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The only work that really brings enjoyment


James Levine received $2.1 million in compensation from the Met for the 2010-2011 season, during which time he conducted 31 performances. His pay was about 150% that of Peter Gelb, who raked in $1.4 million in pay and benefits during that period. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

76 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    And speaking of ruining opera companies? Which Florida impressario finally packed up and left town after running the company into the ground? All of the details have yet to be revealed. This is actually great news if there is to be a future for opera in their beautiful new opera house, much in need of better opera.

    • La Cieca says:

      La Cieca’s algebra is a bit rusty, but here’s how Levine’s fees seem to shake out.

      He earned $2.1 million in 2010-11, “up 39 percent from a year earlier,” which means that his compensation for 2009-10 was about $1.52 million.

      Levine conducted 31 times in 10-11 vs. 15 times in 09-10. If we express his per-performance fee as “x” and his average yearly music director salary as “y,” then his compensation for the two seasons can be expressed thus:

      [for 10-11] 31x + y = $2.1MM
      [for 09-10] 15x + y = $1.52MM

      Now we subtract equal amounts from each side of the 10-11 equation, thus

      (31x + y) -- (15x + y) = ($2.1MM) -- ($1.52MM)

      Reducing, we get

      16x = $0.58MM, or 16x = $580,000

      Dividing,

      x = $36,250.

      Substituting that value in the formula for 2010-11 compensation, we get

      31*$36,250 + y = $2.1MM

      or $1.12MM + y = $2.1MM

      Thus y = .98MM.

      Rounding off, here’s a rough approximation of the terms of James Levine’s contract:

      $1 million a year, plus $35,000 per performance.

      La Cieca invites the cher public to check her math.

      • kashania says:

        An opera doyenne who does math. I’ll be on the verranduh!

      • Lady Bracknell says:

        This is also assuming that both X and Y were constant in both years (ie: he did not receive an increase in per-performance fees or his music director fees).

        Also assuming no media royalties in the mix either.

        • La Cieca says:

          I mean the figure to be an average across the two years. Presumably there would be at least a small raise in the music director base pay from one year to the next.

          Media royalties are a more puzzling question. I know there’s an additional fee paid for the HD telecasts (equal to one performance fee?) but I have no idea how royalties from home video sales are structured. I find it hard to imagine that even Levine would have points on the gross, and most opera DVDs don’t go into profit surely.

          • Lady Bracknell says:

            re: Media -- as he’s not governed by a collective bargaining agreement, it’s entirely whatever JL’s agent and the MET agreed to. Could be just about anything from a token pittance to a the lion’s share of any post-production profits.

            Bottom line, to paraphrase Ethel Merman, he’s been good for the MET and the MET’s been good for him.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I’m convinced.

      • Oh, it’s just noon and my abacus needs new batteries. Is it too early for a drink? Whatever it is, I know that I have personally never been disappointed by a performance, opera or orchestral, that Maestro Levine has lead. I feel he is worth every penny, and I wish him the best.

        • Camille says:

          According to one Flagstad biographer, she would strictly wait until the stroke of twelve noon, then lift the bottle.

          It’s 15:40 here. Overtime.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

        Levine’s Corproation = Phramus Inc.

      • Ilka Saro says:

        Mi par d’esser con la testa
        in un’orrida fucina

      • papopera says:

        whatever, nice pay cheques

  • TShandy says:

    I’m trying to figure out if La Cieca is kvetching about something or is simply reporting the facts about James Levine’s salary. I stand by my “so what?” opinion. I don’t care how much money Levine makes. It could be $5 million dollars a year, he’s worth it! Anybody who remembers the photograph of a ten year old James Levine clutching the score of “Faust,” the opera obsessed kid who must have endured obloquy and scorn from his playmates, for all the work he put in to get to where he got… Good For Him!

    • Clita del Toro says:

      Yeah, and compared with assholes like Justine’s Beaver, who make many millions and have no talent whatsoever--except for attracting teenage girls with his dykish look--Levine deserves his pay.
      But, if he is no longer working, they should put the money to better use in the future.

  • CruzSF says:

    For all that $$, I’d hope/expect him to at least phone in during his recuperation to give advice or check in. I know the $$ was paid during a season when he actually conducted, but he’s still sporting the Music Director title, so where is he? Gelb and Luisi have publicly said that they haven’t heard from him in months.

    • kashania says:

      That’s the big question mark for me. He’s taken an 18-month sabbatical from performing but his work on the podium (and in rehearsal) is only half of his responsibilities as Music Director. Why is he not more involved in artistic matters? If anything, he should be overcompensating in his contributions to artistic planning to make up for his absence on the podium.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    More importantly, Justin Bieber took over the Apolo Theater. We look forward to his operatc debut in NYCO’s commission “Leave it to Bieber”

  • kekszakallu says:

    Or perhaps the Bieber of Seville -- with Fedora Biebereri

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      Making much more money than James Levine:


      YES! The Bieber of Seville. Oh, for the royaties from that one.

  • decotodd says:

    Greetings Parterriani!

    I’m going to be in Munich and then Salzburg at the end of July. I already have tickets to Salzburg “Ariadne” (w/Magee and Kaufmann, who is thankfully back to health according to his website).

    During my time in Munich, I could catch “Traviata” with Harteros, Vargas and Keenleyside. Not an opera I’m inclined to expend much effort to see again but curious what the consensus is on Harteros as Violetta. Should I try and catch her in the role?

    Any other non-opera related recommenations?

    Thanks in advance!

    • manou says:

      You should certainly see Keenlyside as Papa Germont. Whether you can believe he has sired Ramoncito V. is another thing altogether.

    • MontyNostry says:

      I feel a bit the same about Traviata, but I’d go and see it for the sake of hearing a soprano with a nice big, healthy voice who can do the coloratura. I’m sure she’s pretty intense too.

    • mrmyster says:

      Keenleside will likely sing flat, but Harteros should be more than worth
      the price of admission — if she does not cancel. She’s a splendid singer
      who knows what she can do and she always does well. Don’t miss her.
      Simon, alas, is not a voice for Verdi and he’s been pushing, so now he’s
      paying the price. Last time I heard him (Met) he did not sing well.

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        Keenlyside was last at the Met in November 2010, right? Since then he has been well received at the ROH in Traviata and Macbeth, as well as in non-Verdi roles in other venues. I don’t think it’s reasonable to write him off, predict flatness and imply his voice has suffered some kind of permanent damage based on what could very well have been an off night/week/month when you saw him.

        • mrmyster says:

          Cocky, I hope you are right! But give ear personally to him, even if it’s
          only a live broadcast, and see what you think. I am always interested in
          your opinion. Even about UK artists! (:)

      • Enzo Bordello says:

        Just back from Wien where Keenlyside enjoyed a huge triumph at the Staatsoper as Rodrigo in the new DON CARLO. The roof practically caved in at his solo curtain call. One tentative note at the end of “Per me giunto” but otherwise sublime vocally and interpretatively. The whole evening was mind-blowing. But Keenlyside was clearly the audience favorite.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          There it is.

          Unusual for a Rodrigo to steal the show, but then he is such a comitted actor and does all that brotherly affection and respectful deference thing so well as Rodrigo, on top of having a gorgeous voice.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Posa often does that: a sympahetic role, like Suzuki.

            Maltman was the audience favorite in Amsterdam last month, despite pushing and yelling unconvincingly for a big sound.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Maltman has been pushing through his tone for years. Anyway, I’ve never quite understood why Posa is seen as an ‘entry-level’ Verdi role. he has to go head to head with the King!

          • Enzo Bordello says:

            Nerva: I understand your point and think it is highly applicable to American audiences but the Wiener Staatsoper audience--especially for the opening night of a new production--is extremely discerning. Ovations are not bestowed on a singer because he or she played a likable character. I’ve heard many artists booed there, sometimes in simpatica roles and yes, sometimes unfairly.

      • MontyNostry says:

        When SK sings Verdi, he is generally so busy pushing for a big, virile sound that he forgets about his customary artistry. I find it’s a bit like Hvoro’s huffing and puffing in Verdi (though SK is generally a far more subtle artist than the steel-haired Siberian). SK’s Macbeth in London was just rather dull, I found, and I didn’t enjoy listening to the sound he was making. I was impressed by the recent ROH radio broadcast of Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto, though. He was a little bit light-voiced, but it was definitely on the right lines. Terrific conducting from Gardiner, Siurina was lovely, but Grigolo sounded old and grey, though he was working hard at making it interesting.

        • armerjacquino says:

          Germont != Macbeth, or even Posa, though. There’s no need to push or force for Germont, it’s basically a lyric baritone part.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Nah, I still like a big, burly, rolling sound for Papa Germont. Though I know it’s deeply unfashionable to say so, I actually rather like “Di provenza”. Give me those big arching phrases!

          • oedipe says:

            Everybody knows you are into size, Monty!

          • MontyNostry says:

            I have to say that the one kind of voice I would really like to hear is a proper Verdi baritone. I saw Milnes a few times in the 80s, and Cappuccilli once, and have seen Nucci lots of times (though he has never made much of an impression on me). I must have seen Bruson at some point too (though he was never a barnstormer). But I would love to hear a new and really opulent high baritone in the big stuff.

        • Cocky Kurwenal says:

          I thought Keenlyside was a beautiful Posa in London when he did it with Villazon. But then I also thought Hvorostovsky was, both at the proms in 1995(?) and in Paris c.2 years ago. And I think Hvorostovsky makes a fab Germont because, as AJ says, it’s a lyric baritone part (the first one I ever saw incidentally was Sir Thomas Allen, with Sonny & Cher, c.1996). I’m slightly hard pressed to think of any baritone who can achieve quite such feats of breath control as Hvorostovsky actually, so I can’t really see how he could be found wanting in Di Provenza in that regard, unless it’s just that you want a bigger sound. It’s true I think that Hvorostovsky has all the colour of a Verdi baritone but 2 thirds of the volume, maybe.

          • MontyNostry says:

            When I saw Hvoro do Germont in 2008 (Jaho’s first Einspring, for Nebtrebko, at the ROH), I thought that about five notes in his voice, somewhere around middle C, worked well, and the rest was too full of air. Long breaths are all very well, but if the sound coming out isnt full and rich, I don’t see the excitement. As for his Rigoletto at the ROH in 2009, I was just embarrassed. But, then, I always thought Bryn should have won at Cardiff back in 1989, before he started singing out of the side of his mouth …

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            I find it full and rich, but I’m also used to hearing terms like ‘veiled’ and ‘blustery’ used in connection with him -- I see where you’re coming from. He’s always been a particular favourite of mine. That said I’ve never seen his Rigoletto, which is partly because I’m fairly sure I’d be disappointed by it and I don’t want to be.

          • MontyNostry says:

            I would never deny that he makes a fine Yeletsky.

    • Feldmarschallin says:

      The Traviatas were sold out already months ago. Apparently they might be her last Violettas and yes she will sing them. Good luck with trying to get tickets.

    • luvtennis says:

      I have listened to her recorded Violetta. The role competently sung and the voice is healthier and sounder than many who have sung this role recently.

      That said, I think her strengths would be better utilized in other roles. Her singing is robust, and healthy and a little more big boned than is ideal for Violetta (pace Big Renata). She strikes me more as a Leonora in the making.

        • Clita del Toro says:

          I just watched the Trovatore clip. I hear a very nice, biggish, smooth, well controlled voice, but Harteros brings nothing special or personal to the aria; kinda generic, good , not so dramatic singing. Her body movements, swaying and facial expressions seem a bit amateurish and unconvincing.

          She and her singing lack personality and a certain gravitas, imo.
          Leontyne, Zinka or Maria had plenty of that.

          Nice.

          • luvtennis says:

            Smooth, well-controlled and biggish would be welcome anywhere as Leonora these days. But those are not sufficient to make a soprano a suitable Violetta, in my opinion.

  • Andie Musique says:

    Not a Levine sighting, but a ‘phone-in.’ Levine recently called his favorite chocolate shop, Mondels, and ordered chocolates. His driver picked them up.

    • CruzSF says:

      At least we know he’s still eating.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      Although the unexplained inside track is commonplace around here and something one takes for granted, I do have to ask how on earth you know about Levine’s chocolate order.

      • MacduffNYC says:

        It would seem that the Met board, if not Peter Gelb, will have to publicly address Maestro Levine’s prolonged absence from the Met at some point. Granted, Levine is certainly entitled to his privacy, but the Met will have to make some comment on his condition and his position at the Met. Certainly they can’t keep listing him as music director forever. Also, at some point his contract will expire. What happens then?
        It appears for all intents and purposes that the Met is making future plans as if Levine will not return at all. The upcoming new production of Tristan has already been announced with another conductor, Simon Rattle, I think.
        The complete silence from Levine’s camp makes me think that his condition is far worse than the public has been lead to believe.
        If the Met needs a music director they should have one capable of fulfilling his duties.
        I guess we’ll see what happens.

        • oakapple says:

          We can make a few reasonable guesses.

          Levine’s last public utterance was that he expected to recover, but that the exact time frame was uncertain, and therefore he (and Gelb) thought it best NOT to schedule him for performances he might not be able to make (not that that has ever stopped him before). He also said that, sometime during the 2012-13 season, he expects to return to his administrative duties.

          In the late fall, Gelb will be putting finishing touches on the 2013-14 season (even though WE won’t see it until about March 2013). By then, he’s got to have a pretty good idea whether there is any chance of Levine conducting in that season. If there is, I suspect we’ll hear that he has returned to the building at some point in the fall.

          If we’ve heard nothing by January, then I suspect not long thereafter will come an announcement that he is now Music Director Emeritus, which leaves the door open for him to conduct again if he is ever able, but leaves the Met free to move on. Two years is a long time for your musical director to be absent, but you could argue that Levine has earned that. (In any event, I suspect that is how the Board sees it.) Three years would be a joke.

          I agree that the Met is clearly acting as if Levine won’t be there. And I agree that the silence from Levine’s camp suggests that his health is not making much progress. But then again, Levine has always been intensely private, and what is the point of doling out interim updates?

  • Andie Musique says:

    I buy chocolate at Mondel’s. Handmade in the back of the shop. Wonderful. Hepburn’s picture is on the wall.

    • Camille says:

      Would you mind sharing the location of this Mondel’s? I have a favourite friend whom I like to entice and bribe with chocolate. Liquor is quicker, though, come to think of it.
      Thank you Andie. I do love your name so.