The Met's Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin on New Operas Versus the Classics | Playbill

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Classic Arts Features The Met's Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin on New Operas Versus the Classics

The longtime conductor on juggling both old and new works in the same Metropolitan Opera season.

A scene from Roméo et Juliette Beth Bergman / Met Opera

After starting his Met season leading the company premieres of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas, Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin now turns his attention to two classics: La Forza del Destino (through March 29) and Roméo et Juliette (through March 30). He spoke with the Met’s Matt Dobkin about Verdi’s epic tale of destiny and Gounod’s soaring Shakespeare adaptation.

The operas you’re conducting this season encapsulate the Met’s dedication to balancing recent and canonical work. How has that mixture informed your musical leadership of the company?
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: 
Having our house infused with so many new works also shines new light on the classics. Last season, for example, doing La Bohème the day after we did The Hours was so enlightening for me. There’s a renewed purpose because we remember more easily that these works used to be new. It drives out the air of routine and encourages us to find fresh interpretations and take more risks.

Mariusz Treliński’s modern-day new staging of La Forza del Destino certainly offers a fresh take on Verdi’s opera.
Yes—I think great directors nowadays are able, without sacrificing the heart of the drama, to bring these stories a little closer to our 21st-century sensibilities and make them feel a bit more real. But this production still embraces the epic, majestic nature of the piece. And of course I admire this opera so much because of the tremendous energy, all the great arias, and especially the amazing choral writing. Our chorus has never sounded better, and I think what they can bring to Forza is unique in the world.

Judit Kutasi and company of La Forza del Destino Karen Almond / Met Opera

With Forza and Roméo et Juliette, you’ll be working with two of the top sopranos of their generation, both entering their peak years: Lise Davidsen and Nadine Sierra.
One of the great joys of my life and one of the great perks of being Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera is that I am able to collaborate on a daily basis with the greatest artists of our time. Lise Davidsen is a generational talent—who just brought down the house in our concert with the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in early February—and so is Nadine Sierra. Getting to do Roméo with her and Benjamin Bernheim, an absolutely stellar tenor, is a dream.

This will be your first time conducting Roméo at the Met, but I know you have a lot of experience with the opera.
It’s a piece that I’ve lived with for a long time. I made my debut at the Salzburg Festival conducting it back in 2008—which by the way is when I first met Peter Gelb and we discussed my Met debut. And a couple years later, I also made my La Scala debut with Roméo. It’s an underestimated opera, and the way Gounod’s music shows the evolution of the love story through the series of exquisite duets is just perfect. But of course, it’s nothing if you don’t have just the very best voices, and that’s exactly what we’re going to have this season. I can’t wait.

Photos: Roméo et Juliette at The Metropolitan Opera

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