“What gets me…!”

It is one of the most basic truths of the gay male experience that any life situation imaginable can be summed up with a line from All About Eve. And, as you see from the headline above, that’s how La Cieca (pictured, artist’s conception) is reacting to this utter balderdash about James Levine‘s cancellation of Lulu at the Met.  

You will recall that in that seminal 1950 film, the heroine Margo Channing is furiously reading a column about the sudden and unannounced appearance of her understudy, Eve Harrington, in a performance of the melodrama Aged in Wood. Miss Channing is not so much enraged by the glowing reviews Miss Harrington received as by the fact that there were any reviews at all.

And so, in the spirit of this ineffable line reading by Bette Davis, La Cieca will continue: What gets me is not so much that Levine bit off more than he could chew, because that’s old news. And it further does not get me that the announcement about the maestro’s finking out of an opera that was certainly programmed at his personal behest should come so very late in the game: again, that’s the Jimmy we all know so well.

What does get me, though, is that the music director of the Metropolitan Opera has suddenly withdrawn from an artistic commitment to his own company, and he has not a goddamned word to say about it. Not a peep. The press release quotes Peter Gelb, who speaks with astonishing—one might say excessive—tact. But Levine just apparently retreated into his cocoon as usual, and “all the papers in town” are like, “Oh, well, you know good old Jimmy. It’s all about the music with Jimmy.”

Rubbish. It’s all about Jimmy with Jimmy. Can you imagine another opera company in the world where the music director would cancel a major project and then, not only make himself completely unavailable for comment on his decision, but could be confident that nobody would even try to press for an answer, because, well, you know how Jimmy is?

Nobody else in the world would dare. Not Daniel Barenboim, not Antonio Pappano, not Philippe Jordan or Franz Welser-Möst. And God knows Riccardo Muti or Simon Rattle or Gustavo Dudamel wouldn’t try to pull this kind of garbage. So how come Levine is allowed to get away with it?

Look, James Levine is, or anyway was, a very talented and hardworking conductor. He’s done a lot of good things for the Met. But he’s not the Dauphin of Spain. He needs to be answerable the way the rest of us humans are answerable. And the palace guard who continue to enable him are doing nobody any favors.