Cher Public

Levine to return to triumphant debut opera

Those few of you who cherished meager hopes for any sort of artistic excellence at the Met might as well log off now, because the gala New Year’s Eve Tosca at the Met next season is going to be conducted by that hot young talent James Levine. Upon hearing the news, La Cieca was quoted as saying, “Oh for fuck’s sake.” 

You may recall that Levine’s experience with Tosca, dating back to 1871, includes the company’s previous new production of the work, when he led a whopping one performance of the 16-performance run. is now accepting predictions for when Bryn Terfel will drop out of the role of Scarpia.

  • Liz.S

    Ahhh!!! Yes of course it was foreseeable that henpecked Nelsons would withdraw but…

    • operajunky

      What’s the skinny on Nelsons??

      • CCorwinNYC

        For those interested in what the Met will (or won’t) be missing, Mr. and Mrs. Nelsons are part of an “exciting evening of opera and song” with the BSO at Tanglewood on August 26. I’m told that one of the selections that night will be the complete second act of Tosca with Sir Bryn and Russell Thomas.

        • Interesting. When was this programmed? Is it a spiteful, juicy reaction to the Met cancellation? ;)

          • Liz.S

            Tanglewood program was announced back in Nov last year. So at that point, it was meant to be the sneak-preview of what was coming up at the Met, I think.

            • Liz.S

              Oh wait -- sorry it was meant to be with Dima in the original announcement, but he was recently replaced by Bryn

      • Cicciabella
        • CCorwinNYC

          Yeah she sang the Mahler 4 (!) in that concert. I’ve been scared to listen to it.

          • Cicciabella
            • southerndoc1

              Wow. That’s really . . . um . . .

          • Rudolf

            Oh dear! For starters I’d say that’s the wrong voice for Mahler’s Fourth. I wonder if she knows what she is singing. I furthermore wonder what’s happened to her husband’s hearing. Enough complaining. Let’s hear Reri Grist or Helen Donath. :-)

            • gryphone

              Or Barbara Hendricks in that terrific recording with Salonen.

          • Porgy Amor

            When I saw that announced, I couldn’t think of a soprano alive who seemed more of a stretch as the little kid surveying the wonders of heaven, unless you go full-bore comedic and name someone like Anja Silja. One reviewer diplomatically puts it, “Opolais, who is Nelsons’ wife, was a little too operatic for the innocence of the earthly pleasures hymned in […] the finale’s song.”

    • Armerjacquino

      Has he withdrawn all the way back to 1955, when the word ‘henpecked’ was last used?

      • Liz.S

        Lol, AJ
        TBH in my mind it was p-whipped

  • Liz.S

    James Morris should replace Bryn

  • Maybe if Yoncheva hasn’t signed the contract yet, they can convince Matilla to come back as Tosca. And hopefully, Marcello Giordani is available to step in for Grigolo.

    • southerndoc1

      Heck, why not bring back Bumbry, his first Tosca.

    • rapt

      What, is Milanov chopped liver?

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        Is Mary Curtis Verna still alive? How about Elinor Ross?

  • DonCarloFanatic

    You’d think they could find somebody else, but then again, they imposed on various people during Levine’s “I won’t retire” years. Maybe he’s the only one they can call on at short notice who owes them.

  • Kenneth Shaw

    Trowley is down for just one performance in the title role. Maybe when all the shifting is done, she’ll be the one left standing with another chance to shine, as she did in Cyrano.

    • Cameron Kelsall

      I’m sure Rowley is the general cover for the role, and I have no doubt she’ll give a good performance (she already has the role in her rep), but she wouldn’t generate anywhere near the excitement of a Yoncheva or a Netrebko in their role debuts.

      • Kenneth Shaw

        Not sure why Daniel says Poor regarding Trowley, but you’re quite right that the commotion accompanying the role debuts for Netrebko (who I’ve come to love), and Yoncheva (for whom have too little point of reference for an informed opinion), would surely create the electricity needed to anchor this instability under discussion. Trowley is, in fact, the cover. And, if she steps up as well as she did in Cyrano, I’d not count her out as the potential dark horse success of this whole thing. Who knows? It’s the waiting and conjecture I find thrilling!

    • Daniel Swick

      Poor Trowley.

  • Jm35

    Ugh. This whole Tosca just reeks of desperation and tired lazy thinking by Gelb. Sadly I wouldn’t be surprised if it was still the years most successful production, in terms of butts in seats.

  • aulus agerius

    Act 1 DG from Aix just ended. Live direct on culturebox. Fun sexy show with Philippe Sly. :-)

  • Parpignol

    surely Domingo should be a part of this event in some capacity!

  • Helen Wynn

    Oh.What a bunch of babies. Glad Sir James is conducting. Cant wait to be there!

    • La Cieca

      So long, stupid.

    • Porgy Amor

      Where and when was he knighted?

      • Rick

        Of course, not being a citizen of a commonwealth country, James Levine would not be “Sir”, even if he HAD been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. To my knowledge, he hasn’t.

    • PCally

      Well you clearly haven’t attended a Levine performance in very long while

  • La Cieca

    You heard it here first. My prediction is that Bryn Terfel will ask to be released from the role of Scarpia and he will be replaced by Placido Domingo.

    • CKurwenal

      Because he doesn’t want to sing under Levine?

      • Our Own JJ

        Some singers are funny about working with conductors who have a clear beat and actually show up for performances.

      • Parpignol

        if Terfel does not back out, Domingo could still sing his first Sacristan!

        • DonCarloFanatic

          That would be worth seeing, and hearing, too. He’d steal every scene.

        • PATRICK MACK

          Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

        • Klee

          Or his first Tosca. Who needs a soprano anyway?

        • Parpignol

          Domingo as Sacristan joining in with recording of his former self singing “Recondita armonia”--
          it will be sort of like “Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes!”

          • MisterSnow

            Or Natalie Cole’s duet with her dad on “Unforgettable”.

        • And after the first act, Domingo will take over the conducting duties from a fatigued Levine.

  • operajunky

    I don’t understand. What’s the big deal? Not criticizing, just have been out of the loop for a little bit.


    I’m sorry but the tags on this post are priceless. Viva La Cieca!

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Wait. Why don’t they get Placido to conduct?

  • QuantoPainyFakor

    Actually, Erwin Schrott is having good success with Scarpia. It will be interesting if A.N. ever agrees to perform Tosca with him.

  • Chad Marcel

    Wanted to share some thoughtful criticism as TOSCA is one of my favorite operas.
    Why all of the Levine-bashing? He’s one of the all-time great opera conductors, period. So what if he’s in his 70s and in a wheelchair? As long as he feels good and is mentally alert and physically able, why should he not continue to conduct? Especially an opera like TOSCA that he loves and has a long Met history with. I saw Pierre Boulez conduct BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE at Carnegie Hall and I think he was around 85 at the time. Maybe Levine has had some off nights (we all do) that I haven’t heard but -- this past Season -- I was at a performance of NABUCCO and I listened to L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI On Demand (haven’t watched IDOMENEO yet). The orchestra sounded terrific in both performances. So, I’m looking forward to Mr. Levine taking part in this new TOSCA -- I’m sure he will bring much enthusiasm to the event -- he clearly did not approve of the Luc Bondy production and must be overjoyed about this new “traditional” one. And we’ll finally get an “official” Met broadcast/telecast/HD of a Levine conducted TOSCA. We’re long due for one, considering that the sound quality of the many “pirated” recordings (going back to the 1971 Corelli/Bumbry performance) are poor.
    In general, I think we need to have more respect for our beloved operatic artists as they get older. OK, I still have mixed feelings about Mr. Domingo’s “baritone years,” but we’re getting Domingo bashing in this post when he’s not even associated with this production at all.
    I’m extremely disappointed that Jonas dropped out, but I think Vittorio will be excellent -- he’s one of my favorite singers to hear live -- his voice is a great match for the Met’s acoustics -- it resonates beautifully. And the new production will be grand (although I found the Bondy production to be a welcome change of pace … for a while LOL).
    I must say I am a little worried about Sonya Yoncheva’s TOSCA as it might be too heavy for her. Although the same could be said of Opolais. I like a much more dramatic sound for my Toscas, but I guess we’ll see what happens -- that’s what makes live opera exciting. My own private fantasy would be to bring Aprile Millo back -- I’ve heard some of her recent singing on You Tube and she’s clearly worked on the voice -- the quaver she had 10 years ago at the time of her last Met performances is gone and I think she’s sounding pretty darn good.
    Anyway, just wanted to bring some positive energy to this new TOSCA.


      “… As long as he feels good and is mentally alert and physically able” It was my understanding that it took the hard work and considered oversight of at least two prompters, the chorus director, and the concert master from keeping Uncle Jimmy’s Tannhauser train from derailing. I think physically able is the key here.

      …and Millo? Stop. My pants will never dry.

    • It’s not purely a matter of age. People in the opera and classical music world are well used to conductors staying in top form into their 70s and even beyond. We have Levine’s record to use for our predictions. For several years, his work has been notably lower in quality than his best – and that has been accomplished only by hogging all the rehearsal time (and therefore sabotaging other non-Levine-conducted productions) and all the extra support that Patrick referenced.

      After years of sub-par work, Levine finally had a decent season last year by taking on less taxing assignments.
      I’ve liked Levine’s way with Puccini in the past. For example, I even thought his Manon Lescaut, to pick a relatively recent example, quite good. But Tosca requires vigour and energy. And since the Met has chosen to go ultra-safe in terms of production (McVicar is capable of very good work but his Met new productions tend to be antiseptic), it needs an exciting presence in the pit.

    • Porgy Amor

      Why all of the Levine-bashing? He’s one of the all-time great opera conductors, period. So what if he’s in his 70s and in a wheelchair? As long as he feels good and is mentally alert and physically able, why should he not continue to conduct?

      As kashania mentioned, it isn’t about his age. It also isn’t about his being in a wheelchair. If a conductor’s arms and hands are still working well, no one cares about what his legs cannot do. In this case, Levine has a progressive neurological condition, and the orchestra is on record as having trouble following his beat as that condition has worsened. His is also an unpredictable condition. There isn’t any guarantee that on a given night (or nine of them) the movements will be under good control.

      Of course, Tosca is a short, bread-and-butter opera, one the Met orchestra has played often. This is nothing as intricate as Lulu or Rosenkavalier, two new productions Levine was scheduled for, which he pulled out of. Most of the work will be done in rehearsal, and with a lot of help from the concertmaster, the prompter, and the chorus director, the performances may more or less come off.

      Still, while I expected Nelsons’s withdrawal from the moment Opolais’s replacement was announced, this was not the outcome I was expecting. It seems overly optimistic and more a combination of optics and hagiography than what’s best for the production.