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Endgame

“This is it,” says a veteran Met-watcher, and La Cieca sadly must agree. Based on reliable reports about reshuffling of the Met’s repertoire for the 2013-14 season, the only reasonable conclusion is that James Levine will never return to conduct with the company.

This morning your doyenne heard that both Wagner productions scheduled for next season have been canceled. Tannhäuser has been replaced with a revival of Rusalka, and the return of this season’s new Parsifal will be set aside for a reprise of Wozzeck. Meanwhile, the projected revival of Mahagonny has been scrapped, with the vacant dates to be filled by repertory performances TBA. Presumably (this has not been confirmed) the seasons’ other two Levine projects, the opening night Eugene Onegin and Falstaff later in the year, will be reassigned to Fabio Luisi.

What’s needed now, of course, is a clear statement of Levine’s retirement so the Met can stop putting out all those little fires and get a real music director on board. But La Cieca’s not holding her breath.

Photo: Mary Altaffer, AP.

96 comments

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Predicting the long awaited (by her) debut of Keri Lynn Wilson, who convinced the powers that be with a $6,000 bottle of Chateau neuf de Krakentorp.

  • rofrano says:

    I agree with above posters: Can La Cieca offer any more specific information that plausibly links these cancellations to Levine’s situation? Otherwise I don’t see the logic.

  • Well, doing Rusalka opens up some possibilities. They could do an HD of the production. I have heard it is a nice one. Fleming could do it, and she should not have too much trouble with it, but if not, that could be a great debut vehicle for Ana Maria Martinez. Christine Goerke could come in as the Foreign Princess ( if she is available,) or maybe Lauren Flannigan (that would be a nice coup). Beczala could keep the prince and ether Blith or Dolora could do the witch.

    I certainly would love to travel to NYC to see the production or go to the movies to see an HD of it.

    • Tristan_und says:

      The production is gorgeous; Fleming sounds FABulous in it (as does Beczala); I think I heard Zajick and she was fab too, of course. And it would make a great HD, but it’s a relatively obscure piece: a lot of people haven’t even heard of it. It could suffer the same fate as “Billy Budd” which had a fabulous production and would have made a great HD but was shoved in the corner w/ only three perfs and no HD, even w/ that great cutaway of the ship.

      • I can see that, but at the same time, the story is quite accessible and it could be marketed rather well and easy. I think it could be the sleeper hit of the season, if they chose to do an HD of it.

      • armerjacquino says:

        The way to publicise an HD of RUSALKA to a wider audience would be to play up the LITTLE MERMAID connection. But I can imagine the pearls that would be clutched if the Met did that!

      • derschatzgabber says:

        San Francisco rented the production (I think in 1996, it was the last opera given before the house was closed for seismic repairs and upgrades following the Loma Prieta earthquake -- the cast took their final curtain calls in hard hats) and it is gorgeous (not sure if we used the Met’s sets, or a smaller version that also was used in Houston and Seattle). But I do wonder if this production of Rusalka would work well in HD. The illusion of water in the lake in Acts I and III is created by an old stage technique. About ten vertical sheets that are painted to look like the lake surface extend across the width of the stage. At each end of the sheets, stage hands in the wings wiggle the material slightly throughout the entire act. From the house, this creates the illusion of a rippling lake surface. But the first time I saw the production, the lake looked more like a series of low waterfalls for a split second. Then my eyes adapted to the illusion and I perceived one smooth surface. I wonder if this kind of optical illusion would work in an HD broadcast. Maybe in long shots, but a single close up near the lake part of the set would surely ruin the illusion.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

          Maybe they can get a bunch of planks, paint them blue and line them up in front of the water at an angle.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Hi QPF, that sounds a little dangerous. Better use body doubles for Rusalka and the three wood nymphs whenever they get near the planks. In Act III, the prince can attone for his sins by walking the plank.

      • Nerva Nelli says:

        Eva Zigmondova is not just one of opera’s most celebrated sopranos, but perhaps its most convincing actress. A consummate artist, her one and only role when she stands in the spotlight is to breathe so much life into the opera’s main character that audiences lose themselves in her unforgettable performances. That is the passion of Eva Zigmondova.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      In what way would Lauren Flanigan as the Foreign Princess be a nice coup?

      It is a gorgeous production, I’d love to have a DVD of it with Fleming.

      • The role, as I understand it, is great for a dramatic soprano who is a good singing actress. Why shouldn’t Flanigan be considered for the role, or should we get another of Gelb’s usual Russians with less voice and stage presence? (no, that was not a stab at Nebby, I thinks she would be a great Rusalka)

        • Indiana Loiterer III says:

          Flanigan sang it at the Met back in 1993.

        • La Cieca says:

          Question: Why shouldn’t Flanigan be considered for the role?

          Answer: The role, as I understand it, is great for a dramatic soprano who is a good singing actress.

          Joking aside, Flanigan doesn’t sing standard opera any more and hasn’t for years. She does an occasional new work or a revival of one of her modernist warhorses like Esther. She has no particular connection with the Met, having sung only a handful of performances there, and her name is not on that sells tickets at Met prices. (And shouldn’t, in a one-act role that mostly lies in an unflattering part of her voice.)

          Twenty years ago this might have made some sense: there was a good deal of buzz around Flanigan back then and at that time she had the easy top and star stage presence to put over this part. Nowadays she might just barely manage the “stage presence” part, though certainly on HD she would look like the Prince’s dowager mother rather than a potential bride.

          She even sang the part once at the Met in 1993 (that legendary night Gwynne Geyer was Rusalka) and nobody made any fuss about it back then. Becoming a cult diva doesn’t mean you suddenly start singing better; on the contrary.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            She was a hell-for-leather Abigaille for ENO in 2001 and a feisty Eglantine at Glyndebourne a couple of years later. Interesting artist!

          • MontyNostry says:

            Regina, so she wasn’t an ‘unnecessary US import’?

          • lucy brown says:

            I don’t think the Met will ask, and I don’t think Flanigan would accept it anyway. It’s just that it’s such a pleasure to watch her perform. There’s such intelligence and feeling behind every characterization! And I don’t know about HD cameras, but the last few times I’ve seen Flanigan onstage, she seems to shed years as soon as the spotlight hits her.

          • The Vicar of John Wakefield says:

            “She was a hell-for-leather Abigaille for ENO in 2001 and a feisty Eglantine at Glyndebourne a couple of years later.”

            Dross. Not a patch on Lizzie Vaughan in the former or on Our Own Rita in the latter.

          • Camille says:

            Rita was not only a *great* Eglantine but also ‘the Judy with the lovely voice’, yes, indeed, Vicar.

          • jatm2063 says:

            The last time I saw her was as Norma in Cincinnati, perhaps 8 years ago. Truly disastrous and embarassing for her, and no amount of presence could compensate for the lack of vocal ability in a role that requires supreme vocalism to bring it off.

            And why should the Met ask Flanigan if she isn’t, as La Cieca pointed out, likely to accept anyway? There are plenty of others who would be happy to do it, would do it very well, and would say yes very easily.

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            well I loved the comment when Hunter said because of her weight she feels like she only needs a five minute break and a cup of tea and then could sing Götterdämmerung all over again. Truly down to earth woman. Thanks for the link. Just watched this while I did my ironing.

        • Enzo Bordello says:

          Connecting a few dots here: a Dresden program bio for Emily Magee stated she would make her Met debut in 2013-2014 as the TANNHAUSER Elisabeth. Assuming that RUSALKA was substituted for the Wagner, Magee would make sense as the Foreign Princess. She has already sung the role for the Salzburg Festival and will repeat it for Barcelona next season. If it were me, I’d be less than thrilled about being demoted from a leading role to a supporting one.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            That really would suck. It’s a lousy role for a debut. Then again, if Nylund and Opolais can sing Rusalka, I don’t see why Magee couldn’t, but the question is whether she knows it already or has time to learn it.

          • Buster says:

            I heard Emily Magee sing a splendid Song to the Moon at a Lyric gala in the early or mid nineties. I believe she was still at the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists, or just out of it.

          • louannd says:

            Ana Maria Martinez has done Rusalka though I wouldn’t call her a dramatic soprano.

      • Konrad Swollenrod says:

        So would I!

        • Krunoslav says:

          Ana Maria Martinez is very good on the RUSALKA CDs from G-bourne.

          Why should she be a dramatic soprano? It’s really a spinto role, witness Joan Hammond and Benacková (and is sometimes done by lyrics, witness Fleming and Stratas).

          R?žena Maturová, the 1901 creatrix, also sang the first Czech Tosca, the BALLO Amelia, Santuzza, Manon Lescaut, Eva Pogner and Donna Anna.

          The only dramatic soprano I have heard in the role is Eva Urbanová, singing quite admirably in a very lovely film-based production at the Prague State Opera; her usual role at the National Theatre is the Foreign Princess.

          • Camille says:

            As a matter of fact, in the Kloiber lists (NOT THAT ANYONE CARES ANYMORE), Rusalka is listed under the Jugendlicher [Spinto] roles.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Quite -- I was erring on the side of caution re Magee as Rusalka because I thought she might be on the heavy side, rather than the light.

            I think it’s best when it’s a full lyric who can stand up to the rather frequent climaxes (Fleming, Martinez) -- she does need to sound vulnerable and pathetic in places after all.

            All that said, in audio only I very much like Behrens in the role, but then she always did have pliancy and tenderness in her middle voice, and flexibility at the top, plus it was fairly early on in her career.

  • Signor Bruschino says:

    I keep on thinking of Steve Jobs and Apple in relation to Levine and the MET- Jobs’ illness was denied repeatedly (even though the photographic evidence was there). After finally admitting that he was ill and getting treatment, he was able to return to Apple and live out his final years putting out great product.

    We seem to have at the MET the same ignore or deny philosophy that Apple had initially, but what we don’t have at the MET is a team behind the scenes that is as smart and as talented as Jobs was. Apple was able to weather the storm of sickness and eventual departure due to the brain trust that was in place.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    It is very odd that the operatic grapevines or Tom or Jimmy do not sprout any word about Levine’s condition, rehabilitation, frame of mind, health or lack of it.

  • Donna Anna says:

    Omerta has always been the MO for Levine’s circle. I wish Maestro all the best for healing, however that may go, and I wish he would make his exit official, so that the Met can get on with the search for his replacement and looking to the future.
    Renee as Rusalka works for me.

  • Camille says:

    Nun denn, in THIS, the year of the bicentennary of Richard Wagner, we are getting this wonky Ring and none of his other works? Der Gelbster is socking it to us by way of giving us only *that* choice? “you must LUV Der Ring before I will let you have another Parsifal”??

    Anyway, the Parsifal had three strikes against it, not just Levine’s lack of agency; add to that the rumours that Kaufmann didn’t like or want to be in it, and it is well known--and who could blame him?--that he likes his home turf, and finally, the nail in the coffin, the Nitikin tatoo scandale royale. Just imagine him playing in New York and the controversy and discomfort it would create among many opera-goers.

    Regrettable, as now I only have three operas left on my must-see list. Slim pickings, indeed.

    • Liz.S says:

      “three operas left on my must-see list”
      Let me guess -- Maria Stuarda, The Tempest, and Carmelites?

      • Camille says:

        Thanks for reminding me about La Tempesta. Forgot.

        La Clemenza di Tito
        Maria Stuarda
        La Rondine — mebbe —

        If I like Liudmila enough I might go to hear her and Olga battle it out in Aida but that one I doubt. Curious about Ballo and Rigoletto, but yellow.

        Saving my pfennigs for chamber musick and ballet this season, and frankly, I am considering going to each one of the NYCO offerings, foo, but will follow the reviews very closely. La Périchole is certain.

      • Camille says:

        Oh, yes, about the Carmélites—there is to be a production coming in the next week or two here in NYC with the excellent Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. I can only take one nun- guilloting a year--at my age--so a decision is to be made!

        • Liz.S says:

          Ah, I didn’t know about Dell’Arte Carmelites -- thank you! Yes, one nun-guilloting a year should be enough for everybody ;-)

    • DonCarloFanatic says:

      But the Met is still doing Parsifal, just not for two seasons in a row. And Kaufmann is still scheduled to sing it this coming season.

  • jim says:

    They aren’t being cancelled because of Levine. They are being cancelled despite Levine.

    Levine loves Parsifal. Wagner wrote it so that Jimmy could conduct it. It is inconceivable that the Met would cancel a scheduled, cast revival of Parsifal if Levine had any influence over the decision. Since they have, he hasn’t. Which means they don’t expect him back.

    Gelb may actually like this situation. He replaced Levine as Principal Conductor fairly quickly, since he needs a Principal Conductor to look after the care and feeding of the orchestra. He hasn’t replaced him as Music Director, though. That means technically he has a Music Director, but in practice he doesn’t. Any time someone raises the issue he talks about respect for Levine. In the meantime he does what he likes, untrammeled by a Music Director’s preferences.

    • RosinaLeckermaul says:

      This awful thought was also in the back of my mind. However, Gelb is not a conductor and cannot keep a major orchestra in excellent condition. He cannot create or maintain a “sound” for the Met orchestra. He cannot train and develop singing talent. That is what will be lost if a music director is not put in place. Personally, I’d like to see the Met do again what it did forty years ago — find a gifted young American conductor to be MD. It would be good for the organization and its audience demographic.

  • m. p. arazza says:

    Parsifal may be a Levine specialty, but so is Wozzeck. He seems not to have done Parsifal at the Met since 2001, but Wozzeck was the penultimate opera he conducted in the house.