Magazine article Opera Canada

The Pit and the Podium: Richard Turp Asks Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin to Explain His Art and His Music

Magazine article Opera Canada

The Pit and the Podium: Richard Turp Asks Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin to Explain His Art and His Music

Article excerpt

IT IS DIFFICULT TO KNOW HOW TO BEGIN TALKING ABOUT THE 30-YEAR-OLD conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin. It is all too easy to view him as an enfant prodigue, a man whose apparent meteoric rise to prominence is symbolic of our seemingly insatiable need for instant celebrities. To see him this way may be tempting, but it would do the man and the artist a terrible injustice.

It's tempting because the facts are compelling. A graduate of the Conservatoire de musique in Montreal, he formed his own choral group and period chamber ensemble, La Chapelle de Montreal, in his teens. His apprenticeship also included several summers working with a legendary conductor, Carlo Maria Giulini. In June 1998, when barely 23, he accepted Bernard Uzan's invitation to become chorusmaster and assistant conductor for L'Opera de Montreal. Less than two years later, he was named Artistic Director of L'Orchestre Metropolitain du Grand Montreal, a position he still holds today. The rest of Canada quickly caught on. He was named chief guest conductor of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in 2003, and he has already conducted every major symphony orchestra in Canada. Operatically, he has led a half dozen productions for L'Opera de Montreal, including memorable performances of Pelleas et Melisande, L'incoronazione di Poppea and La boheme, and has appeared with l'Opera de Quebec and Opera Ontario.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Internationally, his career has almost outstripped his Canadian achievements. He has directed major orchestras throughout Europe, the United States, Japan and Australia, as well as conducting several opera productions in the U.S. He has won a host of awards--including the Conseil quebecois de la musique's 1999 Prix Opus for Discovery of the Year and the Public's Choice Award, and the Canada Council's 2000 Virginia-Parker Award--and hisrecordings with l'Orchestre Metropolitain and also as a piano accompanist have won widespread praise.

Nezet-Seguin is, however, so much more than a collection of facts that cannot explain his galvanizing, charismatic presence in the opera pit and on the orchestra stage. Though small of stature and youthful, he not only commands respect and admiration, but immense affection. His interpretations, mercifully, do not always garner universal acclaim, but not for any lack of coherence or conviction. His readings may challenge accepted musical dogma and confront convention, but not for egotistical reasons. One quickly realizes that, for Nezet-Seguin, personal commitment and professional integrity are synonymous.

If you ask him to explain his remarkable progression, the self-effacing conductor seems genuinely stunned. "I'm surprised each day by what I've done and am continuing to do. I think I'm incredibly fortunate to live a dream I've harbored since the age of 10, to be an artist who is able to practise his art. I'm also lucky that many people have believed in me, and I continue to be grateful to all those who constantly support and encourage me, most notably my parents. I think that, though my career has progressed rapidly, it has done so in a fairly consistent fashion. But ironically, I have never thought of my life in terms of what is good for my career. I've always tried to evolve as an artist and person by setting myself challenges and by being responsible to the composers whose works I perform, to my musicians, the public and, above all, to myself.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"That responsibility, for example, includes the realization that being named artistic director of an orchestra or conducting a major operatic production doesn't mean you've 'arrived.' It's only the beginning, it's your opportunity--no, your duty--to draw up more challenges and continue to evolve."

Among those new challenges are debuts with Vancouver Opera this season, conducting Gounod's Faust, and with the Canadian Opera Company next year, conducting the same work. Nezet-Seguin doesn't believe he was asked to conduct the work merely because he is a francophone Canadian. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.