Cher Public

“Das Ende! Das Ende!

Levine Retires“Maestro James Levine, the Met’s Music Director since 1976, announced that after 40 years in the position, he will retire at the end of the current season, for health reasons,” says the Met press office. 

The press release continues:

At that time, he will assume the new position of Music Director Emeritus. In this role, he will continue as the artistic leader of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, a training program for operatic talent he began in 1980, and will continue to conduct some Met performances. Next season, he will withdraw from the new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but plans to lead revivals of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’s Idomeneo—three works he has led more than any other conductor in Met history.

He intends to conduct his remaining performances for the current Met season, which include the current run of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and a five-performance revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Seraillater this month, as well as the May 19 and 26 MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. He will not conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 22.

Over the course of his unparalleled career at the Met, Levine has led 2,551 performances—far more than any other conductor in Met history—working with thousands of the world’s most gifted musicians and conducting more than 85 different operas, ranging from 18th century works to contemporary world premieres. In recent years, Levine has struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, making it increasingly difficult for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances.

“There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active and vital role in the life of the company when he becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the season.”

“Through 45 years of unwavering devotion, Maestro Levine has shaped the MET Orchestra into the world-class ensemble it is today,” said Jessica Phillips, chair of the orchestra committee and a clarinetist in the Met’s orchestra. “He has a unique ability to inspire those around him to perform to the best of their abilities and beyond. We eagerly anticipate his upcoming projects as Music Director Emeritus, which promise to add to an already incomparable legacy of tireless dedication and artistic integrity. It is an honor to carry the values Maestro Levine has instilled in us into this new era at the Metropolitan Opera—the house that Jimmy built.”

Replacement conductors for this season’s May 22 Carnegie Hall concert, and for the remainder of Mo. Levine’s 2016-17 engagements—the new production of Der Rosenkavalier, and three May 2017 MET Orchestra Carnegie Hall concerts—will be announced in the coming days.

A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.

As Mo. Levine transitions to his new role at the Met, John Fisher, currently Director of Music Administration, has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Music Administration, effective immediately. Fisher’s duties include overseeing the Met’s staff conductors, rehearsal pianists, and prompters; coaching principal singers; and working with Mo. Levine and the conductors for each Met performance to prepare and maintain the highest level of musical quality.

Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

  • Ilka Saro

    In terms of my vote, nothing in Levine’s own behavior so far has indicated that he thought there was any real reason to step down. My guess is that Gelb and company were waiting for the moment when the liabilities of keeping outweighed the assets even among his defenders.

    • Indeed. Note the lack of a statement from Levine in the Met release.

      • Howling in Tune


        Good catch, Kashania.

    • Howling in Tune

      Making that particular moment come for Levine’s defenders is what those uncomfortable articles in the Times about Levine’s condition were all about.

  • Camille


    re you shaking that red wig out yet and getting your pantyhose straightened up for tonite?

    Hurry up, now, girl — Time’s a wasting’! No more late arrivals!!!

  • The Poet Lenski

    So, in addition to YNS and Mr. Opolais, who are the other plausible candidates? We know it’s not Luisi. Rattle and Esa-Pekka have both stated they’re not interested. So, who does that leave?

    • Jurowski, Conlon, Gilbert (I’m serious).

      • LauraOTeersey

        Jurowski would be great. I also would be happy to Gianandrea Noseda be considered.

        • Howling in Tune

          Noseda would be excellent, and he would probably be relieved to get out of the crumbling Italian opera world. But he starts at the National Symphony in DC a year from September, and there’s no way they’d let him out of that contract.

          Jurowski was long considered a contender for the Philadelphia Orchestra job, but he and his wife were said to be reluctant to move their children across the pond.

      • Donna Anna

        Not Conlon. unless he does it on an interim basis which is hardly what I think the Met administration wants. He’s in his 60s and probably has other fish frying.

  • Chenier631

    Well, it’s certainly about time.
    The Met has dragged out this whole affair far too long.
    For once they need to do what is in the best interest of the house. Levine has been at the helm far too long and has had a stranglehold on much of the repertoire there.
    And he obviously is not physically up to the job anymore.
    It is time for some new blood as the music director.
    Whether or not the new music director will be YNS remains to be seen. I am assuming it will not be Luisi, but who knows?
    At any rate, this is great news for the company.
    They need to soldier forward, and start to build a more solid future for the Met.


    • Howling in Tune

      I think it was Levine that dragged this out too long, not the Met.

  • steveac10

    When I have my tinfoil hat on I can’t help but think the ink was already dry on a YNS contract starting in 17/18 -- and Luisi walked because he saw the writing on the wall (or just flat out knew), and all of this media nonsense was planned by the Met to downplay the fact they had no music director OR principal conductor for the 16/17 season.

    • Camille

      oh steveac10!
      I wonder if you have hit on it? At least, it sounds plausible to me at this moment.

  • LauraOTeersey

    “to see”

    Pappano-no thanks.

    • armerjacquino

      You can’t have him. So there.

      • Camille

        You are as inflexible as Don Pizarro on that count, armer, and I weep, yes, WEEP at your obdurate, adamant hard fist of control which denies us, your poor Yankee brothers, the brilliance of Sir Tony. SOB!

        • armerjacquino

          Well, it looks as if not everyone wants him…

          • Camille

            I want him, and I want what I want!!!!!!

            Lucky youse guys. A splendid opera house and a splendid conductor. I may have to become a Brit, but have been intimidated from doing so as the terrible reprisal from Nerva Nelli would be too, too, much for little old me to bear. SOB!

  • Bluebeard

    I’m curious what people’s reactions are to Levine’s cancellations. It’s not exactly a surprise that Levine has withdrawn from the new Rosenkavalier and one of the Met concerts, but isn’t it odd that they announced that without his replacements for either of these very prominent performances? I just feel like they would ordinarily announce such a withdrawal only after finding a replacement for at least part of the run, even if this were a way to feature YNS more in the Met’s future plans (I think Yannick is in Asia with the Philadelphia Orchestra for at least the May Met Opera Orchestra concert, so that’s probably out). I’m just wondering why this announcement is coming now, given how little information has simultaneously been provided.

    • Howling in Tune

      That’s what I mean about this -- the timing of this announcement being a surprise, and why I suspect there was some drama behind the scenes today or yesterday.

      (I mean most of that press release could have been written weeks ago, the way newspapers get advance obituaries.)

      It’s almost as if Gelb and a couple of key board members just said Enough! and lowered the boom.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

  • Constantine A. Papas

    Hope Domingo, the baritone, follows him soon!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      To the contrary: he’s been announced for Posa in a “Don Carlo” revival at Staatsoper and a new production of “Macbeth” at Theater an der Wien (has he already done either of those roles or is he adding to the count?). He’s running out of Verdi -- Jago and Falstaff to come? Yikes!

  • Howling in Tune

    I’m hearing (friend-of-a-friend-type thing) that a number of the Met orchestra players would prefer Noseda to YNS, because Noseda has already been artistic director of an opera house and has done a very good job.

  • Milly Grazie

    OMG -- whoever suggested Alan Gilbert needs to think again !
    That would be a truly awful appointment!

    • Howling in Tune


    • Loge

      He used to conduct many dull performances in Atlanta. I remember thinking a Mozart Requiem he conducted was the longest piece I had ever heard. When we went to Santa Fe one year I didn’t attend a Don Giovanni he conducted. However I found it interesting that, when I would ask other festival-goers how the Don Giovanni was, the almost universal response was “the singers were good but I didn’t know the opera was that long.”

  • Cicciabella

    How sad that Levine refuses to retire entirely from conducting. Does he really want the whole world to witness his gradual physical deterioration? Or is Gelb already planning to replace him in every opera on the “he will still conduct” list? He’s had a great career and should admit that there are enough excellenf conductors around to replace him, also as guest conductor: Nelsons, Jurowski, Bychkov, YNS, Thielemann, Luisi, Gatti, Noseda and a couple of others tied to opera houses who may not have the time to pop over to the Met for a short run. Also, plenty of very good baroque conductors should the Met feel so inclined. Only very few conductors are/were irreplaceable. Carlos Kleiber and Harnoncourt, maybe.

    • Ilka Saro

      “Does he really want the whole world to witness his gradual physical deterioration? Or is Gelb already planning to replace him in every opera on the “he will still conduct” list? ”

      Second question first: Just guessing. Imagine that permitting Levine to continue conducting was the bone that was thrown to his supporters in order to make his ouster acceptable. “Well, OK, as long as we can hear that amazing Italiana just five or six more times.”

      First question second: I don’t think Levine sees it as people witnessing his deterioration. This whole process reveals the extraordinary single-mindedness of the man. There is really only one thing he ever wanted to do, and having done it, he doesn’t wish to stop. I don’t think what other people want or don’t want has anything to do with it. And part of his genius is that not only did he obtain his dream, but he was able to cultivate the support base to continue his dream even if people wanted him to step down. As far as I can tell, if this was the strategy, then the actually quality of his conducting (at least in this end game) was not part of his plan. It was just to hold on because he didn’t want to let go. Period.

      • Howling in Tune


        Well said, Ilka.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    The bone thrown to Levine and to his supporters will look very different by next year. I anticipate that the scheduled events for which he is listed in 2017 will eventually include several key cancellations. The problem is, if they wait to announce them and find replacements, then the orchestra and singers get short shrift and the results will be ugly.

    Regardless of what he wants to do, his body is telling him otherwise. He won’t be up to the amount of work currently listed.

    There is no shame in being ill and/or getting too old for full-time endeavors. But pretending he can handle even this much is wishful thinking.

    • Ilka Saro

      Agreed there is no shame in being ill. And not much shame in resisting capitulating to the limitations of illness and age. At 55, it is a constant struggle for me to admit my own health limitations to myself. Rather than admit them, I tend to browbeat myself for failing to be as pain-free and energetic as I was when I was 25. But without meaning to brag, I feel like I am ready to consider these limitations in their true light just a tad more willingly than our multi-million dollar maestro — who admittedly did remarkable work for many years, and for many years had the ungrudging support and admiration of his musicians.

      • DonCarloFanatic

        Success on such a grand level often involves deliberately shutting your ears to naysayers--whether external or internal voices. I assume that’s part of the problem.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Hidden in all the muck and mire of yesterday: Opera News fires (“lays off” “cuts key staffers”) Brian Kellow and Diane Silberstein.

    • messa di voce

      Wow. Kellow’s been there for ever. How will we keep up with all the action in Wexford now?

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Apparently the whole magazine is being handed to Francis Driscoll to do with as he pleases.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          Time for Opera Teen to drop out of school and become the next Robert Jacobson.

  • Pisa Hearn

    Of Levine’s eventual successor Tommasini writes, “But that person will be lucky enough to have the great James Levine around to offer advice and support.”

    I wouldn’t count on it. We know from an earlier Times piece that Levine and Luisi have never even met. Who’s to say the new music director will be granted an audience?

  • Camille

    Why did it happen yesterday, a few hours before a highly anticipated premiere of a new production, a Thursday, and not even a Friday afternoon news gap drop? Why couldn’t it have waited until the end of the season, now just a few weeks away, and be handled with a little more pomp and ceremony for, after all, it was a forty-year career and unique in the annals of the Metropolitan Opera history. Besides that, the kabotch to Jed Bernstein and Brian Kellow and Diane Silberstein. Wow, that’s a lot of heads to roll on any one day in Lincoln Center! Surprised not to have seen the guillotine on the plaza.

    It just feels as if someone suddenly had a mental fit and couldn’t take it any more. There has GOT to be a big old gory story behind it all.

    • Lohenfal

      Camille, tension has probably been building up on the Levine problem for quite a long time. Eventually, that tension had to end in an earthquake, similar to what happens under the ground before the geological variety. How many years could go by without a rebellion against this individual, brilliant though he once was, but now insisting on retaining power no matter how impaired? I have the greatest sympathy for Levine in terms of his personal tragedy, but can’t sympathize with his refusal to accept the inevitable. Of course, those supporters of him on the Met Board also have to share in the blame.
      They seem to be on an endless “nostalgia trip,” trying to recapture the past, instead of looking forward to the future. The casting of Domingo next season is just another example of an inability to deal with the passage of time. All these people could learn from the Marschallin’s attitude in dealing with life’s problems.

      • Camille

        Yes, I do understand all this and which I find to be patently obvious--but--it is only three weeks tomorrow that the season ends. Das Ende. Wouldn’t it have been a bit more appropriate to have made a big formal announcement at that time, instead of just allowing Mount Aetna to explode in this rather unlovely and indecorous manner? There is no statement from Maestro Levine, e.g., and which would be the usual and customary thing done. There has been a long standing situation--or why was Maestro Luisi even hired for his position in the first place--so it would seem this was an eruption or, as you would have it, an earthquake, OR, a palace coup of indeterminate nature which no force could quell.

        It’s just very bizarre. And there must be a story with a body hidden in it—somewhere.

        • Lohenfal

          “unlovely and indecorous manner”

          Obviously, this was an unlovely way of dealing with this crisis, unworthy of an institution of the Met’s prestige. It may have been unavoidable however, in view of Levine’s recalcitrant position. Sure, we deserve a statement from him, but that may not be forthcoming until the dust settles, if it ever does. How appropriate that this eruption took place on the same day as a new production of Elektra, an opera with plenty of bodies in its backstory (the House of Atreus, etc.). Too bad that the participants in yesterday’s events didn’t take their cue from the next Strauss-Hofmannsthal collaboration, with its emphasis on reconciliation and moving on. It’s ironic that Levine has been removed or withdrawn from that one next season. Maybe someone is telling us that there can’t be a happy ending here.

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            The withdrawal from Der Rosenkavalier (like the Lulu cancellation) represents a combination of factors dealing with many hours of complicated music to be coordinated in rehearsal and requiring enormous concentration, freedom of movement and stamina in performance. Even in better days Levine did not attend many early rehearsals, leaving members of the music staff to mutter things like “Jimmy does it this way” -- but Jimmy wasn’t there. I can only imagine how much Levine may have detested collaborating with Lepage for the entire Ring and many of the other directors of the recent Gelberized productions.

          • Camille

            It is hard to grow old. It is hard to die. It is hard to give up doing and living your life’s dream. Reconciliation is hard and especially so in a big business which is also an arts organization. No one of us here want to stop or be stopped. He is only guilty of being human, all too human, and that is all.

            And no, there likely will be no happy ending for those who are being phased into limbo for the happy endings belong to the young, as they should be.

            • Camille

              It is also hard to countenance the lachrymose midnight musings of an old crone upon the dawn of that glorious morrow.

              Just never mind, as RosannDanna said.

            • jackoh

              Camille, I happen to think that your statement not only contained much wisdom but was beautifully expressed. More “lachrymose midnight musings “ please.

            • Camille

              Troppo tardi, oh jackoh!!!!

              You did not render the ring in time and Elisabetta Regina d’Inghilterra has sent poor old Camille Moke de Pleyel et BEAUCHAMPS off to the gallows on Lincoln Center Plaza!

              Tonight she will spend her last night at Lincoln Center, praying and sobbing and imploring clemency, but alas and alack, unless you get that ring to the church on time — ALLES IST VORBEI!!! und die Kamille ist tot!!

              Thank you very kindly for your consideration to an old lady, in any case, as it is duly noted and appreciated, sir.

        • sterlingkay

          There most certainly was a statement by Levine:

          “I am tremendously proud of all we have been able to achieve together as a company, from expanding the repertory to include new and seldom-heard works, to the development of the orchestra and chorus into one of the glories of the musical world. Although I am unable to spend as much time on the podium as I would like, I am pleased to step into my new role and maintain my profound artistic ties to the MET”.

          I’m not sure what else you would want him to say….

  • Camille

    As well, does no one note the promotion of the very able and knowledgeable Mr John Fisher? How does that all work out and will that impact -- and how -- the selection of a new Music Director?

    Son donna, e son curiosa

    • Krunoslav

      “the very able and knowledgeable Mr John Fisher”

      He is both of those things. What’s more, thank Christ: he’s a Briton.

      -Vicar, from the ether via Ouija board

      • Camille

        Vivat Vicar Vivendus!~ -- “La chose certes nous étonne!”

        Would that the good lord would allow a similar type of communication from that august, terrifying, and inimitable “I don’t take no sh#t” eternal diva divine, NERVA NELLI!

        I miss her and Bianca’s feuds, SO!!!!!!!!!! SOB! ?
        T’ain’t the same here!

  • sterlingkay

    The statement from Levine is in many of the articles about his retirement, including the NY Times:

    • Howling in Tune

      Fair enough.

      But what seems telling to some of us is the fact that Levine’s statement wasn’t in the Met’s press release, which is the obvious place for it.

      Makes it seem like the decision to send out the press release was somewhat sudden.

    • Camille

      Oh THAT statement, Mr sterlingkay--? Yes, I surfed right by it thinking it was yet another pronouncement from the powers-that-be at the Met.

      It does sound scripted to me, as well.

      And why was not a portion of this script excerpted in the big official announcement above, one wonders?

      è strano!

  • Camille

    To get to the point of all these mutterings —- what I am sitting here cogitating about is this: With Levine as Emeritus, Fisher as Assistant General Manager, and Gelb as Capo de Tutti i Capi —- will this projected announcement of ” A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.”of a new Music Director be a carrot dangled in front of us for some time or will they find, mirabile dictu, that they are able to run the Metropolitan Opera Association just fine with this triumvirate in place, and NOT elect a new Music Director?

    The Music Director(ship) was something new (didn’t Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos hold the title for a while, originally, and then rescind it, or am I misremembering the wrong person and it was Rafael Kubelik — I tend to confuse their names at times—-) with Maestro Levine, at least in the last sixty years — one wonders aloud here, and at risk of being decapitated or severely chided for such impropriety, if there is something else in play, as in

    “Uebermächte sind im Spiel!”!

    or — YNS will appear, on schedule and replete replete with his Mighty Mouse regalia, and all hearts will swell, most of La nostra Cieca’s?! He certainly DID conduct an excellent Don Carlo, at least in my experience, but likewise, I recently heard him get lost in a Bruckner symphony — not his thing, I reckon, and hardly likely his curriculum at the MET, so……

    I mean, if one refers one’s self back in a time capsule to 2011 and reads the NYTimes article on one Luisi, Fabio, well, one just wonders what the hell is going on, that’s all.

    • overstimmelated

      “A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.” Yes, this is a bit like of one of La Cieca’s blind items, to be parsed from all possible angles in search of a clue. Isn’t the language just a little too casual and cut-and-dried and bureaucratic-sounding, given the generally perceived magnitude of the decision at hand? It almost seems to trivialize the position of music director, as if they’re selecting a new manager for the coat-check. It doesn’t sound like they’re thinking about one of the glamorous candidates who have been mentioned, but a much less prestigious and less powerful cog in the wheel.

  • Camille

    I agree with you, although belatedly, and by now we’ve had our answer as to how often we’ll see him on the podium.