Cher Public

The toothless tiger rules the restless jungle

La Cieca can only go on for so long parsing statements like “So for now Mr. Levine and the Met are watching and waiting to see how he responds to his new regimen. Mr. Levine said that he hopes he is not done yet as music director.” It’s up to you, cher public, to try to decide for yourself what, if anything, this bizarre story in the New York Times means.

  • Dawn Fatale

    A few points about all this.

    Levine does not draw a salary. He’s never been an employee of the Met and works as an independent consultant. When his health issues prevent him from performing his duties, he does not get paid. I’ve never seen his contract, so I don’t know the exact terms. However, the Met’s federal tax return requires the enumeration of the most highly compensated consultants, and Levine’s personal corporation is not listed for those years when he was away because of Medical issues.

    If Gelb was prepared to announce Levine’s move to conductor emeritus, that means that someone was lined up to be named as music director -- possibly to be announced after some time was allowed to elapse for a “search”. And that person -- the rumor mill says it’s Nezet-Seguin -- is likely to be really upset. Imagine committing to multiple operas per season under the assumption that you will be music director and having that pulled away at the last minute. The Met may have blown their chance at the right successor to Levine and decreased the likelihood that anyone reputable would even be open to discussions

    As others have pointed out, who has been doing the things that Levine is supposed to do as music director -- audition players, choose members of the music staff, coach singers in the operas he is conducting, participate in the young artist program, set repertoire strategies, etc? Without strong active leadership, the musical side of the house inevitably declines. It will take years to restore morale to the music staff and get the orchestra back to the level it was at before this whole slow-motion debacle started to unfold.

    Lastly, I noticed that there does not appear to be a concert series by the Metropolitan Opera Chamber Ensemble at Carnegie next season and that all the Met Orchestra concerts are scheduled for after the regular opera season. Read into that what you will.

    • rofrano

      Dawn, Thank you for the depth and detail!
      Where do you see these 2016-17 concert dates? The season hasn’t been announced…

    • grimoaldo

      “It will take years to ….get the orchestra back to the level it was at before this whole slow-motion debacle started to unfold. ”

      Yes, I noticed that very much almost instantly after Levine withdrew from performances. The Met orchestra seemed to go overnight from the best opera band in the world to run-of-the-mill. Especially noticeable in the Ring under Luisi. I used to marvel at broadcasts from the Met because the orchestra would play the whole thing all the way through without a single flub on the brass, unlike Ring cycles at Covent Garden, which, although I was present at many great nights in Ring cycles, would be plagued by brass flubs in the many crucial passages for horns and trumpet. It used to drive me crazy, and then I would listen to Met broadcasts of the Ring under Levine and wonder how he did it. Once Levine was not conducting the Ring any more, there were just as many brass flubs as at Covent Garden under (for instance) Haitink.

      • Porgy Amor

        They’ve been less consistent in the last five years, without a doubt. When you go back even to a non-Levine-conducted performance from the ’90s, like the Pikovaya Dama telecast under Gergiev (of whom I am not an admirer), it’s a stark contrast. In that Trovatore HD earlier this season, the whole first scene with Ferrando sounded clumsy and ragged, and I don’t think a single chord at the beginning of the Azucena/Manrico prison scene was together. Whatever excitement people were getting from the solo singing, it wasn’t very well played.

        Pappano’s ROH orchestra sounds better these days, especially when he’s conducting. It isn’t about “genius”; it’s about being able to put in the work.

        • RosinaLeckermaul

          Let’s face it — with the exception of YNS and Luisi, there has been a revolving door of hacks in the pit recently. I’m waiting for Gelb to bring Kurt Adler and Silvio Varviso back from the dead.

          • Krunoslav

            ‘Let’s face it — with the exception of YNS and Luisi, there has been a revolving door of hacks in the pit recently.’

            Not sure how recent is ‘recent”, but I for one don’t consider any of these guys hacks (Gergiev at least not in his proper repertory):

            Bicket 2013
            Jurowski 2013
            Conlon 2014
            Gergiev 2015
            Noseda 2016

            • steveac10

              I have to side with Rosina on this one. Sure every season there is a sterling conductor or two, but there are an awful lot of evenings with third tier Italian hacks who can barely keep the ship afloat. Oh, and the likes of Antony Walker -- who has been the Jack of absolutely no trades in Pittsburgh for far too long (although he croaked out an almost passable Radames a few years back when the flu ravaged his Pittsburgh Aida cast). Who thought hiring him was a good idea? Aren’t there some 3rd rate American or Canadian conductors they could hire instead?

            • Gualtier M

              Don’t forget:
              Salonen 2009, 2016
              Rattle 2010

              Noseda has been a pretty frequent guest conductor from 2010 on to the current run of “Pearl Fishers”.

            • Slatkin 2010!

  • tancredipasero

    Astonishment at one of the maestro’s remarks to the compliant Newspaper of Record: Levine is said to be happy with his recent ability to work, “other than this gestural thing.” Come again? With all due respect to accumulated wisdom, institutional memory, sage advice, etc., once the conductor’s in the pit, “this gestural thing” is pretty much all he’s got to work with.

    I guess in a way he has a point….Domingo’s assumption of the baritone repertory is pretty good, other than this singing thing. Artistic planning at the Met is shipshape, other than this casting thing; Gelb’s stewardship of the big picture is great too, other than this new production thing. (Oh, and this Music Director thing.) But other than that, hey, full speed ahead!

  • redbear

    James Conlon turned the Paris Opera orchestra to one of the best orchestras in France (very likely the best) during his time there which was, by all accounts, a major critical and audience success. Los Angeles is lucky to have such a fine MD. He has been a regular conductor at the Met all his life (remember, he was Callas’ favorite conductor) and is a real insider. An obvious choice except Gelb doesn’t want the “artistic” advise he would surely get.

    • tatiana


      With all due respect, I don’t think Conlon was one of Callas’s favorite conductors! Conlon was a student at Juilliard in the early 1970s when Callas was there doing her master classes.

      Their paths DID cross, however, according to Wikipedia: “In 1972, at a scheduled Juilliard production of La bohème directed by Michael Cacoyannis, conductor Thomas Schippers suddenly pulled out. At the time, Maria Callas was doing a series of master classes at Juilliard and heard Conlon in rehearsal. She suggested to Juilliard’s president, Peter Mennin, that Conlon should step in to conduct.”

      • armerjacquino

        Yep. Callas was a fan and tipped him for future success but ‘favourite’ is really pushing it. They never worked together.

    • Feldmarschallin

      I thought she liked Serafin and de Sabata?

  • Krunoslav

    Also Gui, Bernstein and, in the last years, Nicola Rescigno ( who later returned her loyalty in a documentary by describing her early self as a ‘pachyderm”.