Thursday, April 14, 2016

It's About Time.

I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you, by this Metropolitan Opera press release:

Legendary Maestro James Levine to Retire as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera at the End of the Current Season;
Will Become The Company’s First Music Director Emeritus

New York, NY  (April 14, 2016) – 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. 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 Entf├╝hrung 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.
[stuff deleted
 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.

[more stuff deleted. I consider the following paragraph to be complete bullshit, given the ridiculously conservative Met repertory and its failure to have regular commissions.]

A tireless champion of new works and neglected masterpieces, Levine expanded the company’s repertory by leading the first-ever staged Met performances of Berg’s Lulu; Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Rossini’s La Cenerentola; Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, Stiffelio, and I Lombardi; Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito; Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Moses und Aron; Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; Busoni’s Doktor Faust; and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.


MEW said...

I have to say I'm surprised that it has come quite like this - and not, say, as a Friday afternoon news dump. Levine has been so obviously desperate not to go that this seems very sudden. Especially since it seems that The New York Times was not given an advance heads-up.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I don't think it's sudden at all. The Met was clear around the time of the season announcement that they almost announced his retirement then. That was just two months ago. He is withdrawing from a concert that is only about five weeks away, also.

Here's my blog post from February about this.

MEW said...

Yes, I read your February post back then, and it was very good.

It was clear then that Gelb - with good reason - wanted Levine to retire and that Levine himself desperately wanted not to.

The NY Times article with all the embarrassing details about Levine's incapacity was pretty clearly Gelb's way of cornering Levine by letting the entire world know just how badly Levine's abilities had deteriorated.

So yes, the retirement itself was pretty clearly coming.

What looks sudden to me is the timing of the announcement: smack in the middle of the afternoon, no advance notice to the Times (which always gets advance notice), no quote from Levine in the press release, no replacement conductor for the dates Levine has cancelled, and Levine still scheduled for productions and concerts that he probably won't be capable of actually conducting.

It's almost as if Gelb and key Board members this morning decided "Enough already" and lowered the boom, adding a few details to a press release text that had been written in advance weeks ago and sending it out.