If global classical-music prominence were a horse race, Yannick Nézet-Séguin - with the just-announced Met appointment, in tandem with his continuing tenure with the Philadelphia Orchestra - would easily be out in front among his particularly charismatic peers.
At 41, Nézet-Séguin is part of a generation of what some call "rock star" conductors who emerged late in the last decade, headed by the meteoric Gustavo Dudamel, 35, now music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (he's also the basis of the Mozart in the Jungle TV character played by Gael García Bernal).
From England came Robin Ticciati, 33, music director of the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons, 37, has perhaps the biggest European career, holding top positions with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra plus frequent guest appearances in Munich and Amsterdam.
Often, such simultaneous appointments to a great opera company and symphony orchestra signal the ultimate career consolidation. Riccardo Muti's 1980-92 Philadelphia Orchestra tenure overlapped with his appointment to La Scala in Milan, which began in 1986. During his Metropolitan Opera tenure, James Levine led the Munich Philharmonic from 1999 to 2004 and, even when his health began to be compromised, the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004-11.
It's worth noting that, while Nézet-Séguin's new arrangements have equal prestige to those, he'll have something that neither Muti nor Levine enjoyed: geographic convenience, which is significant amid the rigors of 21st-century air travel.
For years Nézet-Séguin, who emerged via the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, been called "the other Dudamel." And for good reason. His recording career with the Deutsche Grammophon label includes the complete Schumann symphonies and several Mozart operas with European orchestras. His Metropolitan Opera performances have been uniformly well received.
As of the June 2 announcement, his visibility will zoom - but so will the pressure somehow to turn around the Met's faltering attendance figures.