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Nezet-Seguin to open as Met tenure with Netrebko in 'Aida'

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/31/2017 By RONALD BLUM, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Yannick Nezet-Seguin will open his first season as music director of the Metropolitan Opera in September 2020 with Anna Netrebko starring in a new production of Verdi's "Aida."

Speaking Friday after an orchestra rehearsal, Nezet-Seguin said he also will conduct Netrebko in a new staging of Strauss' "Salome" that will open the 2021-22 season.

The Met has not launched a new "Aida" since Sonja Frisell's staging in 1988. Netrebko will sing in one of its final revivals.

"It fits the grand scale of the Met," Nezet-Seguin said of his opening choice. "It's I think the most appropriate work to do for that kind of event."

Nezet-Seguin, a 42-year-old who has been music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra since the 2012-13 season, wants to conduct 21st-century works and said the Met and Philadelphia will collaborate on new works that will be present first in Philadelphia in concert form. Among the composers he is interested in working with are Hans Abrahamsen, Mason Bates, Jennifer Higdon, Missy Mazzoli, Andrew Norman and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

"I like things that harmonically we can relate a little bit to, but it doesn't need to be completely tonal," he said.

He intends to conduct the Met premiere of Handel's "Semele" and present Delibes' "Lakme" — last at the Met in 1947 — and Britten's "Turn of the Screw," which has never been heard at the Met. He hopes to lead the company's first performances of Verdi's "Don Carlos" in the original French and possibly "Les vepres sicillienes (The Sicilian Vespers)." He also wants the Met to consider Wagner's rarely heard first three works: "Die Feen (The Fairies)," ''Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love)" and "Rienzi."

"That's an example of something we could (do), especially 'Rienzi,'" he said.

Nezet-Seguin made his Met debut in 2009, was announced as the new music director on June 2 and conducted his first rehearsal at the Met since then on Thursday, preparing the orchestra for a revival of Wagner's "Die Fliegende Hollaender," which opens April 25. He replaces James Levine, now 73, who became music director emeritus last May after 40 seasons as music or artistic director.

"I didn't want to think of it this way, but basically yesterday was the first day of the rest of my life," Nezet-Seguin said. "Maybe not the rest of my life, but a big chunk of my life."

With the Met battling a box office decline, Nezet-Seguin wants the Met to consider post-performance talks and allow ticketholders to attend some working rehearsals.

"I'm of the belief that in a three-Michelin star restaurant, you very often have an open kitchen. It doesn't make your meal less magical or less fantastic," he said. "In a way, filling the seats is an artistic problem, the same way as talking about how to play a quarter note."

Met general manager Peter Gelb, sitting next to Nezet-Seguin, said audience-building initiatives were among the priorities.

"It wasn't necessary 40 years ago," Gelb said. "Maybe we should have been thinking about that 40 years ago."

Musical style also might change slightly in the orchestra. During Friday's rehearsal, musicians used pencils and erasers to make markings in their scores.

Nezet-Seguin said he was "insisting on these quarter notes that would be longer. I know that Jimmy was always in favor of something quite sharp in the attack with the chords, and I like it to have more resonance."

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