The homeless life of a three-job music director

The homeless life of a three-job music director


norman lebrecht

May 30, 2016

Stepping down after seven years with the Slovak Philharmonic, Emmanuel Vuillaume has spoken in a local interview of the loneliness of the long-distance conductor.

Technically, my home is now Paris, California and Dallas; but I am almost never there. So home is where my friends are, where good music is. But in some moments I have no home and this is very painful and difficult. I used to travel always with a book which was a prestigious collection of French poetry in a thousand pages, put together by Andre Gide. For a very long time, that felt home.

Read more here. Villaume is also music director of Dallas Opera and the Prague Philharmonia.

The incoming music director in Bratislava is James Judd.

emmanuel villaume



  • Peter says:

    It is 100% self inflicted pain. He has – unlike many others – choices.
    I save my compassion for those who deserve and need it.

    • EV says:

      I was not complaining no trying to attract sympathy. I was just trying to answer honestly a question! Read the rest. In the end, I have made choices and I do love my activity.
      Emmanuel Villaume

      • Peter says:

        Sorry, I was reacting on the tidbit that was quoted here. Your interview gives a much more balanced insight.

        • John says:

          I once new an opera singer who was on the road pretty constantly (Met, NYCity Opera, Chicago Lyric, New Orleans, San Francisco, etc.) who referred to the road as ‘a vacation you start to wish was over’.

  • Respect says:

    You try to maintain the support of your agent in developing your career when you say no too often….

    The complaint of the loneliness of traveling careers is not a secret. It’s not for everyone and a major factor in why some don’t develop.

  • EV says:

    I was not complaining nor trying to attract sympathy. I was just trying to answer honestly a question! Read the rest. In the end, I have made choices and I do love my activity.
    Emmanuel Villaume

  • Bruce says:

    Typical for NL to focus on two sentences out of a whole interview. Even in the paragraph that he extracts for this post, you can see EV starting to talk about how, even though he sometimes misses having a “home” in the normal sense, he has learned to carry his home with him. (Sadly, it’s also fairly typical for readers — not just on this site — to react according to the headline and first sentence.)

    • Bruce says:

      P.S. I found this part of his answer rather beautiful and inspiring:

      Home is also ambience, smell, a cultural gesture, which collects in artistic and spiritual places – and you sometimes have them and sometimes lose them. One way to be back home is to connect through heart in a spiritual way. However, a language can also be home – for me that is English and even more French. And I also feel at home in the essence of Mahler, or Mozart, because I feel close to that man – as infinitely bigger as he is – because I know him from his works, his wit, his life. That feels like a conversation with someone I feel close to. That brings a feeling of friendship, of home, of Heimat. Home is where you are put together, and these things and these people put me together.

  • Marcus Overton says:

    Because he is so focused on the power of music to speak to and nurture the best parts of ourselves, Mo. Villaume is admirably unselfconscious – to which the simplicity and open-hearted frankness of his responses in this interview attest.

    So he does not fully realize, in a good way, how he does an extraordinary thing, wherever he goes: he makes a kind of home – yes, a spiritual one as well as a musical one – for those who come to see and hear the art he and his colleagues bring to life.

    I have been fortunate enough to be his colleague (at Spoleto Festival USA during my tenure as manager), and to visit with him on many occasions since, and knowing him – even though I see him rarely – has greatly enriched my life. His greatest gift, I say without hesitation, surpasses even his music-making, and this interview reveals it: his ability to find friends and a home wherever he goes.

  • alfredo says:

    It’s PKF – Prague Philharmonia not Prague Philharmonic. It’s the orchestra Belohlavek founded about 20 years ago, very good one. They recorded the Heroique CD with Vuillame and Bryan Hymel lately.