Cher Public

You’re tearing me apart!

youre-tearing-me-apartSo, if you wondering when the spit is going to hit the fan (to quote another great ’50s teen angst opus), well, the date you’re looking for is October 9, 2010. Why is that date so special or unusual, you ask? Well, for the currently ailing James Levine, it’s the day he’s supposed to be in two places at more or less the same time.  

At 1:00 PM, the maestro is scheduled to conduct Das Rheingold at the Met, a performance that will be simulcast in HD. Then, at 8:00 PM, this same maestro is supposed to lead the Mahler Resurrection symphony for, you guessed it, the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

That’s the Boston Symphony Orchestra that’s in Boston, you know, four hours from New York by car or train, or an hour and a quarter by air?

Well, car and train are out, surely. With split-second coordination a car could be waiting at the stage door at 4:00 to whisk Levine to LaGuardia for a 5:00 flight to Boston Logan, arriving if all goes well 6:15, then a quick rush through traffic to Symphony Hall, a shower and a change of clothes… Or else, maybe a private jet and a helicopter…

No, wait. Why are we even discussing this insanity? This sort of multi-city marathon is a feat that perhaps a 35 year old in perfect health might pull off, in an emergency: you know, like if the regular conductor of the Boston Symphony fell ill, and nobody else knew the work.

But none of that applies here. Rather, we have a man approaching 70, in very poor health, who had to cancel more than half his engagements last season. And, yet, for some reason that might make sense to a madman, his management (with the cooperation of the Met and the BSO) has deliberately booked this frail fellow for (ironically) back to back performances of two difficult works in different cities. On the same day, let’s not forget.

Now, in case you’re thinking, oh, this is just an oversight or a typo or something, let’s take a look at the schedule of Levine’s performances (i.e., not counting rehearsals) for the period of just over two weeks at the beginning of the season.

  • September 27 Met (Opening night)
  • September 30 Met
  • October 2 BSO (Opening night)
  • October 4 Met
  • October 7  (morning) AM BSO
  • October 7  BSO
  • October 8  (matinee) BSO
  • October 9 (matinee) Met
  • October 9  (evening) BSO
  • October 12  BSO

So, obviously, somebody involved here, most likely everybody involved here, is full of shit. And La Cieca is going on record saying that all of them deserve to have it blow up in their fucking faces.

  • I agree with La Cieca. This schedule would be insane even for a much younger man with no health problems. This is just irresponsible and disrespectful to audiences. First, there’s the question of whether Levine will be recovered in time for the Met opening night. Second, there’s the question of whether his back can withstand a two-hour-45-minute Rheingold performance without intermission. Then, comes the question of whether he can make it to Boston in time to conduct a demanding 80-minute Mahler symphony without intermission.

    I have no doubt that both the Met and BSO have back-up plans in place. But this kind of scheduling should not have been allowed to begin with (not matter how long ago it was inked), never mind that both organisations are still sticking to this schedule publicly (presumably to maximise ticket sales).

  • Arianna a Nasso

    Regarding comments that only a young conductor could pull off this schedule: While admittedly I have no proof on hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if Levine managed similar Met/BSO schedules only a few years ago. We just didn’t notice because everything went smoothly, and his series of extended health-related cancellations had not begun, so we weren’t on the alert as we are now.

  • The Vicar of John Wakefield

    Mark Wigglesworth, Simone Young and Paul Daniel are rested and ready.

    • operadent

      Jimmy would be better than any of above if he conducted via webcam!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Earlier I announced my new IPad app -- “I beat it” for conducting operas and concerts. Little did I know that people have been working in this field and have already prepared the ultimate device to keep pages from blowing in outdoor settings. Not even the mistral in Orange can de-feet the AirTurn Bluetooth iPad Page Turner Prototype:

    Now all that’s needed is a larger display so one can view large orchestra scores or increase the size of the music on the Ipad.