Cher Public

The Friday afternoon news dump in excelsis

Or should La Cieca say “in extremis?” From the Met press office, dated 5:30 PM Friday: “Faced with the demands of rehearsing and performing two large-scale operas simultaneously this fall, Met Music Director James Levine has decided to lighten his workload by removing the new production of Berg’s Lulu from his schedule so that he may focus his energies completely on Wagner’s epic drama Tannhäuser. . . .”

“Lothar Koenigs, who made his Met debut in 2008 conducting Mozart’s Don Giovanni, will now lead the first 5 performances of Berg’s Lulu, a work he recently conducted at Welsh National Opera. The conductor of the final three performances will be announced at a later date.”

  • Krunoslav

    Perhaps the Newspaper of Record can devote tomorrow’s Arts Page to a discussion of the blackface issue in LULU.

    • gustave of montreal

      The score says: ein Neger (Tenor) -- what is the problem?

  • Signor Bruschino

    In the immortal words of Joseph Volpe to Luciano Pavarotti, “This is a hell of a way to end a beautiful career”

    • Camille

      OMGott, those are indeed becoming immortal words…I remember standing there watching it as if ysterday. Now, not only Pavarotti is gone, so is his replacement.

      I just can’t fathom why Lvine would trade his special favourite Lulu in a brand spanking new production with an almost certain success, given its practiced protagonista and the Kentridge sets, for a tired old Tannhäuser…it’s not like the latter opera is shorter or easier than the former.

      Something gives, and bigtime.

      Übermächtig sind in Spiel……

      • Signor Bruschino

        My thoughts exactly- to give up a new production (which in many ways was created for him to conduct) seems to hard to fathom. It’s not like Lulu is such an audience favorite that it is going to sell out without as many ‘star’ elements as possible. These are interesting times.

        • Camille

          Aren’t they though??

          Poor Monsieur Camille is crying salty tears into the Hudson as he loves Lulu and he has listened so many times to Levine’s conducting of the work, and goodness, just who is this substitute conductor? Guessing no Berg specialist can be called into service at such short notice.

          Yes, what is to be done now about the “Negro” character in Lulu, too? A “Moor” is one thing and this is quite another. More whiteface I suppose. Perhaps Jack the Ripper will be protested as well.

          • Kilian

            As I recall from the Amsterdam performances, the character is not in blackface, Camille.
            I wonder whether Levine has taken against the production, which is visually rather overwhelming. The original conductor left in Amsterdam too, but there was a good replacement.

          • Cicciabella

            I don’t even remember what he looked like. It was a non-issue in Amsterdam. I think he sported some dreadlocks, but I’m not sure. It was on YT if anyone is curious.

      • Camille

        Norman Lebrecht will most assuredly have the final mot juste on this topic:

      • Camille

        That should be:
        ?bermächtigE sind iM Spiel!“.

        A favourite line of mine and I should have known better.

        It seems that is just exactly what is going on here.

        Basta e buonanotte.

        • Camille

          Uebermächte, dammit!

          Now goodnite, mother!

  • Lothat Koenigs is music director of the Welsh National Opera, which the Met press office neglected to mention in its press release.

    Which Berg specialist did you have in mind?

    • Liz.S

      This is his last season at WNO, I think. I don’t complain if he becomes a frequent visitor here

    • Krunoslav

      Does anyone else recall that in 2010 Fabio Luisi-- still “Principal Conductor” of the Metropolitan Opera -- jumped in for Levine for the run of three LULUs with Marlis Petersen and James Morris and did quite well by it?

      • Signor Bruschino

        Looking at his webpage (which i know may not be completely accurate), Luisi is available pretty much all of October and November. A little odd that they didn’t get him to do it…

        • armerjacquino

          Luisi’s doing WOZZECK in Zurich and London in October. It’s perfectly possible, and indeed likely, that he didn’t fancy dashing immediately back across the Atlantic to step in for some LULUs without the chance to rehearse properly.

          I wouldn’t want to stop anyone moaning about the excellent conductor who has been appointed, mind. You all go right ahead.

          • Buster

            The Met still needs someone to conduct the final three performances. I recommend:


          • steveac10

            Luisi is also touring Italy doing the Mahler 5 with La Scala forces up until a few days before the premiere of Lulu in NY.

          • Signor Bruschino

            I’m actually not in any way moaning about the conductor choice- I’m just asking the question since this entire story just seems very very odd. Cancelling this close to the opening (and with Lulu already in rehearsals), the mind would go to Luisi (being paid to be ‘principle guest conductor) as an immediate replacement (considering he has done the opera before and has a rapport with the orchestra). Adding to those questions, the friday news dump quality of this, questions seem to be increasing by the hour.

            Very glad to hear the conductor is excellent and looking forward to hearing him- but also looking forward to this sad saga to come to a conclusion.

            • armerjacquino

              Apologies for being unclear SB, I wasn’t meaning you. Just attempting a pre-emotive strike…

            • rapt

              Love the concept of the pre-emotive! Could be a polite way for critics to describe the performances of some of our more impassive singers (my own choices of whom I will refrain from naming…).

            • armerjacquino

              Ooops, thank you autocorrect…

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              Ha! I thought it was deliberate too. Claim it ArmerJ, it looked like a masterstroke -- very useful new term around these parts.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      I hear Koenigs conduct a TRISTAN at the Proms a few years ago. Thought he was very good.
      Would Levine give up the LULU at this late date because he doesn’t like the production? Surely he has seen pictures or videos of it by now. Time for his resignation.

      • RosinaLeckermaul

        Woops! I meant Meistersinger

    • Camille

      Pierre Boulez.

      Oops, he’s retired now, isn’t he?

      Well, how about Barbara Hannigan, as she knows the role inside and out?

      I slept on it and came up with the obvious, Fabio Luisi. And then Monsieur Camille me tioned Fabio Luisi, and then I see Fabio Luisi mentioned here several times. If I were ‘Weezy, I wouldn’t give them the time of day after the way his lemon has been squeezed by the MET. He is too fine and smart a fellow to be used for any amount of dough.

      Well, whom else is there--Mr Petrenko is indeed no chopped liver, or Gerd Albrecht who conducted la Petit-bonbon’s Lulu, or Andrew Davis or Sir Simon and his rattle--he likes pretty girls, doesn’t he--??? Thielemann,—no, too busy isn’t he, Jurowski--he likes it LOUD! Well, whom else, we have Karl Böhm but he is permanently unavailable now, isn’t he?

      And that will bring us back to do(ugh). Whomever they can get for the best dough and that will give us Mr Koenigs who was not on my radar yet as it happened I wasn’t in town for his brace of Don Giovanni‘s, so I shall hope to be forgiven for my sins of omission…….usw.

      • Gerd Albrecht: also permanently unavailable.

        • Camille

          Then whom would you care to suggest in his stead, since you placed the query ?

          • LT

            Yoncheva’s husband Domingo Hindoyan might still be in town. There was a run of Lulu last season in Berllin conducted by Barenboim and as the ersteassistent of the latter, I’m sure he worked on that piece as well.

          • Camille, I was responding to you because I have no beef with Koenigs. Here’s what you said:

            Poor Monsieur Camille is crying salty tears into the Hudson as he loves Lulu and he has listened so many times to Levine’s conducting of the work, and goodness, just who is this substitute conductor? Guessing no Berg specialist can be called into service at such short notice.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I’m guessing that there is more to this than just saving energy for one opera versus two. Levine may have watched the video of the Kentridge and decided that it was just not his thing and extremely complicated to coordinate in rehearsals, or maybe someone made that decision for him

    • Camille

      You’re probably right about that and on to the simple truth. Couldn’t he have looked at the production a few months back, though? Hasn’t he seen The Nose, for instance?

      Maybe it is just a matter of it being far easier to count a beat of 1-2-3-4 than to organize and direct such a difficult work as Luluwhich requires such concentration, ability to organise on many levels, and split-second timing.

      Anyway you slice it, it was a sad day for Mo. Levine, I’m sure of that, to either make this decision, or worse, have it forced upon him.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Especially with no more Wilford to act as a buffer.

        • Camille

          Oh, I forgot about his passing. Yes, probably a big par of the equasion.
          Thank you, Maestro QPF.

          I am happy you enjoyd the HOFFMANN yesterday and I, too, attempted to watch it but the stream just would not flow on either browser (Safari or Opera). What pleasantly surprise me was the quality of the singing, which I chiefly heard of the Antonia act. I do wish you could see the magnificent poster of The Tales of Hoffman which adorns the lower level near the Thetre I at MoMA. It is huge and just beautiful. On loan from Martin Scorsese until around the nd of the month. That reminds me--I have got to get there and take a better photo of it and The Red Shoes.

          When I was much younger and used to listen to my highlights album (Gianna d’Angelo, Vicky Delite & Frau Legge, et al.) I used to always feel a little frivolous about liking Hofmann as much as I did and so therefore I have been so happy to read about it over the years and to realise that it is not at all the silly work I once took it for when a silly girl but a really fascinatingly creepy noir tale and one that seves up great big helpings of truths, cynical as they well may be. So thanks to you and to amoebaguy, too, for adding further to the store of information on this work which; since that day as a fourteen year old I happend to see the Powell/Pressburger film on a black and white television, and wondered to what strange and wonderful land of Oz I’d suddenly been transported to. When I bought my first DVD, it was this movie, and it is and remains a kind of holy relic of wonder for me.

          Thank you, again, for all your wonderful videos and, above all, for Leonie.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            That’s so sweet of you Camille. I really would like to meet you someday. I hope someone posts the video of the Komische Oper Hoffmann so people who missed it can watch it. I just realized why Pittichinaccio was in a skirt. The reference is from “Signor Formica,” in which he is forced to wear women’s clothes… and that wonderful Cochenille in drag. I only just noticed from one of the still photos of the production that the chorus in the Olympia were manufacturing body parts! And the way Nicklausse and Schlemil kept tossing cards at the debassed Hoffmann who was gambling for his soul. With two powerful motors in the basement that did not cost 16 million dollars, the stage platform silently hoisted and lowered the full weight of the cast and chorus all evening and it didn’t break once. Most of all, I loved the opening image generating the sort of light one finds in the wee hours of the morning when “on porte aux cabarets de ses espoirs et ses regrets.” No, it’s no longer a piece of fluff. the ending with the burial alive being hammered into a coffin singing “La ci darem la mano” was… so Kosky. I hope Tarentino directs the opera one day.

  • gustave of montreal

    Thank God , I thought LULU, a great favourite, had been cancelled. Looking forward to hear it on Saturday afternoon.

  • Donna Anna

    I share M. Camille’s disappointment but at least it’s not cancelled. But knowing how much Levine Loves Lulu, the decision must have been extremely difficult for him.

    • Camille

      That’s real nice of you but it is about Monsieur C. grew past the idols of his childhood: we all must.

      Ou wait a minute—his idol was Pierre “The Bull” Boulez! Forgot that. He just went to all those Levine performances and has accustomed himself to his style and alwYs says that is where he was at his best. Okay. Straightened that out, whew!!

      Just now, in mentioning him, I remember seeing Mo. Boulez in Zankel Hall as he was leaving, this was some years ago, and what a formidable presence he had! And that beret! And those steely eyes that could stab through walls.

      Anyway, Mo. Koenigs, of whom I am totally unaware, but will be glad to hear what he has got to offer and to welcome a new possibility in this very difficult repertoire. After some of the routiniers all’italiano I’ve heard, and the others that beat up Wagner and flagellate poor Strauss (there was always Pauline to do that), I’m ready.

  • mrsjohnclaggart

    I have to believe (well, I don’t HAVE to) that this has been months in the planning, and they are only announcing it now. They’ve waited this long to maximize what pull Levine’s name has with an opera that is a tough sell. To get anybody with the skill and experience to conduct Lulu who either was available or could make him/herself available on short notice would take an intense search and possibly some horse trading. It’s not La Boheme where they could probably find somebody in an afternoon or even have somebody on the conducting staff they could push onto the podium. Koenig does has a big rep and a good reputation but given his official position in Wales would probably have needed time to organize his absence. Levine either didn’t feel he had the stamina for both, and felt that the Tannhauser would be a sentimental farewell, or as mentioned by QPF hated the production of Lulu. But Tannhauser, though not a picnic to conduct is much easier to prepare and get through than the three act Lulu, which is a killer. I bet Gelb knew by July or earlier and was looking hard for someone who wouldn’t be an embarrassment (Koenig very likely won’t be).

    • Bill

      Ms JC -- I agree -- Levine probably knew he would not
      be conducting Lulu some time before -- otherwise
      they would not have had a replacement conductor
      on hand to announce at the same time. Levine just may
      not have the strength to undertake too much at this
      stage -- once he made his comeback the Met announced
      a very ambitious schedule for Levine. Oddly enough
      I saw (once only) the Don Giovanni Koenig conducted at the Met and while recalling some of the singers
      performances I have no recollection of the conducting
      good or bad. But I have not seen a splendid
      Don Giovanni (well cast in all the major roles) at
      the Met in a very long time.

      I am sure that Levine has not relinquished the conducting role in Lulu due to the stage production.
      The concept for Sets and Regie are known to the Met
      Management probably well over a year in advance.
      Surely the cancellation of Levine has to do with
      health or stamina.

      • overstimmelated

        But what if an irreconcilable disagreement arose in rehearsals over the placement of the prompter’s box (as in last year’s Nozze), or something else along those lines? (Does Kentridge’s concept allow for a prompter’s box on stage?)

        Then again I suppose, if that were the issue, we’d have heard about it by now…

        • overstimmelated

          P.S. In any case, it would be interesting to know why Maestro Luisi withdrew from the original production. Something about “personal reasons” was all I could find.

          • Cicciabella

            Luisi withdrew from the Amsterdam Lulu because of a ” family catastrophe”, according to DNO. Specifics were not given.

  • Porgy Amor

    I looked up Maestro Koenigs’s Met Don Giovanni run from 2008 to see who was in the cast. His Donna Anna was Jawbreaker!

    Don Giovanni…………Erwin Schrott
    Donna Anna…………..Tamar Iveri
    Don Ottavio………….Mark Thomsen [Debut]
    Donna Elvira…………Dorothea Röschmann
    Leporello……………Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
    Zerlina……………..Isabel Leonard
    Masetto……………..Joshua Bloom
    Commendatore…………Kwangchul Youn

    • DerLeiermann

      Opera Australia sacks soprano Tamar Iveri over gay slurs

      Opera Australia has released soprano Tamar Iveri from her contract following a furore over “unconscionable” homophobic comments posted on the singer’s Facebook page.
      In a statement released on Monday, the company said Iveri would not be performing in its Sydney production of Otello in July and August.
      “Opera Australia has agreed with Tamar Iveri, to immediately release her from her contract with the company,” the statement says. A statement posted on the Georgian opera singer’s Facebook page 18 months ago compared gay and lesbian people to fecal matter.
      The post took the form of a letter to Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili in which she implored him to “stop vigorous attempts to bring West’s ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda”.

      Read more:
      Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

      I AM…..Wow. What a mess.

      • redbear

        You understand that this article is from July of 2014?

        • DerLeiermann


  • overstimmelated

    Luisi not only replaced Levine in his last Lulu, but was the original conductor who withdrew from the Dutch production…

    • Krunoslav

      Then, bring on Wigglesworth!

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        He’s busy, doing fine work currently in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with unnecessary import Pat Racette, and then rehearsing Forza with unnecessary import Tamara Wilson.

        • Krunoslav

          Yes, surely Susan Bullock and Giselle Allen would shine so much more brightly in those roles.

          • armerjacquino

            You see, if you layer sarcasm on top of what was already heavy irony, it just collapses like wet newspaper.

        • Camille

          Hahahaha! Cocky K has learned his lessons well at the foot of The Master Krunoslav.

          Well done, Cocky.

          • manou

            Yes -- the words “hoist” and “petard” come to mind.

  • manou
    • Camille

      Thank you, but I never listen to the critics. I listen with my ears. Then I will refer myself to a select few, and not always the famous big hoo-haws, either. Sometimes the little guy can have an ear more true. That’s how I started with parterre many years ago now, as it dared to say things the official party lines (NY Times and Opera News) wouldn’t or couldn’t say. I don’t envy Mr Tommasini’s difficult position and don’t really blame or hold him responsible for what he writes in many instances for he is between a rock and a hard place, it seems to me. He is a nice, earnest and well-meaning man and a musician so he is not just some guy speaking out, but he is constrained, I am fairly certain, to make things seem as politically correct and toe the line as much as possible. His is a hard job.

  • Lady Abbado
  • Cicciabella

    You think Danielle gave her baby an unusual name? Katherine Jenkins has named her baby Aaliyah Reign Levitas, which suggests her bread will always rise. It seems (pop)era performers have joined pop celebrities in the unique baby-naming contest.

    • Maybe she’ll name the next one “Pretentious.”

  • mercadante

    Are we all so certain it was Maestro Levine’s decision to drop Lulu? Perhaps this just a diplomatic way of saying he has been replaced, for whatever reason.

  • ML

    Lothar Koenigs, from Aachen.

    Not to be confused with Latham-Koenig, from London, who recorded Zemlinsky operas.

    And neither one a König(s).

    • ML

      … oops, Weill operas. Six of them.

  • Signor Bruschino

    Will be interesting to hear reports from tomorrow’s dress rehearsal of Tannhauser in regards to Levine’s conducting.

    • ML


    • Camille

      Maybe I will be hack tomorrow with assortd impressions of today’s performance, bt maybe not. Suffice it to say that if you love Wagner, and if you have never heard a good repetition of Tannhäuser, well, make haste to attend. There are quibbles about all the singers but you will not soon, or ever, hear a tenor capable of really singing, not barking, braying, coughing up furballs, or as Wolfgang Schmidt so memoranly did in his performance jn 1997, do a sudden flip backward on stage during his Rome Narrative, sing this music, and I repeat SING the music, fully supported and with a beautiful singing line, as you will with Mr Botha. Camille predicts: big fat success. Glad there will be an HD, as the camera equipment was all there today, as all Wagner lovers everywhere should have a fhance to hear this singing.

      Never mind the production. First act still looks like Love-in on the Bayous--without a single solitary erotic spark fly. Of all the productions they still house, this one nds to go bye-bye as soon as can be effectuated and it is a shame in a way that Botha didn’t get a new production, with or withOUT Bartlett Pear directing.

      Oh and Mo. Jimmy ain’t goin’ nowhere. From what I could see in Row F, he is in control of himself and his forces. More of that later.

      Dresden version, Paris version, Vinna version—this was the New York version and Wagner lovers should Just GO.

      • Camille

        Spelling key:
        hack = back
        assrtd = assorted
        bt = but
        memoranly = memorably
        jn = in
        fhance = chance
        nds = needs
        Vinna = Vienna

        Gotta replace this old cloudy Eyephone.

  • Feldmarschallin

    Speaking of Tannhäuser, Romeo Castellucci will be doing it in München not Tcherniakov. Petrenko conducts with Vogt, Harteros, Pankratova and Gerhaher.

    • ML

      … and the bass? Groissböck? Bretz?

  • Signor Bruschino

    Two days later and the Met website still hasn’t been updated… even with Friday news dumps in the past, the website is pretty quick to have the new info (well, maybe this new website is causing even staff to be frustrated…) I think this is going to turn out to be one of the more interesting opera stories that we have seen in quite some time!

    • steveac10

      They’ve never updated casting over the weekend on the website -- even on the old version. I would hazard a guess that the web developers in their marketing and IT departments do not work nights and weekends. They probably just have someone on call to troubleshoot if the site crashes. I think this is just a case of the press office making announcements after the developers have headed out for happy hour.

      • Signor Bruschino

        Well, its Monday (nearing afternoon) and still no updated information on the website!

  • Camille

    Monday Afternoon News Dump: just now returning from the dress rehearsal of Tannhäuser and am prostrate with gratitude at having had the opportunity of hearing and seeing the reincarnation of Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld in the title role!

    Yes, Mo. Levine was there and fully in charge--more on that later, but must rest and wrap my head around what was for me the best Tannhäuser I’ve ever seen or ever shall see. Just get rid of that bayou bog ballet in the first act!!!

    Ciao 4 now a Tutti!

    • Camille

      Omg--Italics attack END!