Cher Public

Perfect casting

Though the headline seems to apply a whole series of epithets to a revered critic (“Stand-In Meets Sweet Snake, Shrieky Diva, Grumpy Dad: Manuela Hoelterhoff”), the actual review of the Met’s Siegfried on Bloomberg offers more than purely comic interest. While La Hoelterhoff is no better than usual as an opera reviewer, she does briefly at least return to a line of work she does better than just about anyone else: cultural criticism.

Hoelterhoff frames the current crisis of music direction at the Met elegantly but frankly:

[James] Levine, a Met fixture for 40 years, receives constant credit for improving a second rate orchestra. But that was decades ago and for whatever reasons — self-absorption? shyness? — he never engaged with the cultural life of this city, despite huge pay checks (most recently around $1.5 million a year).

What a pity. The arts in New York could really use a charismatic music spokesman.

The paralyzed board really should stop issuing sentimental garlands of gratitude and add “emeritus” to Levine’s title. It’s sad that the maestro didn’t have the judgment to step down, but he didn’t, and now should be assisted into the next phase of life.

A colleague of La Cieca’s queried whether that phrase “assisted into the next phase of life” might be construed as the writer’s urging euthanasia on Levine, but your doyenne assured her correspondent that our Manuela would never pussyfoot around the issue thuswise: she would more likely say “isn’t it about time someone whacked him on the head with a mallet?”