It began with him subverting opera norms, asking the Chorus to join him and the principals in a walk down to the footlights. It was during the bows of Parsifal earlier this year, and Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin had recently been named Music Director-Designate. News had just broken that he had successfully shifted his schedule around to join the Metropolitan Opera two years early as Music Director. His gesture to the Chorus during the Parsifal curtain call was a conscious effort to demonstrate inclusion, signaling to the Company that collaboration would be the order of the day.
While we have enjoyed working with Maestro Nézet-Séguin since his debut conducting Carmen in 2009, this year is full of even more excitement and promise. Maestro has stepped into the role of Music Director with gusto, and the palpable energy felt in the opera house these days is an auspicious beginning to a long, productive musical and artistic collaboration.
Maestro leads three opera productions this season: our new, vibrant production of La Traviata directed by Michael Mayer, followed by revivals of two 20th-Century French masterworks: Debussy’s Pelléas et Melisande & Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. We already feel his guiding hand shaping Verdi’s phrases with elegance and care in La Traviata. He asks us for extra focus on the text, energizing the vocal lines with character, and insists on Verdi’s dynamics and phrasing, working the lines with the Orchestra, Chorus & principals until they sparkle. Like any good leader, he has a warm, effusive charm, and peppers his direction with funny asides. You want to follow his lead — it is always in service of the composer.
On opening night he bucked another operatic convention, asking the Orchestra to join us all on stage for a celebratory bow to a new era. It’s never been done at the Met, and it continues to demonstrate Maestro’s philosophy that this Company can only soar to new heights together, with each department in the building contributing equal parts talent and hard work. We wholeheartedly agree with this, and look forward to the collaboration!
Daniel Clark Smith, born in Barrington, IL, has degrees in Music Ed. and Choral Conducting from The University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music, and has loved singing in ensembles all his life. In concert, he particularly enjoys performing the Evangelist roles in J.S. Bach’s Passions. At the Met, favorite roles include a Lackey in Der Rosenkavalier, a soldier in Wozzeck and Parpignol in La Bohème, a role he has performed 100 times with the company. Daniel is a member of the Chorus Committee and serves as the Mens’ Chorus Safety Delegate. Daniel has been with his husband, fellow musician Michael S. Caldwell, for 26 years. Follow him on Twitter: @dclarksmith and Instagram: @danielclarksmith.