Breaking: Met grabs harp from Paris Opéra

Breaking: Met grabs harp from Paris Opéra


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2015

The wonderful Emmanuel Ceysson, principal harp at the Bastille for the past decade, has won the audition at the Metropolitan Opera for the seat left vacant by the death of Deborah Hoffman in February 2014.

He starts in Tannhäuser this September.




Here‘s how he describes the audition process:

I loved the fairness of [this] audition: we played behind a screen for all three rounds, we picked numbers for the order, our cell phones were confiscated. The jury had no way to know who we were, how we looked, they only judged us on what they heard…

The semi and finals were on the same day, starting at 3 p.m., and we finished around 10 p.m., it was quite a long and stressful day, but [all] auditions are a challenge…

Most challenging excerpt? Well you can make all excerpts challenging, as any piece of solo repertoire. I loved the repertoire for this audition because it gave us the opportunity to express ourselves in many different ways: Lucia, Chenier, Meistersinger for phrasing, Hansel for virtuosity and stability, Walküre for pedal changes, etc.


  • Alice says:

    Isn’t it rather arrogant of The Met to ask any musician with the credentials of Mr Ceysson to audition? If he’s good enough for the Bastille he’s certainly good enough for The Met, surely.

    • Anon says:

      I am thinking he was probably invited directly into the semi-finals or even finals. He probably didn’t have to play a preliminary round.

      • music montreal says:

        everyone at MET auditions starts from the first round; the only exceptions where candidates start in the second round is if they are already a member of the orchestra auditioning ‘up,’ or if they had previously held a one-year contract as a permanent extra. they have by far the fairest audition system in north america.

    • Anon says:

      Also, harp positions are as scarce as hens’ teeth. The MET is probably the highest paying harp job in the US. I’m sure the competition for this position was fierce, with the other candidates also holding very good jobs. They all had to audition and the best won. That’s how it works!

    • David b says:

      Considering the Met is considered one of the best orchestras in the world and the best opera orchestra it’s really not asking too much. Surely.

    • William Safford says:


    • herrera says:

      We don’t know who the other candidates were, what if they were the principal harps of Vienna, Paris, and La Scala? On paper, they are equally qualified.

    • Max Grimm says:

      With that argument, it will be hard to explain how and why young, “no-name” musicians still in or fresh out of music school manage to succeed in winning positions, going against seasoned and experienced players with far more illustrious résumés.

  • Saul Davis says:

    I was told the finalists were Ceysson, Valerie Muzzolini from the Seattle Symphony, and a guy named Nikolai, also from Paris. This is the first time I have heard of so many Europeans at an American audition, but thanks to, auditions are much better publicized, though I believe the Met only advertised it in the International Musician. Based on previous auditions, many harpists are intimidated by the Met, and the fact that not so many harpists get a lot of opera experience in the US. That and the fact that opera harp parts can be hard to obtain and study ahead of time. Therefore, the Met gets a smaller turnout for their auditions than a typical symphony orchestra, which may get as many as 200 applicants. There are only a few opera companies with full-time harpists. Moreover, the Met has reduced its harp section for Wagner’s Ring from six to four, making it much more difficult to perform. The Met has two full-time harpists, a permanent subsitute, and an active list of extras.

  • David Lowry says:

    Emmanuel’s performance today (Oct 31) in Tannhauser was spectacular. Welcome to the U.S., Emmanuel!

  • Christine Agathon-Burton says:

    Bonjour Emmanuel,
    Toutes nos félicitations ! Juliette et moi même pourrons plus facilement venir vous écouter, Washington n’étant pas bien loin.
    Reviendrez vous à Wolftrap dans un futur proche ?
    Bien à vous.
    Christine et Juliette