The Metropolitan Opera announced June 2 that acclaimed conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the company’s new music director.
The position has previously been held by only two artists in the company’s 133-year history—James Levine, who, after 40 years in the position, stepped down to become the company’s first music director emeritus; and Rafael Kubelik, who held the title briefly in the company’s 1973-74 season.
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.
As music director, Nézet-Séguin will be “responsible for the overall musical quality of the Met. He will have artistic authority over the companys orchestra, chorus, and music staff, and will work in tandem with Met general manager Peter Gelb to oversee the planning and casting of each Met season, including repertoire choices, new productions (including the selection of creative teams), revivals, and commissions,” according to press notes.
Nézet-Séguin will conduct five different operas each season he is music director and concerts with the Met Orchestra. In each of the seasons in which he is music director designate, Nézet-Séguin will conduct two operas. Next season at the Met, he will conduct his first Wagner opera with the company, a revival of Der Fliegende Holländer.
“Becoming the music director of the Metropolitan Opera is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me,” said Nézet-Séguin in a statement. “I am truly honored and humbled by the opportunity to succeed the legendary James Levine and to work with the extraordinary orchestra, chorus, and staff of what I believe is the greatest opera company in the world. I will make it my mission to passionately preserve the highest artistic standards while imagining a new, bright future for our art form.”
“Yannick was the clear choice of the Company,” added Gelb. “He is the right artist at the right time to lead us forward into a new and what I believe will be a glorious chapter in the history of the Met.”
“The Metropolitan Opera has been the great artistic love of my life, and it has been tremendously rewarding to see the company develop and improve over the past 45 years,” said Levine. “I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Yannick on taking the musical reins, and I look forward to seeing the good work continue under his watch.”
Nézet-Séguin made his Met debut in the 2009-10 season, conducting a new production of Bizet’s Carmen. He has returned in every subsequent season. His operatic career was launched when he was appointed chorus master and assistant conductor of the Montreal Opera at age 23. Since then, he has conducted a wide breadth of repertoire at a number of the leading companies, including the Vienna State Opera; the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; La Scala; Dutch National Opera; and the Salzburg Festival, in addition to the Met. He is also a frequent guest conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Since 2012 Nézet-Séguin has been music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which announced that he has extended his contract with them through 2025-26. Given the close proximity of New York and Philadelphia, Nézet-Séguin will be able to 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.