Exclusive: Another Met principal flies off to LA Phil

Exclusive: Another Met principal flies off to LA Phil


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2016

We hear that Boris Allakhverdyan, principal clarinet at the Metropolitan Opera since 2013, won the audition for the same seat at the LA Philharmonic on Friday.

He is the fourth woodwind principal out of eight to flee the Met in the past two years – both principal flutes quit on the same day last summer, one to Chicago, the other to LA.

We hear also that a fifth Met woodwind principal is in talks with Chicago and a sixth is preparing to retire. There is growing unease in the Met orchestra over the company’s general drift and the on-off music director position.


boris allakhverdyan


  • Mr Oakmountain says:

    Since playing in the opera pit and playing the symphonic repertoire can bring out quite different qualities in orchestral players, I wonder whether there should be an exchange programme where, say players from Covent Garden could swap for a year with someone from, say the LSO. The former might relish the chance to have a go at Mahler, Bartok and Debussy, the latter might be thrilled by some Verdi, Puccini and Wagner – and learn more about how to accompany singers.

    • Frederick West says:

      And why not! There are a few excellent examples in the recorded field where symphony orchestras seem to be having a whale of a time, the Leinsdorf Walküre with the LSO is quite something, and the Mackerras Wagner excerpts done on the cheap EMI label years ago with the LPO. They are certainly up to it.

  • Ilio says:

    Hours are better in a symphony orchestra. It’s cleaner playing on a stage rather in a pit. Living/working outside of NYC is more affordable. No wonder musicians leave the MET.

  • George says:

    My question: Is the Met dying? I can’t imagine such costly productions are sustainable.

  • MacroV says:

    Much as Mr. Lebrecht likes to insinuate this outflow of principals is a sign of trouble at the MET, more likely, as has been discussed here in the past, life in a top-tier symphony orchestra is just less grueling than in the pit. The MET loses a lot of people because they also get top people, perhaps a reflection of the credibility other orchestras place on their notably blind audition process. Don’t worry; they’ll get many great candidates for this and other upcoming vacancies.

    • NYMike says:

      Right you are. BTW, while the Met’s schedule is more grueling – a 4-hour opera vs a 2-hour symphony concert – its musicians have the highest basic wages in the US.

      • John says:

        Highest wages for LOTS of work AND living in NYC

        • Feanor says:

          Yes they’re paid the most, but not much more than LA, and they work not more hours than a symphony orchestra – TWICE the hours. I know, I used to play in their woodwind section.

          • M2N2K says:

            Still, the same disparity has existed for several decades, but there was never such mass exodus as seems to be happening during the last ten years or so.

  • Creed says:

    It’s a sign of a successful audition process when we talk about a few cherries that get picked off by other orchestras.

  • John Porter says:

    Well, somehow or another, the Met Opera still has the best orchestra in America. They will find another clarinet and another flute and their tradition of great orchestral playing will continue on.

    • M2N2K says:

      As long as the money is there.

    • Daniel F. says:

      “Somehow or other” = James Levine. Whether he is physically capable of maintaining the standard he has set for the past 40 years is quite another matter. We should all hope that he is.

      • Bruce says:

        Well, the Cleveland Orchestra doesn’t seem to have had much trouble maintaining the standard set by George Szell. I suspect the Met orchestra will continue to flourish after Levine leaves.

        • Stereo says:

          And that’s despite F worse than most

          • M2N2K says:

            It doesn’t work like that. After 14 years of artistic leadership that is now expected to continue at least up to 20, “despite” is much too late to being applicable. In my opinion, FWM is strangely underrated. He may not be of Szell’s or Levine’s stature, but he *is* an exceptionally intelligent and sensitive musician.

  • Vincent Ellin says:

    Nothing new here really. This has been happening for years. The MET job is very very hard, and New York is very expensive.

    • M2N2K says:

      No, it has not “been happening for years” – certainly not before 2010. Including Boris now, at least seven principal players from the Met (mostly woodwinds) left the famed Lincoln Center pit to play in symphony orchestras in just the last six years. That is an unprecedented rate of fleeing.