Cher Public

Let’s start at the very beginning

On this day in 1971, James Levine made his Metropolitan Opera debut.

Speight Jenkins in the Dallas Times Herald:

Opera in the summer at the Metropolitan Opera House? Ten years ago the idea would have been unthinkable, but now the Met’s June Festival has become a permanent fixture at the beginning of the New York summer. The operas come from the tour plus one or two others, and the list, which is sold on a nonsubscription basis, holds few surprises. The casts, however, contain a good many stars, and some interesting variety for the hometown aficionado or for the tourist.

By far the most unusual performance of the two-week festival this year was Tosca. The Puccini opera saw two important debuts-conductor James Levine (pronounced with a long “i”) and the English baritone Peter Glossop as Scarpia-and a United States first, mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry in the soprano title role. And, incidentally, Franco Corelli sang Cavaradossi.

The most exciting dividends came from Levine, who conducted the Dallas Symphony this season. His baton technique is clear; his rhythms radiate flexibility; and he brought to Tosca a dramatic tautness frequently missing in the Met’s pit. Brass often came to the fore to emphasize Scarpia’s cruelty; many of the score’s instrumental details received a new focus. Levine should have a great career ahead of him; the Cincinnati-born maestro at only 28 had obviously won the respect of the choosy and temperamental Met orchestra.

Happy 53rd birthday soprano Sandrine Piau.