NYC-ARTS Full Episode: March 26, 2020

A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: Paula Zahn in conversation with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the dynamic music director of the Metropolitan Opera; followed by a tour of the exhibition “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth,” about the work and life of the creator of some of the most imaginative stories of English literature.

AIRED: March 26, 2020 | 0:27:54


>> Next on "NYC-Arts," a look

back at some of our favorite

segments, featuring the best in

arts and cultural events in our


>> We all need, as human beings,

moments where we can just stop,

breathe, feel that we're with

other people, sharing the same

sense of community.


[ Wistful folk music plays ]

>> Tolkien started writing

"The Hobbit" probably about


All of the manuscript and

illustrative material in the

show is in Tolkien's own hand.

We have the original five

watercolors he produced.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank, "First"

refers to our first priority --

the clients who walk through our


The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose

currency is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on

our minds.



>> Good evening, and welcome to


I'm Philippe de Montebello at

the Tisch WNET Studio at

Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure, along

with my colleague, Paula Zahn,

to bring you the very best of

arts and culture in the

tri-state area.

Whether it's music, dance, film,

theater, the visual arts,

classic or contemporary,

well-known or newly discovered,

"NYC-Arts" has provided unique

access to the people and places

that represent the richness of

our arts community.

In this program, we'd like to

share with you some of our

favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your

favorites, as well.


>> Good evening, and welcome to


I'm Paula Zahn, on the stunning

Grand Tier staircase of the

Metropolitan Opera, vibrant home

for the most creative and

talented singers, conductors,

composers, musicians, as well as

stage directors, costume

designers, choreographers, and

dancers from all around the


There is some very exciting news

here as the 2018/19 season is


The charismatic young French

Canadian, Yannick Nézet Séguin,

becomes the Met Opera's music

director -- the third in the

opera house's 135-year history.

[ Cheers and applause ]

The 43-year-old maestro is

renowned throughout the

orchestral world.

He's led performances of the

London Philharmonic, the

Salzburg Festival, the

Vienna Philharmonic, the

Berlin Philharmonic, La Scala,

and the Royal Opera House.

There is tremendous passion and

joyful energy surrounding

Yannick's performances.

When he made his Met debut in

2009, it was for a new

production of Bizet's "Carmen,"

and, since then, he's returned

every season -- which brings us,

of course, to this season, where

he will conduct a new production

of Verdi's "La traviata" and

revivals of Debussy's

"Pelléas et Mélisande" and

Poulenc's "Dialogues of the


I recently spoke with the

celebrated conductor right here

on the elegant Grand Tier.

>> Maestro to the pit, please.

Maestro to the pit.

[ Applause ]

>> Maestro, it is an absolute

pleasure to meet you.

Congratulations on your

appointment here.

>> Oh, thank you.

Thank you so much.

>> So, today you are a very busy

man, leading a life at a

dizzying pace.

You play key roles in orchestras

in Montreal, Rotterdam,

Philadelphia, and now this big

post here at the Met.

I know that, when you take to

the stage, you're keenly focused

on the music.

But are there times, when you

raise your baton, where you have

no idea what city you're in?

>> [ Laughs ]

Fortunately, that didn't happen

yet, and maybe, as busy as I am,

the whole idea now is to try and

focus on the few institutions.

So, actually, having the

responsibility of the Met and

Philadelphia means I'm doing

less guest-conducting, means I'm

doing less traveling, means that

I'm actually more focused.

I'm not denying it will keep me

busy, but in a more concentrated

way and where I think I can

develop more with roots.

>> This really has been a dream

of yours, hasn't it, conducting

as a calling.

And nothing illustrates that

better than some amazing video

we have of you in a classroom at

the age of 10 in Montreal,

conducting a make-believe

symphony in your classroom.

[ Up-tempo orchestra plays ]

>> Music came into my life very


There was a piano at home.

My parents would play a little


My sisters would play.

I would play piano.

What got me really into music

was singing, and, right away, I

saw choral conductors.

And I made the conscious

decision at 10, "I want to be a


I was so passionate about it.

I never had doubts that this

would happen.

There was this little confidence

that that was my way of

expressing myself.

>> But you have to admit, when

you look at the video, you had


You had that touch, that

passion, that feel.

Are you a grown-up version of

this young man that fell in love

with music?

>> I think it's almost

disturbing, in a way, that I

didn't change that much.

[ Laughs ]

[ Carmen's "March of the

Toreadors" plays ]



As a conductor, what we have to

do is to let the music speak

through our whole body.

We talk a lot about the baton

and the hands.

This is what people see, but

it's all in the eyes.

It's all in the shoulders.

Look at "Lenny" Bernstein.

I mean, he was always dancing

and living and talking about it,

how the conductor, every pore of

the skin, every muscle, every

bone should express music.

And that is an immediate

reaction of expressivity, which

is not unlike dance, if you

think about it, but just in a

different way because it has to

inspire the musicians, who

really produce the sound, to

express it in all the same way.

>> Let's fast-forward to last

year, when you conducted

"Elektra" here.

And we have the last two minutes

of that extraordinary


And I think, as the audience --

as I have -- focuses in on your

face, they will see that you are

channeling every single note in

that score.

What are you feeling when you


>> That's a beautiful question

because there has to be this

blend with what I like to call

the cold head and the warm


So you can't completely lose

yourself in the music,

especially as a conductor,

because there is still a hundred

people in the pit, and sometimes

you add another hundred onstage

who really depend on a certain

degree of clarity.

But what is clarity?

Of course there's rhythmical

clarity, which is really the

beat, which that's the cold


You need to make sure that you

don't get lost completely in the


But, most importantly, clarity

is about the clarity of the

intention, of the expression.

[ Soft music plays ]

[ Music intensifies ]

[ Music calms ]

In order to do so, I have to

feel that I'm completely in the

music in my heart, in my soul,

in my expressivity, and not

holding back at any time.

[ Soprano singing ]

[ Soft music plays ]

[ Music intensifies ]


[ Flourish ]

[ Song ends ]

>> It's striking to me just how

physically demanding your

conducting must be.

And I know countless hours go

into your preparation of the


>> Yeah.

>> But do you train to stay

strong physically?

>> I do take care of my body

because we need, as musicians --

and especially as conductors,

because it's a little more

violent, we need to be strong

physically in order to feel

completely free with our


[ Soft music plays ]

The thing I would hate is that I

would be injured and then I

wouldn't be able to express the

way I want because it hurts.

So, I mean, this is wood, so

knock on wood.

It hasn't happened yet.

>> But judging from the pictures

I've seen of you training on

Instagram, you like you're

giving your trainer a workout.

>> [ Laughs ]

>> Big time.

>> Well, the interesting thing

is that I was not a sports

person at all when I was young.

Growing up, I was only about

piano and singing and

conducting, never did any team


My father tried in Canada to

have me do ice hockey -- didn't


But now this healthy aspect of

physicality has come in my life,

and I'm very grateful.

>> You're joining the Met at a

time when arts institutions

across the city are facing a

whole range of challenges.

>> Mm-hmm.

>> What do you see your role

here on making sure not only

that the Met survives but


>> It's a reality in this city,

but I think there's a simple

factor that we, unfortunately,

have forgotten in past decades,

which is we areyour orchestra.

We areyour opera house.

We are there for you.

>> That may be, but you've got

to fill this house.

>> Yeah, but that is -- You

know, the first problem is that

some people feel not welcome


I'm not saying it's only the

Met, but it is part of it.

It's such a beautiful, grand

building, and everybody's proud

of it and, in the city, say,

"Oh, that's great, but it's not

for me."


"Oh, because I don't know

anything about music, because

it's only for the rich, because

it's only for the educated,

because it's long and because it

will be boring."

And you'll have all these myths,

and my goal is to make everyone

feel welcome.

Do we say this when we go to the


Do we say, "I don't go there

because I don't know about

directing and editing and

lighting, design"?

We don't say that.

So there is something that,

unfortunately, we still project

as classical-music institutions,

that it should be only for the


I think it's also an illusion to

try and say, "Oh, we're gonna

have mostly 18-year-olds come to

opera and 22-year-olds."

There will be some really hard

core, and I want them to come at

the Met because they will feel

it's also a place where there's

experiment, there is some edge

to it.

>> But you have to concede it's

gonna take a long time to

cultivate that love of music in

this generation you're talking


In the meantime, you have an

aging patron base, and you also

have a target audience that is

living in a world controlled by

technology, which opens, you

know, with a fingertip, hundreds

of different experiences.

>> My experience, being in this

world and myself being very

much about fast-paced and

technology, I realize that it is

taking us so much attention

that, even in the younger

generation, they all and we all

need as human beings moments

where we can just stop, breathe,

feel that we're with other

people, sharing the same sense

of community.

I believe that, actually, opera

and a symphony by Mahler or

Bruckner or an opera by Verdi is

actually like a retreat.

[ Soft music plays ]

It quiets you down, and it's

this two, three, four hours

where you're off your phone.

It's giving you something to

think about, making you feel

like you're part of a bigger


>> You've always looked at it

that way, right, that music is a

unifying force.

>> It's unifying, and it's

actually -- it does you good,

but I think it's also a mistake

to try and say, "Oh, it's gonna

be short and fast-paced."

It isn't.

And precisely because of this,

even for a younger generation,

it might be the right relief.

Because nobody can spend their

lives completely with something

30 second, 30 second, 30 second.

The brain will explode.

And we're starting to see the

effects of this right away, so

I'm very optimistic.

>> What are your musical goals

here over the next five years?

>> I think the Met has an

increased role in being at the

center of the creation in new

operas and being also the

reflect of our society.

I think the Met will become and

is already becoming but will

become more inclusive, more

welcoming, also, not only in the

audience but also of who the

audience sees onstage, whether

it's more presence of women on

the podium or more presence of

people of color in our casts and

in compositions, as well, you


So the subjects that we

choose -- and I'm passionate

about it -- new operas and

commissioning more new works and

also getting musically the Met

not only in our beautiful house

but alsooutside of our house.

>> So do you believe that

community outreach is in fact

your number-one goal?

>> It is.

Our art form is -- It's nice to

listen to a recording, but

that's not what it's about.

What it's about is feeling that

we are together.

It's a unifying force, and, as

such, community outreach is at

the core of this, the same way

as it is to feel that our house

will be completely filled, the

seats will be filled with people

of every generation.

>> Yannick, I wish you the best

of luck.

It's gonna be so much fun to

watch you reach for the stars,

especially those here at the


>> Thank you so much.

Thank you so much.



>> Good evening, and welcome to


I'm Philippe de Montebello,

location at the Morgan Library &

Museum on Madison Avenue and

36th Street.

"In a hole in the ground, there

lived a hobbit."

So begins one of the most famous

stories of English literature,

but while "The Hobbit" begins

with that simple line, the

origins of hobbits, elves,

dwarves, and the world they

inhabit are far more complex.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, a

scholar of English language and

its history, created the realm

of Middle-earth to give his own

invented languages a home.

This winter, the

Morgan Library & Museum examines

Tolkien's life and work.

On view are rarely seen

materials from the

Bodleian Library in Oxford, home

of the Tolkien archive.

Visitors can witness the

creation of one of the most

ambitious and influential tales

of the 20th century.

And now curator John McQuillen

takes us "far over the

Misty Mountains cold," into the

world of Middle-earth.

>> We are standing in

"Tolkien: Maker of

Middle-earth," an exhibition

that celebrates the life and

creative process of one of the

most famous authors of the 20th

century, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien, in his day job, was a

professor of medieval English,

literature, and language at the

University of Oxford.

In his evening job, he was the

author and creator of

Middle-earth, of the world we

know through the three main

stories of "The Hobbit,"

"The Lord of the Rings," and

"The Silmarillion."

He was actually born in what was

then the Orange Free State, in

what is now the

Republic of South Africa, to

English parents.

At about the age of 4, his

mother took him and his younger

brother back to England, at

which point his father died

while he was still in

South Africa.

He always said that landing in

the green, verdant English

countryside was a real

eye-opener, and there are

illustrations we have in the

show, from his childhood, of a

tree by a stream.

[ Wistful folk music plays ]

The rural English countryside

was the direct inspiration for

Frodo and Bilbo's home in the


When Tolkien was 12, his mother,

Mabel, died from diabetes.

As an orphan from a very early

age, he really desired the

stability of a family unit.

He really developed a close bond

with his wife, Edith, who was

also an orphan.

And so he was a very close part

of his children's lives.

For over 20 years, every year,

Tolkien would produce these very

elaborate letters and

illustrations to his four

children from Father Christmas.

He would include tales of

Father Christmas' adventures at

the North Pole with his friend

the North Polar Bear and his

helper elves.

You can see, in the letters,

Father Christmas's hand shakes

because it's cold at the

North Pole.


Tolkien started writing

"The Hobbit" probably about


It was originally a story for

his children.

All of the manuscript and

illustrative material in the

show is original and in

Tolkien's own hand.

We have the original five

watercolors he produced,

actually originally for the

American edition, although they

came out in the English edition

before the American.

And so you can really see, in

his visual production, his real

creation of the complete world

that Bilbo lived in -- the

landscapes, the settings.

He's striving to help the

imagination of the reader really

grasp the setting of


Tolkien produced the original

dust-jacket design for

"The Hobbit," one of almost

iconic pieces of 20th-century

book arts.

He was sort of worried about

what any other artist might do,

and so, ultimately, cover to

cover, the entire first edition

of "The Hobbit" is Tolkien's


Tolkien began writing what

became "Lord of the Rings"

immediately after "The Hobbit"

came out.

The publisher was very

interested in having a sequel,

and so it was about 1937 when

Tolkien starts thinking about

what is going to be Bilbo's next


Within a year of writing, the

story kind of outgrew just


The writing of

"Lord of the Rings" took about a

dozen years, but the first thing

Tolkien produced for this was

the map of Middle-earth.

And he said repeatedly in

letters that he began with a map

and made the story fit.

The first map, the main map for

"Lord of the Rings," is quite

incredible because it is the map

that he used over this 12-year

period, and almost every day,

you can see how much it is

folded, refolded, torn, taped

back together, corrected.

It is really almost a living

document of the story.

It grew as the story grew.

"The Silmarillion" is a great

history of the elves and what he

really considered was his life's

work and greatest achievement.

He was attempting to create a

mythology for England.

There was this sense of an

almost biblical epic in terms of


It goes from a creation myth

through to battles and romances,

great wars that really

physically shaped the landscape

of Middle-earth, that then is

the land that "The Hobbit" and

"The Lord of the Rings" are set


Tolkien is very unusual in

modern authors for the world

building that he did.

There is a history to the


His timelines and the sort of

production notes are, again,

another effort to maintain the

complete veracity of the world.

A world is not a superficial


It is a fully realized entity.

And that was a depth of creation

that I don't think any other

author has ever matched.



>> I hope you've enjoyed our


I'm Philippe de Montebello, at

the Tisch WNET Studios at

Lincoln Center.

Good night, and see you next


[ Mozart's "Overture to the

Marriage of Figaro" plays ]

To enjoy more of your favorite

segments on "NYC-Arts," visit

our website at

[ Music continues ]

>> Leonard, what a privilege to

be able to sit down and talk

with you.

>> I love being here with you,

too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment to take

nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven, the curator

of this exhibition full of hope.

We are in the midst of some of

the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

>> Classical and modern dance

are extremely different, and I

have so much more to learn

before I can really articulate

the differences.

>> And when I listen to

Yip Harburg's lyrics in that, I

suddenly thought, "That's what I

want to do with my life."

>> My pictures reside in very

intimate, very private moments.

>> My primary way of playing the

piano is by improvising.

>> You are, in some respects, on

sacred ground.

>> A woman came to see me

perform and said, "How would you

like to play Billie Holiday?"

>> I think one of the essential

things that we learned is that

Matisse used pens to compose his


>> You always are surprised when

you are in opera and you're

doing a piece that's a hundred

years ago and you think, "Oh, my

gosh, this could be now."

>> The "Cardboard Guitar" is the

very first of that moment of


>> Suddenly, you come and

present something, and you get


Great. You know?








>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible, in

part, by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank, "First"

refers to our first priority --

the clients who walk through our


The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree -- be a bank whose

currency is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing on

our minds.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv