Illustration by Andy Friedman
My name is … Yannick Nézet-Séguin, since I was 16. I was born Yannick Séguin, but I decided to legally add my mother’s last name, Nézet, because we were the only family in North America with that name. And my mother is the only child of her family, so I wanted to make a future for that very strange name. People assume I am Egyptian or Hungarian or Turkish, but it is very plainly Celtic French.
My friends call me … Yannick. I was desperate when I was younger to get friends to call me Yan or Nick. But I never got anyone to do it.
I am a … lover of life.
I grew up in … Montréal, in the city and very close to everything — so much so that I never bothered to take driving lessons. I still don’t have a driver’s license. A conductor but not a driver.
My secret junk food obsession is … poutine. But the problem is, I am lactose-intolerant. So when I have those cheese curds and poutine, I assume the consequences.
The thing most people don’t understand about my job … is how much psychology is involved. I have a mysterious job to begin with, but everything has to do with using the right amount of psychology and diplomacy.
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On Sunday, May 25, the Philadelphia Orchestra will be making history, but they won’t be at the Kimmel Center: they’ll be in China, and guess what? You’ll have a chance to be part of the milestone concert.
The Orchestra’s performance from the Shanghai Grand Theatre will mark the first symphonic webcast from China to an international audience. The concert, which takes place at 7:30 PM in China, can be streamed live at 7:30 AM EST via a-Peer Synergy Shanghai Culture and Technology’s newly developed digital platform; listeners must pre-register at www.yunbomedia.com. As an added bonus, those who “attend” this digital concert will have the opportunity to share up to three minutes of the concert via social media, which includes Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.
The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long history with China that stems from President Nixon’s 1973 request to have the ensemble be the first American orchestra to perform in China. They have returned in 1993, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013.
Expect to hear the signature styles of music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin on the webcast; The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2014 tour of Asia and China marks his inaugural tour with the company after becoming music director of the Orchestra in 2012.
For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, visit their website.
It sounds like a headline ripped from an episode of Nancy Grace or Law and Order: young female necromaniac flaunts her sexuality to get down and dirty with a corpse she’s got the hots for (and you thought opera was boring). But, in essence, that pretty much captures the plot of Strauss’s Salome, which, in it’s sold-out staging at the Kimmel Center, marks the first collaboration between The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia. The production, which opened Thursday evening, features many solid moments, but the highlight clearly is the daunting performances of Camilla Nylund and Alan Held who play the title character and her soon-to-be dead lover, respectively.
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Photograph by Gene Smirnov
Earlier this season, you hosted a “Tweet at the Opera” experiment and something called a “Robot Opera.” Do you worry that any of this stuff is going to look gimmicky? No, not at all. I mean, we’re not doing the “tweet seats” to be gimmicky. We are trying to do new things. We do them in a controlled way — the “tweet seats” were a section. We weren’t trying to get a headline out of it. We weren’t trying to be notorious. We wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t disrupt patrons … and we were successful in doing that.
Your predecessor, Robert Driver, was once flagellated with a newspaper by a grumpy old patron unhappy with his attempts to innovate. Are you getting whacked, proverbially or literally, by more conservative opera-goers? No, I am not getting whacked by newspapers, frying pans or any other household objects from more traditional patrons. I think the reason is that we have been very respectful in our approach to innovation. The tweet seats are a great example. If you’re a 20-year subscriber and you don’t own a smartphone, you didn’t even know they were there.
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Despite a a few irritating cellphones ringing during Friday’s Philadelphia Orchestra performance at Carnegie Hall, The New York Times had a lot of nice things to say about the “magnificent concert,” and it’s “kinetic, young” music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. (You know he loved that “youthful” part.)
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Yannick Nezet-Seguin (right) conducts superstar soprano Renee Fleming in Dvorak’s Rusalka.
In a recent interview, where he discussed returning to the podium at The Metropolitan Opera to conduct a revival of Dvorak’s Rusalka, Philly’s own Yannick Nezet-Seguin raved about the show’s star, soprano Renee Fleming. “Anything sung by Renee Fleming becomes the most gorgeous music,” said The Philadelphia Orchestra music director. “There is just something special about Renee and Rusalka,” And he’s right. I was there at last night’s opening, and watched — ogled, even — as Ms. Fleming ascended to the top of a tree early in the first act to sing the opera’s signature aria, “Song to the Moon.”
She was dazzling, no doubt, but Mr. Nezet-Seguin is being far too humble. There’s something else “special” about this production, and that is Yannick himself. His masterful direction of Dvorak’s lush, Romantic score breathed new life into what would normally be a rather dark, dreary and downright depressing tale of ill-fated humanity.
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