Photo by Wiki commons: Nicholas Eastop - Scenkonstmuseet
If Nézet-Séguin doesn’t update his concept of great singing, where does that leave us?
I recently watched a YouTube video from a channel entitled *This is Opera*. The video demonstrated just how much Yannick Nézet-Séguin understands the human voice.
If you watch the masterclasses which Nézet-Séguin held at Juilliard, you can make your own conclusion. However, I’m going to say that the new music director of The Metropolitan Opera knows that humans have to ability to sing. Beyond that, I’m not sure he’s up to snuff for a position of such importance.
I’m only writing an article about it because the This is Opera video is no longer on YouTube. I reached out to This is Opera for a statement. The response explained that they are re-editing the video in order to “use more careful language that won’t get us into legal trouble...if our language is too strong we might be sued for defamation.”
I’m not worried about conspiracy theories but I am worried about the future of opera as an artform.
We already have ridiculous productions with sets, costumes, and direction which mocks the very ideals upon which the opera was based. Now we have a musical director, of the greatest opera company in the world, who has no idea what operatic singing is.
My great hope is that a public shaming of the Metropolitan Opera will force them back toward the traditions which made it a great company. You see, the tradition which made the Met a great company was the tradition of great singers. If Nézet-Séguin doesn’t update his concept of great singing, where does that leave us — the fans of the Met?
I’ve plans to attend Der Rosenkavalier at the Met in December but I had to double check who the conductor is. It’s Sir Simon Rattle, a man with extremely limited operatic experience. He recorded both Porgy and Bess and Carmen while at the Berlin Philharmonic but those were concert versions with limited or no staging.
There is a pattern here for the Met. Nézet-Séguin has limited opera experience, Simon Rattle has conducted at the highest levels in the concert hall but is not a conductor of opera, and then there is Gustavo Dudamel who made his operatic debut at the Met last year in Verdi’s Otello.
What gives? None of these conductors has opera in his blood. They are all accomplished conductors, but are they men of the theater?
For all his immense flaws, James Levine was primarily a conductor of opera who dabbled in the concert hall. Now we have the Met doing the exact opposite. Nézet-Séguin is primarily a concert hall conductor who dabbles in opera but he’s the music director of, I’ll say it again, the greatest opera company in the world.
Maybe the Met thinks these “big-name” conductors will bring the funding necessary to sustain it. That could be true. In the meantime, someone should probably focus on the singing.