridor.
You will have the musical planet at your ft. For 2020, what can we want you?
Well being, in order that we are able to all the time proceed to serve music and musicians. I additionally want peace to our planet, that we perceive how a lot we look after it and I want that an increasing number of individuals reap the benefits of all that music can carry to make our world higher.
Wozzeckby Alban Berg directed by William Kentridge and directed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, on the Met till January 22, 2020
Broadcast dwell in 70 Pathé cinemas and on France Musique on January 11, 2020