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S49 Ep1

Yannick – An Artist’s Journey

Premiere: 9/3/2021 | 00:00:30 | Closed Captioning Icon

Experience the music director of the Metropolitan Opera’s meteoric rise to become one of the most acclaimed and sought-after music directors of his generation in this documentary from cinema verité filmmaker Susan Froemke.

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About the Episode

Premieres Friday, September 3 at 9 p.m. on PBS, pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app

In 2018, young Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin stepped into one of the most high-profile roles in all of music: Music director of the Metropolitan Opera. Great Performances: Yannick – An Artist’s Journey follows Nézet-Séguin on his journey from 10-year-old budding conductor to the pinnacle of the opera world, capturing the creative process and what it means to refine the soul of an artist. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Susan Froemke (Great Performances: The Opera House), the cinema verité documentary explores the conductor’s roots through interviews with family members, early influences and colleagues, paired with home movies. Behind-the-scenes footage shows the maestro in rehearsal with Met Opera soprano Diana Damrau (“La Traviata”) and in coaching sessions with young artists like Gabriela Reyes. From the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montreal to the Met in New York City to The City of Brotherly Love with Philadelphia Orchestra, which Nézet-Séguin also directs, Great Performances follow this energetic artist as he delves ever more deeply into music and the artistic collaborations that sustain him. Great Performances: Yannick – An Artist’s Journey premieres Friday, September 3 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app.

Noteworthy Facts:

  • Yannick Nézet-Séguin is the third music director in the history of the Metropolitan Opera.
  • As music director of the Met Opera, he has conducted four recent episodes of Great Performances at the Met and also appeared in Great Performances: Beethoven in Beijing.
  • Having developed a fascination with religion and art at a very young age, Nézet-Séguin decided that he was destined to become Pope before deciding to become a conductor and devote his life to music.
  • The documentary is bookended by scenes capturing the final weeks of the Met’s 2018–19 season as Nézet-Séguin leads his cast in a performance of Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites” into which he incorporates his own religious connections and encourages the artists to follow suit.

Series Overview:
Throughout its nearly 50-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org/gperf and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details). Great Performances is produced by The WNET Group.

Production Credits:
A Susan Froemke Production, Yannick – An Artist’s Journey is directed by Susan Froemke and produced by Susan Froemke and Peter Gelb; Mia Bongiovanni and Alexandra Eastman are Executive Producers.

Underwriters:
Support for Yannick – An Artist’s Journey was provided by Louise, Sophie and André Desmarais. Series funding for Great Performances was also made possible byThe Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Jody and John Arnhold, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, The Starr Foundation, the Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, the Estate of Worthington Mayo-Smith, Ellen and James S. Marcus.

Websites: http://pbs.org/gperf, facebook.com/GreatPerformances, @GPerfPBS, giphy.com/great-performances, youtube.com/greatperformancespbs #GreatPerformancesPBS

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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪♪ -Next on 'Great Performances'... a behind-the-scenes journey with maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director at the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

-Music is an art form that doesn't live... unless you bring it to life.

Conductors, we have to bring it to life in our mind, to hear it in the silence -Director Susan Susan Froemke traces Yannick's meteoric rise from a budding, young Canadian conductor... -When, at 20, 21, you're already able to conduct ensembles, then...you know, I -- I knew I could dream bigger.

-...to a master at work, guiding opera's rising and greatest stars.

-You need to imagine that the sound is between your torso and your hands, and you're...sort of holding the sound.

-Follow this determined and destined music man's path to reach the pinnacle of the opera world.

-Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin is making his Met debut in the pit.

Brace yourself. Here's 'Carmen.'

-'Yannick: An Artist's Journey' is next.

♪♪♪ [ Applause ] [ Cheering, whistling, and applause ] [ Cheers and applause in distance ] [ Cheers and applause stop ] [ Orchestra plays soft music ] ♪♪♪ -Aah!

[ Dramatic music plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -A big announcement for the world of opera today.

Montreal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin will become the next director of the Met.

It is one of the top opera houses in the world.

-The Metropolitan Opera announced Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its new music director today.

He'll begin his duties there in 2017 and take over full-time by 2020.

-The 43-year-old Canadian maestro is considered a music visionary.

♪♪♪ He was primed to take the role in 2020, but with the need for fresh leadership, he was thrust into the job of a lifetime two years earlier than expected... ♪♪♪ ...becoming just the third music director in the Met's illustrious history.

-How are you? -I'm doing okay.

How are you doing? -Very well, thank you.

-Good. Nice to see you back.

-Nice to be back, actually.

-And for good.

-Yes, indeed.

-Hi. Good afternoon. -Hello.

♪♪♪ -I'll see you tomorrow.

-Yes. Anytime. -I'll check in.

Anytime. Be my guest. -Bye.

Okay, so... For me, it would be more to -- to do just your first few lines and -- Yeah, just to go through it because we have time.

And I remember when we dreamt about that.

You know, we were doing this here and we said, 'Okay, we need to do a new production.' -[ Laughing ] -So... It's craft art.

-So here we are. -[ Laughs ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ There is an excitement in this music which is -- which is a little sick, [ Chuckle ] you know, from the start.

Even this, you know, if you look, it's -- There's this doubt, I find. -Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Yes, so she's fighting the doubt all the time.

And it's pianissimo in the orchestra and I'm finding that, if we are too... ♪ Da da dee, da da da ♪ ...it's maybe missing the point.

So, with all of this, why don't we get started?

-[ Laughs ] -So.

[ Scat singing ] [ Pianist playing ] So -- It's gorgeous.

I'm still thinking the -Yeah. -...like what can we do for this pianissimo?

-Oh, yes! Oh, okay. Sure.

-What I only tried to do with Diana was to help her maybe erase some of the layers of previous productions that she'd been doing and, also, for myself, just go back to the score.

The truth -- if there's such a thing in music -- is in the score, is in what Verdi wrote.

But the truth is what we find as a solution with these notes.

Because why are they asking... ...right away? -[ Laughing ] Sure.

-See? So, maybe there's something in your voice that already signals, 'Hm, we're not sure.'

-Hm?

Oh! I can tell it to her. I can say... Something like that. -Absolutely. Something like this.

Because now, I felt that you were trying to get the medium very strong. -[ Scat singing ] -Yeah. -No.

-[ Laughs ] -Okay. Good.

[ Laughter ] -But then the tempo is a little more measured than with -- -Stay elegant.

-Yes. -Alright.

-Ah, elegance.

From [ Scat singing ] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -Brava.

Brava.

Now!

I loved [Claps] all of that.

Unfortunately, the mistake we make sometimes, me and my colleagues, we tell the singer, as a conductor, 'Oh, you should wait until coming in because it's written this way.'

But that's not interesting.

What's interesting is why.

-♪ ♪ -And in the why, you get suspension points, you get question marks, you get exclamation points.

Then the words.

Brava.

-I should not slow down. Sorry. No?

♪ ♪ -Perfect. -And then we have -- Brava. And then more of the -- -♪ ♪ -♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ Continues singing ] [ Continues singing ] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -Brava. [ Applause ] Fabulous. [ Inhales sharply ] -Grazie.

-Oh!

[ Laughter ] -[ Kiss ] It's good to be back together.

-Yes. [ Laughs ] -Oh!

No. -After a long time.

-Yeah. Way too long.

No, this is beautiful. And let's do the tomorrow, okay? -Good.

[ Applause ] -Good evening, everybody.

Thank you so much for being here.

My name is Clemency Burton-Hill.

I'm a writer and broadcaster, and I am so thrilled to be here as we celebrate the beginning of Yannick Nézet-Séguin's tenure as the music director of the Metropolitan Opera.

[ Applause ] -Thank you.

[ Applause continues ] Thank you.

You know, I felt comfortable, really, from the start here, which is over eight years ago.

There was this connection which was really unique, but I kept thinking, 'I need to be more experienced.

I need to have more time and, one day, maybe, we'll see.'

Anyway, the job was not free.

And, as conductors, as managers, or everyone, you have to first embrace the fact that as Maestro Giulini, my mentor, used to say, 'We're merely luggage in transit.'

[ Laughter ] Of course, saying that the institutions have a much bigger and longer life than we, as music directors or managers, or anyone working in the theater.

We are custodians of something bigger than us.

And that doesn't mean that one should be afraid of it.

And now, I'm approaching it, of course, very differently because the only way of making it work is by embracing it fully and not thinking it's too big.

So I'm here to make it work, basically.

-Well, we are all depending on you, so, no pressure.

-I love your energy.

I love your smile. I love everything about you.

I hope it works out well for you.

-Well, I love everything about you, too, and I love this jacket.

-Do you like his outfit, too?

-I think it's great! Why not?

-Hi! Nice to meet you.

-You have to take a picture with me.

-Oh, of course!

If you want, yes. -But you have to hug me.

-I hug you, of course.

Like this. -You have to hug me.

Oh, hi. -Hi! Wow!

-Hi! Hi. A group of young people.

-Yes. -Group photo.

-That would be amazing. -Group photo.

-Yannick in the middle.

-Yeah, so join me and keep close.

Yeah. We like each other. It's good.

[ Laughter ] -And, beside your parents, what other influence was so important in your becoming a conductor?

-You know, my piano teacher was actually really... -Really? That's interesting. -...really, really important.

I studied with her between 13 and 21 years old and she was from Brazil.

Very old-school, trained in Paris.

And I think she -- I had the chance of growing up on great values with my parents.

[ Fanfare plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Music was part of my life always.

There was something quite common about, you know, listening to music and having parents who had been musically trained a little bit when they were young.

-♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -They introduced me and my sisters to many kinds of music because they were listening to and then to classical and then to real Quebec pop and some Elvis Presley and I don't know.

It was really eclectic.

-It was therefore natural that my sisters and me, we would learn music.

-♪ Da da da da, da da da da da ♪ ♪ Da da da da da da da ♪ ♪ Da da da, da dee be dee da ♪ ♪ Dee be dee da, da da da da ♪ [ Piano plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Music? My mother would say that I had a great ear and I had a great memory and strong, I don't know, affinities right away.

I'm not sure this is really my recollection.

♪♪♪ -So, Yannick was writing a title page, 'Drawings from Yannick, 1980-1981, 5 years old and 6 years old.'

And he did that on May 13, 1981.

And the first theme he wrote is 'Jesus.'

So... Okay, here is Moses.

He was studying Jesus at school and when he was going to church and here is more and more of Jesus, more and more.

And nobody was asking him to draw Jesus.

He was drawing Jesus because he wanted to draw Jesus.

'1984.'

So, he was 9.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -- [ Continues in French ] [ Applause ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -For me, I fell in love with music, really, when I started singing in a choir.

This is where music in a group, that started to make sense and, very quickly, then, music took the first place in my life.

And not only music, conducting because immediately, I saw my choir conductor and this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to be.

♪♪♪ -After that, he began to draw orchestras.

He stopped drawing Jesus.

And when he took the theme of the orchestras, he drew orchestras, orchestras, orchestras.

He was drawing orchestras, with a podium and a conductor.

And what he told me at that time is that he saw himself on the podium once.

And after, he stopped drawing, like he had discovered his career, his -- his goal in life.

So, he stopped.

And he wrote 'The End.'

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪♪ ♪ Pa pa pa, pa pa pa ♪ ♪♪♪ Try not to start the trill.

Good.

[ Moans ] ♪♪♪ ♪ ♪ Pianissimo.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Thank you. So, we need to make sure that we have somewhere to go to hear the crescendo.

So, let's continue.

Sixty-four.

[ Hushed ] Pianissimo. Soft.

♪♪♪ But... more of this front, bass.

♪♪♪ That's great. And the pianissimo, it helps them.

♪♪♪ [ Scat singing ] ♪♪♪ [ Vocalizing ] [ Scat singing ] ♪♪♪ A little more. Yeah.

Yeah.

♪♪♪ [ Scat singing ] [ Vocalizing ] More crescendo.

Yeah! Bravi.

♪♪♪ And, now... ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ So, no E-flats, no fermata, no nothing, which, actually, is better for the character.

I'm not against traditions, if someone wants to show off, but also, at that time, she's not triumphing, and that's important to know.

Violetta. It's not about this.

She just wants to keep her own.

So, Let's go on a little bit.

Act II.

So, from six... um!

♪♪♪ [ Singing in Italian ] Yeah, this A-flat is all.

Unh!

♪♪♪ Good.

[ Scat singing ] ♪♪♪ [ Scat singing ] ♪♪♪ [ Singing in Italian ] Mezzo forte.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ And now more.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Bravi. Let's take a nice break.

See you later, huh?

See you later.

-Maestro, thank you so, so much -Hi.

-for being here. These are students from our Long Island City High School Marching Band, Advanced Choir, and Advanced Orchestra.

Right? Yes. Great.

-Who's first? -I'm Laura.

I'm a soprano in the Advanced Choir.

During the performance, you were talking and singing.

I wanted to know what language you were speaking.

It kind of sounded like a bit of everything all at once.

[ Laughter ] -Yeah.

[ Laughter ] The opera is in Italian.

So, some of the words you heard were Italian, just because of the text or also because of the indications that are in the parts -- allegro or adagio, which are all Italian terms.

And so, you know, communicating, as a conductor, music is a language, then, as a conductor, you communicate with your gestures, with your eyes, but some of the things, the point of these rehearsals is also to stop and make sure we organize things.

-But he also -- In our music, there are cues of the words.

And he's -- -Yeah.

-You'll see there's a lot of dead time where, if the singers were here, we'd be hearing that, so, he's helping us with the timing of that.

-Yeah. I'm pretending to be the singer, basically.

-He sounds really good, doesn't he?

-Yeah. -Most definitely.

[ Laughter ] -You had a question here. -Yes.

-Hello, I'm Taisha. I'm also a soprano.

I wanted to know if you play any instruments yourself.

-Yeah, I play piano.

But that's the only instrument I play seriously.

-I actually think your instrument the orchestra and I think, in communicating with each other through somebody like this, with his body language, with his knowledge and his idea for the new sound that we're trying to acquire now with him, it's a big deal.

We have to work together and we have to work according to him and, honestly, I feel that I love being in the middle of all of that. I love it.

I love when the singers are up there.

I love when things go wrong.

-[ Laughs ] Yeah, yeah. -I love seeing how we get out of it because things do go wrong.

Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's horrifying, [Laughter] but it's always something new.

-Friends, thank you so much.

I always like to close, when we work with artists with -- if you could have a billboard in Times Square specifically for student musicians, what would it say?

But it has to all fit on a billboard.

[ Laughter ] -Gosh. -Wow.

-For student musicians.

-If you love it, do it. -Yeah.

-Don't give up.

Nothing worth having is easy.

-And you'll hear a lot of nos before you hear your first yes. -For sure.

-Yeah. -Ignore them.

[ Laughter ] -And just be yourself.

The world wants from artists to feel the true self.

Don't try to fit in.

Just be yourselves.

-Thank you much! Thank you!

[ Applause ] -Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I was having my piano lessons at the Montreal Conservatory of Music and all the theory and composition.

And I trained for becoming a concert pianist, but I never wanted this and I knew this and my piano teacher knew that, too.

But she said, 'As long as you're in my class, you're going to do all the exercises and train really as if you were becoming a concert pianist.'

And that was the best education I could have wished for because only through this kind of discipline can a conductor address the best orchestras in the world later, because I know what they are going through, instrumentally speaking.

[ Chorale plays ] In parallel, I was going from section leader of the church choir -- it was a choir of the Montreal Cathedral -- and then conducting masses on Sundays, then, eventually, conducting parts of concerts.

-[ Singing ] -And at age 18, I was named the artistic director of that choir.

I had to already affirm my authority on people much older than me.

♪♪♪ -We were looking for a roommate and we heard that Yannick may want to move out from his parents' place and so we just asked him, 'Would you be our roommate?'

And he just said yes and then -- yeah, the rest is history, I guess.

[ Laughs ] -I remember, at that time, I felt I didn't have enough experience in conducting instruments, you know, besides voices.

So, with Stephanie and Pierre, we just decided to found La Chapelle de Montréal, this ensemble of voices and instruments dedicated to Baroque music, at first, for one purpose -- we were crazy about Bach's 'St. John Passion.'

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I guess we were just drawn into that sacred music and it's -- Well, Bach is, you know.

He's kind of a god [Laughs] himself.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ It may be a strange idea, in fact, when you think about it, with young 19-, 20-year-old people wanting to perform that sacred music, but I guess it just elevated us at that time.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -This ensemble, I'm very proud to say, lasted eight seasons.

These were crucial years where I learned my craft.

-[ Singing in Italian ] [ Singing in Italian ] Verdi is one of the most important composers of opera and 'La Traviata' is at the center of Verdi's operatic journey.

Symbolically, it's good because it's right at the heart of what we do in opera.

-[ Singing outro ] ♪♪♪ -Okay, we decided I was sort of giving it... -Yeah. I -- -...and you do it with me.

That's fine.

I hear some people doing -- [ Laughter ] Right? -Yeah.

Try it.

So, I don't know what's -- -Yeah.

-Okay. is your I think, now, it's very long to him.

It's a bit too long. -♪ ♪ Yeah. -And then, as a result, he doesn't know where to -- ♪ ♪ -♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Can you do just this?

♪ ♪ ♪♪♪ And also the not too long.

-♪ ♪ -Both: ♪ ♪ -Good. It's a detail, and a very important one, I believe.

I think what makes us even more fortunate artists, compared to any other profession, is that we have the opportunity, every day, to do it better than the day before.

When we wake up every day, we should be a better person, a better version of ourselves.

As artists, I think we have no choice. It's built in.

We have a million things we want to correct all the time.

It doesn't mean that it was bad, what we did.

-[ Singing ] -As a young conductor, one has to accept that the first time you do a piece, it can be good... [ Speaking Italian ] Yeah.

...but, hopefully, it's better the next time and, hopefully, it's better 10 years later, hopefully, it's better 20 years later.

-[ Singing ] [ Singing ] [ Vocalizing ] [ Singing ] ♪ ♪ ♪ Ah! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] -Okay.

Good. Very good. Very good.

So, one last question for you, Diana, in Act I.

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ I'm trying to stay very stable, so then you can breathe.

-Okay.

-♪ Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ♪ [ Scat singing ] -♪ Ah... ♪ -♪ ♪ -♪ ♪ -♪ ♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] -Good. Very good. Very good.

Okay. -That's a lot of stuff.

-Yeah.

-Do you want to start from the beginning?

-Can you tell me the time?

I can't see. -Yes, of course.

It's five past 11:00. -Yeah, okay.

-She's rushing an awful lot in the early cadenzas.

[ Scat singing ] She needs to take time.

-Yeah, okay. -♪ Ah... ♪ -Okay, but this, we won't solve here, so, tell me something I can solve now.

-Right. The chorus, the [indistinct], the chorus, is much too loud here in the brass.

[ Continues indistinctly ] -Yeah.

-The end, the brass was way too -- [ Scat singing ] -Yeah, okay.

Then, the piano at the beginning, everybody can be softer here, but them, too.

the guys can sing the very first phrase from the men, needs a little more bite.

-Yeah. -♪ ♪ -Yeah. A little bit more. -Yeah, it was a little -- -Because, every day, we work on the same music and we want to be worthy of the great scores, we have to play, to sing, to conduct, to interpret.

In the -In the And because we feel always that we could do better, it brings the question very -- at least, it did for me, the question, 'Why are we doing this, if -- Do I want to be eternally unsatisfied because it was not perfection?'

And yet, what is perfection, also?

So, I shouldn't wait for any light?

I think perfection is also in the risk-taking.

Perfection is even in the accidents and, yet, I realized, early on that, yes, we want perfection and we should strive for it because, otherwise, why would we be doing this?

But there's a beauty of never quite reaching it because then, that allows us to try it even harder, better, the next day.

But it's not loud from here, so, I'm sorry, I cannot do a light version.

I'm sorry, just a second.

Yeah, so, first -- I mean, I understand what you're saying.

It's so not loud here so, I don't want to do a chamber version of 'Traviata.'

-No, no, no, no. -So, if there's something, everybody needs to just... -No, no, no, but... spit there. -...the balance is fine.

I just think that we're compensating.

Percussion is heavy and it feels -- -I mean, I'm sure it's fine.

-Okay, let me hear. Let me hear.

Let me hear. Let me hear.

Can I ask only percussion and -- percussion and brass to play here, four before twelve, four before twelve.

Just this forte, just four bars.

um.

♪♪♪ Okay. And, in the fortes, if you try to play as loud, but just shorter and lighter, in a way, okay?

Ah, unh.

♪♪♪ How did that resonate?

Okay, good, good. So, that will be the solution.

Thank you.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [ Speaking Italian ] ♪ Ah! ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -♪ ♪ -[ Singing in Italian ] [ Singing outro ] ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] [ Whistling and applause ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Giulini's recordings were -- I was a young teenager and, for me, there was no question -- Giulini's interpretations were the ones I admired the most.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ And, almost like a sign from destiny, as I was calling my parents from Trieste, Italy, to say we didn't advance to the next step in the competition, so we're going to spend a few free days in Italy, my mother said, 'Would you believe?

Giulini just sent you a fax.'

And, on this fax, it said, 'Please call me at this number.'

♪♪♪ I called him and I said, 'I'm in Italy.'

He said, 'Do you want to come visit me?'

I took the train the next day and went to spend some time with him.

♪♪♪ -[ Singing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Laughs ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Choir singing ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ He was always saying that the clarity of the conductor comes from the clarity of the thought and if your thought is clear, then the gesture will be clear.

♪♪♪ Even the slightest interference between the thought of what you want to hear and thinking how you're going to get it makes it not so clear for the musicians.

♪♪♪ So, the arms and the gestures are the extension of the thought.

I remember, when I started, like every young conductor, I wanted to show something.

So, if I wanted to hold a fermata, you know, I would show this is the fermata, then we cut off and then we're starting again.

And just the action of showing, which means thinking about the gesture.

I remember subconsciously seeing the musicians doing this with me, a little bit like you're on a boat.

♪♪♪ Now, I just try never to think about it.

If I want a chord to be together, the whole orchestra doing 'Pow!', I'm just going to do 'Pow!' It's there.

Don't think if the orchestra's going to follow you or not.

They're going to follow if this is really clear where you want to go.

I remember one teacher telling me, 'You know, you're not tall,' and, at that time, I was very, very slim.

And he said, 'You know, don't be afraid to use the full range of the lateral with your hands, in order to... imagine that the sound is always in your arms.'

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ That's also the way Giulini was expressing it later, that you need to imagine that the sound is between your torso and your hands and you're sort of holding the sound.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Gotcha.

-It's -- Okay, okay. This looks bad also.

-Stay.

-Our life is a life in music.

It's always been that way.

At a young age, I would practice in my room or at the conservatoire and he would study his scores.

Still, today. [ Laughs ] I have my music studio.

He sits with the cats on the sofa in the living room and studies score.

We discuss a lot about music -- the music ideas, the music history, the interpretations.

Yannick and I have always been very interested in the recordings, all the greatest artists who have been around, to get inspiration.

Okay, bye.

Bye-bye.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -'No, no.'

-I was very nervous.

I remember, before my German debut in Frankfurt, you know, Pierre had to tell me, in the middle of the night, 'You stopped breathing, Yannick.

Breathe, breathe.'

A new orchestra means a new group of friends, again starting from scratch, building the trust.

I've been looking forward, for many months, now, to working with you.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] [ Cheering and whistling ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Until they start.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ So, it's really beautiful.

Just so you know what I think about this moment, not that it needs words, necessarily, but why there's always you give the turn -- ♪ Ya da da da ♪ ♪ Ya da da dum ♪ And you keep alternating between your F and F-flat and the minor, and then just -- ♪ A, A, A ♪ I'm convinced that this is Mahler knowing that once he will reach the final D-flat major, it's going to be over.

No more music will be written.

So, it's someone just trying to hang on to it, say, 'No, let's not finish now.'

So, why I'm saying it? Because I think, first, it should never be so conclusive when you do, for example, 176, violas, the four notes -- [ Scat singing ] Should be more an energy of, 'Oh, let's keep going.

Let's not finish.'

And, sound-wise, I think it's beautiful.

Let's never forget to still vibrate up there, so that it doesn't become dry, okay?

Now, let's go to the beginning of the movement.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Even at a very young age, I was drawn to the music that was maybe the darkest or had the most significance, in terms of helping us understand life after death.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ The adagio of Mahler's '9th Symphony,' I hold very close to my heart.

I mean, it is heartbreaking music and I believe that these masterpieces, you have to actually start doing them very young, in order to maybe catch a glimpse of what they can bring to the world.

♪♪♪ And, hopefully, do them enough to try, then, get closer to the essence of the masterpiece.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Grunts ] And full force!

Yeah.

[ Grunts ] And hold, hold.

And now in the A, there.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Oh, Pierre is calling me.

So, I'm going to close my eyes a little bit now.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ We're still going to be there on time.

-Yeah. -Amazing.

-At the sign.

-Yeah, at the sign, yeah.

-Okay.

-Okay, thank you so much. -My pleasure.

-Thank you, and see you later, huh?

-Yes.

♪♪♪ -Thank you.

-Thank you so much. -Okay.

-Hi.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Hi, hi.

-Hello, Maestro! -Hi.

-You're early.

-Well... -Right on time.

-Ben told me five minutes.

-Yeah, doing my best.

-Wow.

-Hi, everyone. -Hi!

-Hi! -Hi!

-I saw you come in, actually. -Yes, yes.

-Hi. -Hello.

-Hi. How are you?

-Good. -Doing great.

-Yeah, you're fine? -Yes, thank you.

-Yeah!

Good. So, you're going to give me energy?

No, I always have energy, you know.

So... -[ Singing in foreign language ] -Yeah. Did you ever question yourself why... he put a rest after -I think it's -- She catches herself for half a second, like... -Oh, nice. -...'Am I going to say this?

-Yes, I am going to say this.' -Oh, that's very nice.

I've never imagined it this way.

And I love that.

♪ ♪ So, then in the like, dot, dot, dot. You know?

Now, it almost felt too conclusive.

♪ ♪ Yeah. [ Laughs ] Okay.

[ Slow music plays ] -[ Singing in foreign language ] -Yeah.

Now go.

Good.

Alright, bring it in.

-[ Singing in foreign language ] -That's it. Now the... Yeah.

Whoo! Okay.

Ah, ah.

It's great.

Then we had a line to go, so I'm really excited now.

I mean, of course, this is your final note, right?

So... you can definitely go -- I mean, your B-flat was fantastic.

[ Singing in foreign language ] Right? -Okay.

-So you can go to the end of your lungs and of your capacities.

-Okay.

♪♪♪ -Of course, when at 20, 21, you're already able to conduct ensembles, then...you know, I knew I could dream bigger.

Out of the blue, I have to say, the Montreal Opera called me and offered me the job of assistant conductor and chorus master.

Opera had been occupying very little of my brain and heart... but the artistic and general manager at the time, I was sitting in his office, and he said, 'So, I hear you conduct choirs.'

I said, 'Yes.'

'Do you want to be our chorus master?'

And then I started saying... And he said, 'Do you want it or not?'

So, I had no choice. I said, 'Okay, yes.'

And opera, in a way, grabbed me.

-We've always been dreamers, I guess, in fact, since starting being together.

Everybody dreams.

That's what keeps you alive.

That's what keeps you wanting to achieve your artwork.

To get better, of course, you dream of -- of being at the Met one day, but you cannot really believe that this is something that can really happen.

But I felt it at a very early stage of our lives, probably in 1999 or something like that, when we first went at the Met as... as listeners, and... I was there and I just said... 'I see you there. You'll be there one day.'

-Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin is making his Met debut in the pit.

Brace yourself. Here's 'Carmen.'

-Now calling Maestro Nézet-Séguin to the pit, please.

Maestro to the pit for Act One, please.

[ Applause ] [ Overture plays ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Appliance whirring ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -You know, you open the score for the first time, and... it's really complete silence.

But this is the only way, also, to train your ear to imagine what you're going to hear without having the actual sound.

Again, Giulini was saying that... music is an art form that... doesn't live... unless you bring it to life.

If I show this to most people, it doesn't mean anything.

So -- So it needs to actually be brought to life.

But conductors, we have to bring it to life in our -- in our mind, to hear it in the silence so that when you actually hear it for real, you can have a meeting of -- of the imagination and the reality.

I guess the first thing that I do is I try to divide the sections, the phrases, the motifs, the big chunks and the big sections.

And I actually do a little bit of color sometimes in opera, just for the characters.

So, here we see that Mère Marie, she's blue.

I decided she was blue.

So...that helps me visually when I conduct in the pit, having immediately the color, and then I associate it with the right character.

And this 'Ave Maria' was -- was the -- The genius of it is that actually there's not so much happening.

It's very -- It's so heartfelt, this prayer by the nuns, that the way of suggesting this is very little instrumentation, not overload.

And that's -- that's reflecting in how the page looks... pretty bare, actually, here.

It's chorus a cappella and only a few chords here.

And I circled here this oboe because it's answering their 'Jesu.'

And then there's just the oboe doing the same thing.

♪♪♪ And also, like any good study... the fact of writing something means that you're learning.

I mean, an opera is long and it's big and there's a lot of people involved, so I'm not yet at conducting operas from memory.

I know some colleagues do.

Good for them if they get to that point, but, you know, I -- I think that should come naturally, to conduct from memory, not forcing yourself to be from memory.

Or as Otto Klemperer used to say, 'What if I find something new in the score?'

Why should I be deprived?

Maybe I will open it, and even if I conducted that Beethoven symphony or that Verdi opera... hundreds of times, you know, you open it, and that night, I happen to see a line in the second clarinet that I never saw, so... ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Keys.

♪♪♪ I love French opera and I love... to get involved in bringing it to life.

So, we continue.

'Dialogue des Carmélites' was one of my dreams to conduct.

I had been assistant in Montreal on a production, and it had the biggest impact on me.

And, of course, my Catholic religious upbringing makes this opera resonate even more intimately for me.

So, this is the new so their new head has just come on and she's more like a... distinguished peasant.

And so her first speech is talking about rabbits and about gardens and stuff, and all the more noble nuns are a bit snobby.

So, that's why we need to get this color right away.

So [Vocalizes melody] Okay, we start it. So... ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ That's it.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Yeah, okay. Let's continue, so 34.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Singing in foreign language ] ♪♪♪ More separate, more separate.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ After 'Qui Lazarum'... -Uh-huh.

-Let's do five.

So, this is Act Two.

Poulenc Act Two, Rehearsal Five.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Eh. Bum-bim.

Buh-buh buh-buh buh-buh.

-[ Singing in French ] -That's good. That's -- [ Laughter ] -You asked for it. -She's not marking.

She's not marking, just in case we wanted to be... No! Okay, great, Karen.

Now can you do it once without marking?

[ Laughter ] Okay.

You know that I did make that mistake, rookie mistake, my first opera, 'L'incoronazione di Poppea,' and there was Drusilla backstage, and I couldn't hear her, and I was trying to be nice and just said, 'Now, that's great, and now... when you won't be marking...' And she was like, 'I was not marking.'

Ohhh!

See? First opera, so then you don't make the mistake again. Right?

-[ Singing in French ] -[ Singing in French ] -Excellent.

Oh. -I'm sorry. That was my fault.

Yeah, so ♪ ♪ -[ Sings in French ] Oh, that's on two, not on three.

We'll get there. Third time's the charm.

[ Laughter ] -Just from 'Soeur Constance...' -[ Singing in French ] -[ Singing in French ] -That's good.

The genius of Poulenc is making these characters so real without negating their religious backgrounds.

This, I think, is completely unique in the history of opera.

So, do you have an opinion why -- This, I have to say, I don't really understand what she's doing here.

It's -- It's weird to me.

-I think this is the beginning of her showing, 'I'm the one that's the moral compass here.'

-Yeah, yeah, okay. -'I'm the one that decides... -Yeah.

-...the rules of how things are set.'

-Great. -And so I'm going to just tell you very gently for the first time, lecture her a tiny bit... -Yeah, okay. -...this is how things are here.

-So, I think we need to be less sweet.

-Okay.

-Just a little bit. -Sure.

-You know? It's piano.

And it's not aggressive, but ♪ ♪ -Okay.

-Then the next one we did, up to -- Are we up to just do the beginning and try this kind of... -Okay, Yannick, yep.

And... ♪♪♪ -[ Singing in French ] -Yeah, so I think -- -Yeah, that's helpful.

That's quite, you know, kind of a nice sculpting.

-You like it? -Yeah, I do.

-Good. -Oh, good. Yes.

-Yay! Yay!

-[ Singing in Latin ] -And now.

Okay, okay, let's read.

[ Speaking Latin ] It shouldn't sound... -Right. It shouldn't sound like we all trained.

-Like it's choir school. -It's not a choir.

It's a real prayer. -Yeah.

So, when I was chorus master for it a million years ago, I actually prepared it like the true chorus master.

Like, oh, this -- you know, I said to my girls, like, 'Oh, you know, this should be really prayer, so almost no vibrato and...' I was very happy.

And Poulenc writes [Speaks French] And this is wh-- And now, you know, fast-forward, this is where it's good to get older, you know.

It's like -- like... 'Well, no...' because I remember thinking, 'Oh, he's out of style.'

Yeah, no.

It's actually all their fear, love, comfort, longing, it's all in that prayer.

So... ♪ Ave ♪ -[ Singing in Latin ] -This prayer, 'Ave Maria,' usually, we think of a prayer as kind of distant, detached, something that is mysterious and is not related to everyday life.

-[ Singing in Latin ] -But the great thing about religion in music is that every composer is using their deepest personal language in order to convey their own feelings through religion.

Whether it's Bach through his chorales, whether it's Verdi through his 'Requiem'... whether it's Mozart, through his 'Requiem,' and same for Poulenc.

-[ Singing in Latin ] -And he is never more touching in the 'Carmélites' than when he really puts a religious text into music.

-[ Singing in Latin ] -That's it.

And it creates church acoustics in the Met.

Okay, fine. Thank you. Beautiful.

And so we don't have time to do the last scene, but that's fine.

We're going to have time to do it...later.

Great day.

Great day, everyone. Great day.

Thank you.

Yeah. Okay?

Love you. -Love you.

Love you. And thank you, Donna.

It's amazing. -Oh, I love you.

What a pleasure it is.

Isn't it fun? -Oh, God, it's fun.

-Okay.

Okay.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Hi.

Hello.

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello.

Hello, hello, hello.

Hi, Donald. come over here. -Hey, how are you? Yeah?

-Everything good. I'm very good. And you?

-Good. You know the 'Oh, Clemence...' -Yes. I think that the -- It just sounds -- It's not loud enough.

-It's still thick. -It's thick.

I will tell the ladies, but if we can just get a shimmer.

-Yeah. -♪ Oh, Clemence ♪ You know, a [Vocalizes] For some reason, I think that can be more magical.

-I agree. -But, I mean, really... -And I thought...was all -- -No, no, that's all good. All the offstage stuff is good.

And I thought the procession was -- -Yeah! -I mean, yeah, it's very good.

-Well... Toi, toi, toi to all your ladies.

-Oh, please, I'll tell them. -And to you.

-I'll see you after. -Okay.

Oh, hello! Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello.

Hello.

[ Speaking French ] -Yes.

[ Conversing in French ] -Great, no matter what. And now it's...55?

Okay, okay. So, I'm getting dressed.

Bye. [ Laughs ] -Noon.

-No, 12:02. -Okay.

-But I need to be pre-set. -Okay.

-Okay.

[ Speaking French ] -Okay, I'll run.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -[ Singing in French ] -[ Singing in Latin ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] [ Indistinct talking ] -That's wonderful. -A little shorter than... -Yes, exactly. I'm sure. I hope! I hope, and so do we.

-Yeah.

[ Conversing in French ] -Okay. -Okay.

-[ Singing in foreign language ] [ Blade slices, thud ] ♪♪♪ -[ Singing in Latin ] [ Blade slices, thud ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Applause ] -Thank you.

[ Indistinct talking ] -Maestro? -Yes?

-What?

-Please, start again.

[ Applause continues ] [ Audience cheering ] [ Indistinct talking ] [ Applause continues ] -You alright?

-Yay! Yay!

-Hey, Karen. It was wonderful.

-No, no, no.

Okay, thank you. It's a real thrill.

-Likewise. -Okay, great.

-I can't do this without you. -Oh, thank you.

-Oh, my God.

-Thank you. Appreciate it.

That was beautiful.

-Thank you.

What an amazing experience.

Thank you so much.

-We're so lucky to do this together.

-Aren't we? -Yes.

-So lucky. -And bring this to the people.

-Yes, this emotion and this incredible experience.

Thank you so much. It was really special.

-See you for the concerts. -Yes.

-[ Speaking French ] [ Conversing in French ] -Thank you. -You're great.

-It was a great performance. -The best, the best one.

It's a good way to end your first season.

-Right? I see you later.

-Yes. -[ Speaking French ] I'm full of gratitude for living my dream of the young boy.

And I know it sounds almost cheesy, but that's really the way I feel.

♪♪♪ For me, music is mystical.

The power of music is really... where words fail, music can express.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -To find out more, visit pbs.org/greatperformances.

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