His predecessor Gerard Mortier preferred to spend the vast (€180m) annual budget of the Opéra National de Paris on innovative new productions, but Nicolas Joel made it clear at the start of his directorship last year that his priority was to bring in big star names.
His policy has already backfired once. When Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón cancelled their scheduled appearances in January's Idomeneo, the replacements Joel scraped up were the distinctly less starry Tamar Iveri and Charles Workman. That's despite several months notice to fill a couple of parts you wouldn't think were too hard to cast. The revival of Luc Bondy's tame production wasn't much compensation for the disappointed audiences.
He worked a bit more quickly replacing conductor Emmanuelle Haïm, who departed by mutual consent just two days before the premiere. But the question must be asked why she was ever engaged in the first place, given the orchestra's obvious antipathy to her style and methods.
Now on Thursday night, as local blogger Opera Cake reports, the Paris Opera was forced to cancel the second half of La Sonnambula when its star Natalie Dessay became too ill to carry on. Shockingly, no cover was available, despite the fact that Natalie's pharyngitis had been lingering for days. That's something which has never happened at the Royal Opera House, at least during my time. Whether they've had to fly someone in at the crack of dawn or shove one of their Young Artists on stage with zero notice, no Covent Garden performance has ever been cancelled for the sake of a sore throat.
The one real success of his reign so far has been the recent Werther - but even that, most would agree, was mainly attributable to a splendid central performance from Jonas Kaufmann. Few except the most die-hard traditionalists were thrilled by the tired old ex-Covent Garden production.
Sadly there's more of the same to come - as with La Sonnambula too, most of ONP's 'new' productions this year are buy-ins of other houses' most clapped-out and conservative efforts. That includes the season opener, Joel's own hyper-traditional production of Gounod's Mireille, created for his ex-employer Toulouse Opera.
Anyone can pacify the tourists with tried-and-tested productions, and anyone can throw a chequebook at the biggest names in opera. That's not difficult - all it takes is cash.
What is much harder is to establish a unique artistic identity for an international opera house, and to overcome the everyday, practical, human problems that such a house will inevitably face. Nicolas Joel's current score on both counts is a big fat nul points.