“His dream was Montpellier”: the American Roderick Cox is officially appointed musical director of the Opera Orchestra

“His dream was Montpellier”: the American Roderick Cox is officially appointed musical director of the Opera Orchestra

The American Roderick Cox succeeds the Dane Michaël Schonwandt at the head of the orchestra. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

The appointment of Roderick Cox as musical director of the Opéra Orchester national Montpellier Occitanie was made official this Tuesday, April 23 at the Opéra Comédie. Valérie Chevalier, the general director of the Montpellier National Opera, spoke about the selection process and what convinced her. For his part, the American conductor explained that he was realizing "his dream". 

"You’re welcome in your city, Montpellier". This is how Michaël Delafosse welcomed this Tuesday, April 23, Roderick Cox, the new musical director of the Opéra Orchester national Montpellier Occitanie, following a press conference presentation within the Opéra Comédie. It was no longer a surprise. The appointment of the American conductor had leaked a few days earlier. It was a matter of formalizing this choice. The latter appeared openly on one of the kakemonos floating on the Place de la Comédie.

Five names and only one remained

Representatives of the State, the region, the metropolis, the town hall, everyone was there to welcome the man who becomes the youngest permanent conductor at the head of the Montpellier Orchestra since its creation. Valérie Chevalier, the general director of the Opéra national de Montpellier, returned to the recruitment process described as "banal". She was "not obliged", but she insisted on bringing together all the soloists to establish a short- list of five names. It was Roderick Cox who emerged as the winner. "artistic reasons" for Valérie Chevalier who was "blown away" by the American's performance for Transatlantique recorded here during the pandemic (concert available online). He then dazzled for Rigoletto, with "its great musicality, its great finesse, its great strength". Technique and charisma are essential to lead the 100 soloists in the pit. Edited by Valérie Chevalier. The main conductor is over, it's time for the musical director. The first is practically in residence, directing half of the concerts of the season. The second is more committed. He makes himself available for patronage (cornerstone of financing the Opera Orchestra, see article opposite), but also for the diversification of audiences or the choice of guest conductors for the rest of the season. This represents twelve weeks of physical presence per year. The contract was signed for three years, renewable. "Hiring a chef is like hiring a high-level athlete" reveals Valérie Chevalier. If the amounts are not the same, the negotiations are also tough. But it's impossible to know the American leader's rating.

Montpellier had caught the eye of the American

As we wrote in our edition of Thursday April 18, with his atypical career, Roderick Cox has made a place for himself in the world of classical music, conducting numerous orchestras across the world and pocketing the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Prize in 2018. White shirt, deep blue suit with a square of silk in the pocket, a good 48 on his feet, Roderick Cox promised that he would would put in French. But you will have to wait a little. Looking back on his first visit to Montpellier in 2021, the American said that he had wondered if it was possible "to do music in such a beautiful place, with good wine, good food and an excellent orchestra". This is how "his dream" comes true. He aims "to make Montpellier known internationally". On the program side, he promised to give "a breath of fresh air in French music", conceding that it was little performed at the Opéra Comédie. Even if he appreciates Beethoven, Schubert, Schoenberg, he is also expected to highlight American composers like John Adams, Samuel Barber or Jennifer Higdon. Roderick Cox is scheduled to take office in September 2024. He will be conducting three concerts next season and twice as many for the following season.

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