|Maestro Levine in the pit - Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos|
DESPITE the frustration he has endured from lingering back problems, James Levine should be feeling some contentment right now.To be honest with you, Chickpeas - I feel like this is pretty much saying: "Happy 40th Anniversary, Maestro Levine. You're truly a pillar of operatic history. Now, don't let the door hit you on the way out." So tasteful and classy.
On May 14, the last day of the Metropolitan Opera’s season, he conducted the final performance of Wagner’s Walküre in the new Robert Lepage production. Once again, he was too frail to walk onstage for a bow. But throughout this matinee performance, broadcast live in HD to an estimated 175,000 people in movie theaters worldwide, Mr. Levine was a kinetic presence in the pit, swiveling on his chair as he made big, looping gestures with his arms.
In the demonic storm music that opens Act I, it was touching to hear him audibly grunting as he gave the emphatic downbeat of each swirling phrase in the orchestra. The performance had moments of shaky execution and tentativeness. But the supportive players of the great Met orchestra, who know this score and their maestro well, stayed with him right through this five-hour workout. And the cast sounded inspired...
...June 5 will be the 40th anniversary of Mr. Levine’s Met debut, in which he conducted Puccini’s “Tosca” with Grace Bumbry in the title role and Franco Corelli as Cavaradossi. In a review for The New York Times, Allen Hughes wrote that Mr. Levine “may be one of the Metropolitan’s best podium acquisitions in some time,” an astute prediction.
Having cleared his schedule for the next five months, Mr. Levine, 67, is determined to recuperate and be back at the Met for a new production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” in October. His 40-year association with the Met, all but two years in leadership roles, is a staggering milestone.
But the time has come for Mr. Levine to make his next contribution to the company he loves and step aside as music director. The Met needs someone new in that demanding post. Peter Gelb, the general manager, has all but designated Fabio Luisi, the principal guest conductor, to take over if need be. In recent seasons, Mr. Luisi has thrived at the house and earned widespread support from the orchestra.