Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s late-in-the-season return Tuesday night to the Metropolitan Opera conducting Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman wasn’t initially planned to be the operatic event that it turned into. But there he was, making his first appearance there since being named music director designate last summer. So all ears were on him.
When it was over, he was pelted with roses during his curtain call, and the flowers came from the best possible place: the orchestra pit.
Obviously, the demonstration of support for the new music director designate was orchestrated — no pun intended — with the flowers coming at him from a number of directions.
He seemed genuinely surprised, picked up a number of the flower and handed one to each cast member taking curtain calls with him.
The cast was seasoned Wagnerians including Michael Volle in the title role, and in the role of Erik, tenor Jay Hunter Morris was replaced by A.J. Glueckert who made his Met debut, and based on his performance, is likely to be reengaged.
However, singers come and go, but the orchestra is a constant, which is why the show of support from that front was so important. Also, Nézet-Séguin follows James Levine, who was deeply beloved but has been compromised in recent years by poor health.
And the audience? Powerhouse soprano Amber Wagner — in the difficult-to-cast role of Senta — had the loudest ovation of the evening, with Nézet-Séguin close behind.
Nézet-Séguin was happy to be conducting this early Wagner opera at this pivotal moment in his relationship with the Metropolitan Opera: He knows the piece well, having conducted it in 2014 at the Vienna State Opera. But the Met orchestra has played the piece only intermittently in recent years, which gave Nezet-Seguin an opportunity to put his stamp on the piece.
Unlike the gale-force of his Vienna performance (as heard in radio broadcasts), the Met performance immediately showed what Nézet-Séguin had in store with a reading of the overture that emphasized how many different kinds of musical bases — from the grandeur to the bourgeois — in the 12-minute span of music.
But before the sea-soaked opening chords of the overture on Tuesday, Nézet-Séguin had spent weeks winning over his colleagues backstage and he as did when named Philadelphia Orchestra music director 2010.
“A conductor should always be an enabler,” Nezet-Seguin said last week, “someone who puts everyone in confidence with a sense of trust.”