NEW YORK (AP) — After a piano rehearsal, two orchestra sessions and one concert performance together, soprano Christine Goerke gushed with praise for Gianandrea Noseda.
"He doesn't just use his hands and his arms. He conducts with his entire body," she said. "And it is amazing, because when you see that kind of energetic physicality, there is no mistaking what he is asking for."
Entering his prime, the 55-year-old Italian is in his third season as music director of Washington's National Symphony Orchestra, which he leads this week at the Kennedy Center and at New York's Lincoln Center on Sunday in the second act of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" with tenor Stephen Gould, Goerke and bass Günther Groissbock as King Marke.
Noseda is reviving the NSO, where he followed Antal Doráti (1970-77), Mstislav Rostropovich (1977-94), Leonard Slatkin (1996-2008) and Christoph Eschenbach (2010-17) as music director.
"There are a lot of good vibes there," Noseda said. "Fortunately, the community is coming back to the Kennedy Center."
Noseda already has led large choral works in Washington that have included Benjamin Britten's “War Requiem,” Giuseppe Verdi's “Requiem” and John Adams' "The Gospel According to the Other Mary," performances that leave his all-black conducting clothes drenched in so much sweat that he could be mistaken for having jumped in a pool.
"What's great about him is his attention and the enthusiasm for whatever music he's working on, particularly with the Wagner,” Gould said. "I think he approaches the music from, as I think Wagner even intended, especially with his earlier works, more from the Italian side, the more lyric side."
In a time where arts institutions battle to sell tickets, Noseda has expanded the NSO’s outreach by conducting the orchestra at Union Station, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Anthem, a waterside theater that usually hosts rock and pop concerts.
The NSO is launching its own recording label, starting February 21 with Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 and Aaron Copland's suite from "Billy the Kid." The orchestra will tour Japan and China next spring, and he will lead a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies in May and June to celebrate the composer's 250th birthday.
"People are aware that there's something exciting happening at the NSO right now," said Gary Ginstling, who became the orchestra's executive director in 2017-18 after serving as CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. "Our ticket sales are up. Our subscriptions are up, which counters the general downward trends."
Noseda conducts the NSO for 12 weeks per season. He has appointed 16 players in the 96-member orchestra.
"That is crucially important because it gives a new motivation," Noseda said. "And also the tours and their role in the community. I try to be a pivotal player in that, not only recognized as their conductor."
He also is principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, a role that started in 2016-2017, and has smaller time commitments as principal guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, principal conductor of the Orquestra de Cadaques in Spain and artistic director of the Stresa Festival in Italy.
After leading the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, from 2007-18, he becomes general music director of the Zurich Opera in the 2021-22 season, where he will conduct two new productions and three or four revivals each season. That should result in synergy that will lead to singers performing concert versions at the Kennedy Center of staged performances in Switzerland.
He will conduct Wagner's Ring Cycle in Zurich starting with "Das Rheingold" in the spring of 2022 in a staging by Andreas Homoki, the opera house's director general. Noseda intends to bring the Claus Guth production of "Tristan" he led in Turin back to Zurich, where it originally was staged in 2008. The Zurich Opera is about a 3½-hour drive from Noseda’s home in Meina, Italy, alongside Lake Maggiore.
Goerke, after working with Noseda for the first time this week, hopes he invites her back for more performances.
"He is obviously an exemplary musician, but he's friendly," he said. "I know that sounds like a crazy thing to say, but when you feel that someone is friendly, is willing to collaborate, is wanting to support you, it enables you to do anything that you can do to create the magic."