The Seattle Symphony's brand-new music director, Ludovic Morlot, has accepted another appointment with a major European opera house: La Monnaie, in Brussels, Belgium, where he begins a five-year contract as chief conductor in fall 2012.
The Seattle Symphony’s brand-new music director, Ludovic Morlot, has just accepted another new appointment, with a major European opera house: La Monnaie, in Brussels, Belgium, where he begins a five-year contract as chief conductor in the fall of 2012.
It’s not uncommon for music directors of U.S. orchestras to take conducting posts on the other side of the Atlantic. Morlot will join such conductors as Gustavo Dudamel, Franz Welser-Möst, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta and Riccardo Muti in keeping a podium on both continents.
But will these new responsibilities stretch Morlot’s attention at a time he is settling into his new Seattle Symphony job, which officially starts Sept. 1?
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“Definitely not,” Morlot says, speaking on the phone from Melbourne, Australia, where he is conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
“We are moving to Seattle now,” he says of his wife, Ghizlane, a landscape designer and translator, and their two daughters, Nora, 8, and Iman, 5.
“We will figure out year by year how everything will work out. When I start at La Monnaie, my guest-conducting engagements will become very sparse. I will be more productive and creative when I am in a place for a longer time. It will be healthy for me to do less traveling around.”
Morlot sees the Brussels post as “a great opportunity, because it is a chance to conduct both opera and orchestra. I also will have only artistic responsibilities, no administrative ones” (as he does in his Seattle Symphony job).
Among his first assignments will be a production of Debussy’s opera “Pelleas and Melisande” (early in 2013). He’ll lead two opera productions a year, as well as two orchestral concert programs, and estimates he will probably spend about three months a year in Belgium.
Seattle Symphony’s new executive director, Simon Woods, says Morlot’s new post is “only positive news for Seattle. It confirms the international stature of our music director. We have landed somebody here whose career is on an upward trajectory, and this only rebounds in reflected glory for Seattle.”
Woods adds that Morlot has made it clear “Seattle is his first priority.”
The Brussels appointment has been “cooking for a while,” according to Morlot, who made his debut at La Monnaie this year, but who also notes La Monnaie representatives “have been following me around” during the past season, particularly during his engagements in Paris and at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
“I love that house,” says Morlot of La Monnaie (also called by its Dutch name, “De Munt,” in bilingual Brussels; both names mean “the mint,” as the theater was built on the site of a building used to mint coins).
Morlot cites the large number of young people in the audiences and the high attendance. “The general director (Peter de Caluwe) is very contemporary minded; there is wonderful marketing, and the house is always just buzzing.”
Morlot’s theory is that it’s important for an orchestra and a conductor to “pace a relationship, when there is week after week of rehearsing and performing together. It’s very nice to have two weeks of intense music making, and then go away, and come back with new ideas and new artistic growth.”
Morlot’s first concerts as Seattle Symphony music director will begin Sept. 17 with the opening-night concert and gala in Benaroya Hall, where he will be joined by solo cellist Joshua Roman for a program that extends from Beethoven to the 20th-century composer Friedrich Gulda. For information on opening night and the season, go to www.seattlesymphony.org or call the ticket office, 206-215-4747.
Melinda Bargreen: firstname.lastname@example.org.