Nezet-Seguin: the smiling conductor makes his mark

Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:02am EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Few conductors get to conduct at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera in New York, fewer still, like Canada's Yannick Nezet-Seguin, at the tender age of 34.

But not only did the Montreal native make his Met debut conducting a gala New Year's Eve performance of Bizet's ever popular "Carmen", with Latvia's Elina Garanca as the steamy seductress, two weeks later he conducted it for a live broadcast that set a record for the Met's digital transmissions, reaching a quarter of a million people in some 40 countries.

"He's very fresh," said Italian Giancarlo Battista, 41, in awe of the infectious energy Nezet-Seguin radiated through the screen at a multiplex in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, where three screens sold out for "Carmen", pipping Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar" on the night.

"Well, what's the point of doing this if we're not enjoying it?" Nezet-Seguin said in an interview, when asked if he knew that in the broadcast he'd looked like a boy who'd received a new set of electric trains for Christmas.

He was in London for two packed concerts of mostly French impressionist music with the London Philharmonic Orchestra -- of which he is principal guest conductor -- before heading off to the United States for his first North American tour with his other new toy, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

So what is the secret of the meteoric rise of this smiling French Canadian dynamo who can be seen in a clip on YouTube conducting for his classmates at the age of 10, and who conducted Gounod's opera "Romeo et Juliette" at Salzburg two years ago?

"As serious as the act of making music is -- and it requires such skill and detailed work from the musicians but also from the conductor -- in the end it all has to be done in order to explode, in order really to unleash everything at the end," he told Reuters by phone, because he's so busy it was hard to meet up even in the same city.

"I'm someone who likes to rehearse very much and in detail, having in mind always it will serve to get something electric at the I'm glad if people feel that."   Continued...