May 7 and June 2 are dates of vast importance in Metropolitan Opera history. Between them, the Company had no Music Director, because on the former, beloved American maestro James Levine relinquished his 40-year post as such and on the latter, Met general manager Peter Gelb announced the new conductor to eventually fill that role.

And the winner is …

The Met chose 41-year-old French-Canadian Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its new Music Director, a position he has held with the world-renown Philadelphia Orchestra since 2012 and where they just extended his contract through 2025-26. No one at the Met expects him to fill Maestro Levine’s gigantic shoes, and the revered conductor graciously passed the baton to him, to focus on numerous other Company endeavors.

And yet there’s a catch

In the opera world, where artists are engaged and contracts signed literally years in advance, Maestro Nézet-Séguin is, shall we say, overbooked. Even after freeing himself from some engagements, he will become Music Director Designate, not in the coming 2016-17 season, but in the following season (2017-18). He won’t fully undertake his duties as Music Director until the 2020-21 season. Meanwhile, what to do?

Bright beginning expected

Mr. Nézet-Séguin has been a hit with Metropolitan Opera’s world-class orchestra members, ticket holders, even the press. He first appeared there in 2009 and has returned most years ever since, conducting 50 performances of six operas. For now, he will lead two productions each season until 2020-21, when he will conduct five, meaning he will be a presence at the Met in these intervening seasons until he fully enters into action.

If he’s smart – and everything suggests he is – he will absorb everything he can from Music Director Emeritus James Levine, observing closely the way he interacts with musicians and singers alike, prompting from them the best possible performances.

The Metropolitan Opera,Lincoln Center, Broadway and 64th Street, New York (see their website for further details.)

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