Cher Public

Something unseen

Which resurgent maestro’s instructions to the musical staff have rung out clear as a bell: “Can’t stand those operas you’ve programmed in my absence, so get them off the future schedule?”

  • la vociaccia

    Well, there goes Guillaume Tell, amirite???

    • grimoaldo

      I hope not.

  • Opera Teen

    I guess Levine, as I’m not sure who else it could be!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Ride em Cowboy! But instruction to the musical staff won’t budge Gelb’s decisions for repertoire.

  • I wonder what pieces Levine is talking about. New works by Ades and Muhly? The Nose? Also, are we talking upcoming programming? The works that have been presented during Levine’s absence would have been program while he was around. Which brings me to my final observation. Hasn’t Levine been acting as artistic advisor while incapacitated as conductor? The impression that the Met has given is that Levine has remained involved during his time off the podium.

    • Porgy Amor

      “Clear as a bell”…was there a Lakmé revival coming up? La voix humaine?

    • redbear

      I found it strange that Levine’s role, if any, while he was “out” -- a considerable length of time -- was kept secret as if the Met was North Korea. Particularly as he was still on the payroll. A music director is hearing auditions, consulting all the time on singers and repertory. There is continuos interaction when he or she is there and plenty of time on the phone and email when away. Nobody knows if Levine was involved in anything during his absence. We still have no idea how much he is around these days. Now, it seems, we know at least that he was not entirely in the loop for repertory. That the press was so uncurious about this was surprising.

  • perfidia

    Levine better be careful. To paraphrase Mordden, he doesn’t want to give Gelb the chance to wonder how life would be without him around.

  • havfruen

    Hm, the riddle doesn’t specify the Met. Could it be somewhere else?

  • Orlando Furioso

    I would prefer to think it is somewhere else. The item doesn’t seem especially characteristic of Levine and (as already noted) doesn’t fit the circumstances at the Met all that well either. But I can’t think where else it might apply. Is “resurgent” a clue to something?

    • rapt

      Is there a Renato among music directors, maybe?

    • m. p. arazza

      Risorgimento — something about Muti in Rome?

      • Camille

        Good guess!

        Forgot about him at Teatro dell’Opera.

  • Camille

    Since I am listening to the Scala opening, could it possibly have anything to do with the incoming Maestro Riccardo Chailly? Just hazarding a guess as it probably is the MET and Levine.

    Aren’t there cowbells inGuillaume Tell? There is a specific type of Swiss thing — I cannot recall the name at present — which imitates those sounds, which Rossini employed in a part of the opera.

    Well, just trying to make some sense of it. Lakme, of course, comes immediately to mind, but when was it ever rumored there would be a production of that long lost work? It WAS done in Montréal recently, with Église Gutierrez, though, come to think of it.

    Time will tell us.

    • Camille

      Where is Will Crutchfield when you need him?

      No, it was driving me to distraction, so:
      the cowbells in TELL are called a Ranz des Vaches (thank you, Wikipedia), and employ a cor anglais and flute. Maybe there is a bell or two sprinkled in, but that is not essentially what that type of piece would be.

      So hoping it is not the planned TELL!

      • Hi Camille,

        Will it force you to come out of your room to go see, at least, HD, if not an actual performance?

        Lol… Of course! For me all new performances of Falstaff are unmissable.

        Come on, try it out!

        I’ll be at the AMC in Paramus… :-)

        • Camille

          Good on you, Genevieve! The Paramus Mall is where Carmela Soprano gets her nails done, so watch out for other Sopranos!!!

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    Hm, I thought the “resurgent” referred to the elevator apparatus they installed to get Levine in and out of the orchestra pit in his wheelchair (am I remember this correctly?).

    • m. p. arazza

      Plus there’s “can’t stand.”

      • Camille

        Yes, bingo. The “can’t stand” probably gives it away for good.

        • m. p. arazza

          “Bell” -- Gelb on the broadcast today talked about the Met doing lots of bel canto.

          • m. p. arazza

            And for that matter, bell — campanello — Donizetti. (And, musical staff -- Falstaff?)

            But it should be noted that Levine has spoken of wanting to do “William Tell.” “I am finally going to do La Cenerentola. It’s a piece I have always wanted to do… Someday I want to do William Tell. It won’t happen soon--another project for my sixties…”
            (from the Robert Marsh book about him, 1998)

      • sterlingkay

        This is all a bit puzzling….all the clues seem to point to LEVINE, except that it makes no sense that he would be telling the Music Staff this when Gelb is pretty much running the show now. Levine is no longer the Artistic Director at the MET…for good or ill, that job is now Gelb’s. Levine is, at best, a part-time Music Director who Gelb & the MET have (foolishly, in my opinion) bent over backwards to accomodate in the last few years. Gelb should have slapped the “Laureate” title on him years ago and signed up a young, vigorous, forward-looking Music Director with the energy for the job.

        On CHARLIE ROSE, Levine made it clear that he is not enamored of contemporary opera and doesn’t feel that the MET should be in the business of promoting or presenting it.

        • Camille


          Comtemporary opera was good enough for Gatti-Casazza. Of course that was a far different climate for the acceptance of new works. And Levine is such a specialist with Wozzeck, which is, HA, about as ‘new’ as it gets here.

          Kind of shocking. Kind of strangely provincial.

          • sterlingkay

            Levine mentioned Gatti-Casazza’s championing of new works in that Charlie Rose interview and basically said it was a complete waste of the MET’s resources since not one of those operas has survived.

            • Camille

              Yes, I am always coming across one of those long lost operas and wondering what happened. Still, one never knows and does not recuse them from the responsibility of trying to foster new works. What did Levine think of “The Voyage” , “The Great Gatsby”, “The Ghosts of Versailles”, “Satyagraha”e.g., all within his era and amsupposing some were conducted by him? Were those all a waste of time? Is the Met only supposed to be Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks? I guess it is that. As a lover primarily of prima ottocento operas I should not be the one to complain! However, it does not seem entirely right or fair, and seemingly dictated by the going market of the eternal ABC’s = Aïda, Boheme, Carmen.

              What should I care for? I am happy they are giving three Bellini operas this season!

              Just now looking for that Charlie Rose interview and it doesn’t seem to be posted on YouTube.

            • Camille

              oh, I just remembered, too, that “Il Trittico” and “La Fanciulla del West” were probably “a complete waste of the MET’s resources since not one of those operas has survived”.

              Yes, there were lots of dogs, but, now and again something will hit a home run. Come on, maybe it’s just that Levine just wants to stay conducting in his comfort zone at this late date.

            • sterlingkay

              Here is a link to the LEVINE interview on CHARLIE ROSE. The conversation about contemporary opera is near the end, at about 48:00.


            • Sterlingkay,

              Levine mentioned Gatti-Casazza’s championing of new works in that Charlie Rose interview and basically said it was a complete waste of the MET’s resources since not one of those operas has survived

              At the BSO Levine was an advocate of the music of Carter, Babbitt and Wuorinen and I’m pretty sure none of their works will enter the standard repertory either.

            • Camille

              Hey, Genevieve’s right!

              I remember being a recital of Schoenberg’s “Hanging Gardens” at that little hall — and Mr. Babbitt was talking away with Levine, tout ensemble.

              Thanks for the link to Charlie Rose. I will watch it to see what he says.

              Genevieve, you must be one happy camper today after last night’s Falstaff. Will it force you to come out of your room to go see, at least, HD, if not an actual performance? Come on, try it out!

            • Camille

              Yes, “AT Schoenberg’s Hanging Gardens”

              the little music hall was Merkin Concert Hall, on 67th Street, I think, about a dozen years or less ago.

              I remember seeing them together all in schmoozy-chatty-cozy mode. One of the last times I saw my dear Mr. Babbitt, so I remember it well!

            • Krunoslav

              Gatti also world premiered KOENIGSKINDER, which has survived and deserves more play; and gave the American premieres of then-contemporary works including (ahem) DER ROSENKAVALIER, ELEKTRA, JENUFA, SOLOVEI (a/k/a LE ROSSIGNOL), DIE TOTE STADT and SADKO all of which remain in the world repertory, and several other works of some enduring interest (DIE AEGYTPISCHE HELENA, SCHWANDA, MAROUF, maybe JONNY SPIELT AUF).

              I know there are some PETER IBBETSON queens out there, but I have to agree that all of those American operas were indeed virtually worthless; though I’d love to see THE EMPEROR JONES thoughfully staged.

        • Henry Holland

          Yes, I am always coming across one of those long lost operas and wondering what happened

          Me too, I still remember a few years ago reading a remark at Maury D.’s place about an opera called Die Toten Augen by D’Albert and since I like Tiefland, I sought it out. It’s a good opera, it even has Jesus Christ making an appearance (he’s a tenor). I’ve since gotten a few more of his operas and they’re good too. He’s conservative musically, his stuff would totally appeal to fans of Puccini and the verismo composers.

          It’s been my experience that opera goers are the most conservative and risk-adverse arts audience there is, so even stuff that would appeal to them isn’t done because works by Puccini and Verdi and Mozart and Wagner (rightly) sell a lot of tickets, D’Albert doesn’t.

          Handel is, of course, the best example, some of his operas that are now produced fairly often were unperformed for 150 years.

          and does not recuse them from the responsibility of trying to foster new works

          One problem is the size of the house, it’s a shame that the idea of a Mini Met of about 800-900 seats never got off the ground.

          This seems to have taken the place of Brad Wilber’s website:

          They do one about one “out there” piece a year, it seems, The Death of Klinghoffer is the choice for 2014-15, a new Lulu conducted by Levine is mooted for 2015-16, L’amour de Loin being the choice for 2016-17.

          • Camille

            Jesus Christ. A tenor.

            Well, I’ve known a few who felt they were!

            That Toten Augen I remember Lotte Lehmann speaking about in a book, and there is possibly a Youtube of her singing an excerpt. Some library or another I’ve come across it but did not have sufficient time to really look at the score but it initially seemed okay to me.

            Yes, it is reprehensible, with all the resources there are and all the $$$$$ there is here in NYC, that someone doesn’t donate his/her ballroom as a suitable place to present these other smaller works. Nothing works so much as Wagner/Strauss/Big Verdi at the Met. it’s just too big. I can never get used to the humongous size, no matter how many times I go there.

            Well, Lulu is a Levine specialty, but two years from now we will see how his health holds out. It’s too bad Conlon could not continue on with his Forgotten Voices , or whatever it was called, series in L.A. It was a positive first step.

            Well, back to Aïda, Boheme, and Carmen. These girls pay the rent, so we have to put up with them.

          • Buster

            Henry, did you get Die Abreise? Most interesting, a little like Intermezzo, but sounding like real music. There is only one recording of it, I believe, but luckily it is oustanding:


            • Henry Holland

              Yes, Buster, I go a pirate of it from some online source or other. I enjoyed, as I have all of D’Albert’s works I’ve heard.

              Camille, it was called Recovered Voices and it started out with such promise. It was very much Conlon’s baby and I never got the impression that Domingo and his administrator Edgar Baitzel really got on board with it. After a “highlights” concert (including a semi-staged Eine florentinische Tragödie) and a double bill of Zemlinsky’s terrifc Der Zwerg (available on DVD) and the not-at-all good Der Zerbrochene Krug by Ullmann, it all went off the rails.

              One of the main problems was that they were in the middle of their trouble plagued Freyer Ring that was a money pit, so the money that was promised Conlon’s project got diverted. The result was that all the directors of the subsequent two operas done in the project (Braunfels beautiful Die Vogel and Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten) were done on shoestring budgets and, sadly, it showed. One of the directors for the Schreker, Olivier Py, walked away when he realized he was going to have about $2.32 to work with and they had to bring in Ian Judge on short notice and, again, it showed.

              I mean, Act III of Die Gezeichneten takes place in a park on an island, it’s written for a big chorus, there’s two important scenes with the crowd and…..they piped in the the pitifully small chorus over some speakers and had a few people wandering around that stupid raked stage. Pathetic.

              The designers for the Braunfels and Schreker pieces had to design sets that worked on the steeply raked stage for the Freyer Ring, which caused a few injuries to singers in the Wagner.

              The other big problem was they scheduled both of those in the middle of runs of Ring operas, just crazy for a company that has a season that runs from September to June. I went to the last of the 4 Die Gezeicheneten‘s and the orchestra was audibly tired. That was just dumb planning, sadly typical of the last decade or so here.

              And they still haven’t done the promised Die Tote Stadt, but considering how they screwed up the Branfels and aspects of the Schreker, I’m kind of glad they haven’t done it.

            • Henry Holland

              News about the Recovered Voices project:


              It’s mostly an education/seminar thing, but there’s performances promised as well.

        • operaghost7

          I think you misunderstood what he meant. He loves contemporary opera — Harbison’s Great Gatsby, Carter’s What Next? which was one of his first projects at Tanglewood. He was talking about the difficulty of finding contemporary operas of suitable quality to present at the Met for more than a one-off.

          • operaghost7

            This was in response to sterlingkay

  • AWA

    i have it on GOOD authority that during much of his absence from the pit, JL was spending days in the house working with young artists

  • Hippolyte

    There’s been an awful lot of Donizetti lately…..

    • sterlingkay

      Yup…as was stated above, LEVINE also does not like belcanto. Sutherland & Horne were never allowed to sing much of that rep at the MET once LEVINE was calling the shots.LEVINE was always trying to make Jackie into a Verdi Mezzo instead of allowing her to sing the stuff she did so spectacularly elsewhere.

      • Camille

        Ugh! I remember Jackie Horne’s attempt at “O don fatale”. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. I was so relieved when piccola Renata sent her packing and got thee to a nunnery.

  • Camille

    I can’t log in at the proper place so here it lies. I’ve watched Mo. Levine’s entire interview now and it is NOT exactly what he said about new works. Had I more time and patience to do so I’d transcribe it, but I don’t. He said, tout court, what with the Amount Of Work and Rehearsal and Time that has to be put into a brand new work, he didn’t like to see all that go to waste by putting it on and then just dumping it. It is very important that works be given a second chance, in my unhumble opinion. To find the correct interpreter, so many things can change a production.

    He is not an eloquent speaker, to put it mildly, and scattered and digressive, so it is a little hard to follow, and he did pretty much make that remark about Gatti-Casazza, previous to what he said a bit later about contemporary works.

    It appeared to me that he was constrained to make this interview and that he is neither in the habit of explaining himsell nor of being transparent to others. Or even meeting others halfway.

  • rysanekfreak

    I can see Levine getting upset about new productions of The Pearl Fishers and William Tell. Maybe the revivals of Semiramide and Mefistofele offended him. Maybe the Donizetti Tudor operas. Is it possible that Robert le Diable was briefly penciled in? Maybe Rienzi as well?

    I’ve reached the point where I would much rather hear those operas than another Carmen or Boheme.