Faithful and sharp-eared member of the cher public reedroom notes, “…an observation about the Levine 40th Wozzeck CD (Anja Silja/Jose van Dam)—the second CD (acts 2 and 3) has to be a different performance, different cast and different year. It is undoubtedly Hildegard Behrens on the 2nd CD. I don’t know who the baritone is…

According to Mary Garden’s autobiography, Claude Debussy first encountered the Scottish-born diva at the Opéra Comique.  After rehearsing her at the piano in a few scenes from his newly completed opera, Debussy said to Garden:  “To think that you had to come from the cold far North to create my Mélisande.”  He then turned to…

The Met’s 1979 telecast of Mahagonny exposed one of the lesser-known factors contributing to the demise of disco:  the global supply of eye shadow, rouge and lip gloss was exhausted for the next decade by a cast featuring Klara Barlow, Louise Wohlafka, Nedda Casei, Gwynn Cornell, Joann Grillo and Isola Jones—and stilettos, garter belts and…

Les Troyens is one of those things, or often two of those things, that should be a big event or it practically needn’t happen at all.* The keynote is grandiosity in the best way, from the subject to the musical demands (let’s include the implicit challenge of one singer performing both Cassandre and Didon—not because…

John Corigliano‘s first and second symphonies won the Grawemeyer and the Pulitzer, respectively; the premiere of his Third Symphony wasn’t even reviewed by the Times. His score for The Red Violin won an Oscar™; his score for Edge of Darkness ended up on the cutting room floor. Is there an American composer at once more…

“I just saw a woman upstairs,” said poet/translator Richard Howard, “wearing a very large pair of sunglasses that made her look for all the world like a great dragonfly.” “Upstairs” was the balcony at the Met; at the time, I was taking Howard’s lecture on the subject of frivolity in literature, and so when I…

Igor Stravinsky was a bit of a musical shapeshifter in his day, especially when compared to his contemporaries in early 20th century Europe. Given, the time in which Stravinsky was living in Europe was one of the most dynamic periods in recent history, but few were able to consistently generate music of such varying style…

It’s easy to see why the Met has chosen to include this 1982 performance of Der Rosenkavalier in their James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met – DVD Box Set: the marathon evening is a triumph for Levine from the frenzied blend of waltz melodies in the overture to the final, birdsong-like notes of…

A quintessential theater man as well as a brilliant conductor, James Levine rightfully chose not only the five-act version of Don Carlo for this 1980 performance but begins the opera as Verdi had originally conceived it. The Woodcutters chorus and the episode in which Elisabetta gives her necklace to a destitute woman are pages essential to…

“Parade” is defined simply by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a pompous show.” Fitting enough, then, that the triple bill titled Parade: An Evening of French Music Theatre recorded at the Met on March 16, 2002 consists of Erik Satie’s ballet Parade, Francis Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, and Maurice Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. These…

James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met includes not only unreleased video performances on DVD but also live radio broadcasts on CD.  This performance is one of the latter,  originally heard April 19, 2003. The Rake’s Progress has one of the greatest operatic pedigrees of all time.  It was inspired by a series of…

The first opera to be performed in the 21st century at the Metropolitan Opera, thankfully after the lack of total destruction from the Y2K bug, was the recently premiered The Great Gatsby by John Harbison. Commissioned to mark James Levine’s 25th anniversary with the company, the recording of this New Year’s Day broadcast is now…

These days, when James Levine is mostly in the news due to his back ailments, it is somewhat shocking to see this performance of Le nozze di Figaro begin with the Maestro fairly dancing around on the podium as he conducts a sparkling rendition of the overture. It starts off a classic performance of Mozart’s…

This is a performance I never thought I’d see. This 2003 Met performance of Ariadne auf Naxos was filmed, but got tied up in some kind of (legal?) dispute and never televised, and I had long written it off as being tucked away in a vault, doomed to be “the lost telecast.” So it is…

A DVD of a 2001 Met performance of Berg’s Wozzeck is included in James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met – DVD Box Set, and it’s easy to see why this performance was chosen. Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra he has done so much to build and improve are the real stars of…

To get straight to the point, the main attraction of this DVD is Renata Scotto. The Italian soprano, the first to perform all three heroines of Il trittico at the Met, is simply superb. She has élan in the moments of tension and a powerful, in-depth delivery. There is not a single word in the…

Richard Strauss’s brilliantly disturbing Elektra was first performed at the Dresden State Opera in 1909, and arrived in America in 1910 at the Manhattan Opera House.  A second American premiere, this time in the original German, was in Philadelphia in 1931 with – and this will kill you – Nelson Eddy as Orestes. Along with…

As part of the massive CD/DVD release celebrating the 40th Anniversary of James Levine at the Met, “In Concert at the Met, 1982-83” offers generous excerpts from three memorable Gala Concerts: from February 1982, Troyanos-Domingo-Levine; from March 1982, Price-Horne-Levine; and from January 1983, Domingo-Milnes-Levine. I had the pleasure of being in the house for each…

In celebration of James Levine‘s 40th anniversary at the Met, the company is releasing two massive collections of previously (mostly) unavailable material conducted by the maestro. Highlights include video performances of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride (Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Martti Talvela), and Der Rosenkavalier (Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos, Judith Blegen, Luciano Pavarotti,…