DETROIT — The Detroit Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday announced the selection of Italian conductor Jader Bignamini as its next music director.
The century-old orchestra said it signed a six-year contract with Bignamini, starting with the 2020-21 season. He will lead a three-concert home stand this weekend at Orchestra Hall.
Bignamini, who served as a DSO guest conductor in 2018 and again last year, succeeds Leonard Slatkin. Slatkin ended a decade as music director in 2018 and is now the ensemble's music director laureate.
Bignamini said he spoke Wednesday morning with Slatkin, and has found his predecessor to be nothing but kind and supportive.
"He is one of the most great in the world," Bignamini told The Associated Press by phone. "I try to be (at) the same height, but it's not easy to follow such a great maestro."
Bignamini, who is from Crema, Italy, has conducted the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera and the Dutch National Opera, among others. This season includes his debuts with the Toronto, Houston and Dallas orchestras.
In a release, he described his experiences with the Detroit orchestra as "a feeling of amore a prima vista, meaning 'love at first sight.'" Stephen Molina, an orchestra bassist who served on the eight-person search committee, said Bignamini's connection with the musicians was "immediate."
Bignamini added on the orchestra's website that the orchestra and its historic, acoustically renowned concert hall possess "the best energy I've found."
"I'm so excited to start this new adventure," he told reporters after the announcement.
Next season, Bignamini is scheduled to conduct three weeks of the orchestra's 20-week Classical Series. His first full season as director will be 2021-22, when he will conduct 12 weeks, orchestra officials said.
Bingamini, who takes the podium without a score so he can make eye contact with the musicians, also plans to "immerse himself in Detroit's rich jazz scene," according to the release. He is married with two children.