Montreal's Yannick Nézet-Séguin to open 1st Met season with Aida.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin will open his first season as music director of the Metropolitan Opera in September 2020 with Anna Netrebko starring in a new production of Verdi's Aida.

Speaking Friday after an orchestra rehearsal, Nezet-Seguin said he also will conduct Netrebko in a new staging of Richard Strauss' Salome that will open the 2021-22 season.

The Montreal-born conductor, 42, was tapped for the prestigious role as musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City after serving as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra since the 2012-13 season.

The Met has not launched a new Aida since Sonja Frisell's staging in 1988. Netrebko will sing in one of its final revivals.

"It fits the grand scale of the Met," Nezet-Seguin said of his opening choice. "It's I think the most appropriate work to do for that kind of event."​

'First day of the rest of my life'

Nezet-Seguin made his Met debut in 2009, was announced as the new music director on June 2 and conducted his first rehearsal at the Met since then on Thursday, preparing the orchestra for a revival of Wagner's Die Fliegende Hollaender, which opens April 25.

He replaces James Levine, now 73, who became music director emeritus last May after 40 seasons.

"I didn't want to think of it this way, but basically yesterday was the first day of the rest of my life," Nezet-Seguin said. "Maybe not the rest of my life, but a big chunk of my life."

Focus on filling the seats

With the Met battling a box office decline, Nezet-Seguin wants the Met to consider post-performance talks and allow ticket-holders to attend some working rehearsals.

"I'm of the belief that in a three-Michelin star restaurant, you very often have an open kitchen. It doesn't make your meal less magical or less fantastic," he said. "In a way, filling the seats is an artistic problem, the same way as talking about how to play a quarter note."

Met general manager Peter Gelb, sitting next to Nezet-Seguin, said audience-building initiatives were among the priorities.

"It wasn't necessary 40 years ago," Gelb said. "Maybe we should have been thinking about that 40 years ago."

© The Associated Press, 2017

The Canadian Press

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Its audiences will happily embrace any move he makes.

Paul Wells, McLeans