Will a seismic movement on the podium of the Metropolitan Opera have reverberations in Philadelphia?
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, has been frequently seen as a prime candidate to succeed James Levine, whose shift to music director emeritus after a four-decade tenure was announced Thursday in New York by the Met.
But apart from whether the Met actually offers the job to Nézet-Séguin, the Philadelphia Orchestra is quelling any concerns that the ensemble might be facing a music director change.
"I'm not worried about losing him," said orchestra board chairman Richard B. Worley. "We very much want Yannick to be here for a long time, and I believe that he wants to be here for a very long time. He loves this orchestra, he has many friends in Philadelphia, and I know that he and Pierre [Tourville, his partner] thoroughly enjoy their experience with the orchestra and the community here in Philadelphia."
The young conductor - who regularly draws praise from critics and who was Musical America's 2016 Artist of the Year - has a contract with the Philadelphia Orchestra that was extended last year through the 2021-22 season. And while contracts often contain escape clauses, there are good reasons to think that the Montrealer won't be escaping for New York anytime soon.
For one, many Met musicians are said to favor Gianandrea Noseda, the Italian conductor who has experience running the opera company in Turin and who was recently named music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington - a fairly easy commuting distance.
A short list
An inquiry of Nézet-Séguin's agent went unanswered, and an orchestra spokeswoman declined to make the conductor available after Friday afternoon's concert in Verizon Hall.
Nézet-Séguin, 41, has been repeatedly asked the Met question in the past - Levine, 72, has suffered from poor health for several years and stepped down because of Parkinson's disease - and has always talked about how he cherishes his relationship with the company and would never want to give it up.
And why would he when given blue-chip assignments such as a new production of Verdi's Otello on opening night of the current season? But expanding that relationship? He is on a very short list of likely contenders, including Fabio Luisi, who has gracefully declined to comment.
The Metropolitan Opera podium is one of the most prestigious in the opera world, though the post may have less power than it once did. "Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, has become its artistic director in all but name," wrote New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini on Friday. "He has likened himself to general managers of the past, especially Rudolf Bing, who also claimed full artistic leadership of the company."
Philadelphia hired Nézet-Séguin, the orchestra's eighth music director, for the start of the 2012-13 season at a time when he led the small Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal and was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra says that his compensation in 2013 was $519,319, plus $12,564 for primarily travel-related expenses, and that in addition it paid the IRS $227,950 on his behalf for taxes.
Worley repeated his wish that Nézet-Séguin have a long tenure as the orchestra's music director - even beyond the 2021-22 end of the current contract.
"We are counting on him being a vital part of our future and hopefully for even a longer period of time [than the current contract]," he said. "I have no reason to believe that that will not be the case."
Of course, it would not be logistically difficult for him to hold titles with both Philadelphia and the Met; he already sometimes conducts a matinee in Philadelphia, and an evening opera in New York.
It would be a question of how the conductor would carve up the rest of his time at orchestras he guest-conducts and with which he has relationships.
"He has a busy schedule, both here but also away from here," said Worley, "and I expect that he will continue to have a busy schedule. Whether that is doing the same things he is doing now or whether it will include a position at the Metropolitan Opera remains to be seen."
He has had ongoing relationships with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Konzerthaus Dortmund, and Chamber Orchestra of Europe, plus other groups.