Alex Ross in The New Yorker:
The chief failing of the Levine era at the Met was the company’s sparse, spotty record with contemporary opera. Not until 1991 did Levine get around to presenting a world première, in the form of John Corigliano’s “The Ghosts of Versailles.” That piece has found a footing in the American repertory, but its successors at the Met—Philip Glass’s “The Voyage,” John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby,” Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy,” and Tan Dun’s “The First Emperor”—are a rather miscellaneous group. Levine’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for such major opera composers as John Adams, Thomas Adès, and Kaija Saariaho seemed to delay their progress toward the Met. Latter-day masterpieces like Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s “Die Soldaten,” Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre,” and Messiaen’s “Saint François d’Assise” have gone unheard there.Anthony Tommasini in the Times:
Still, over the years Mr. Levine conceded that he had not done enough to make the Met a vibrant space for new opera. He described the company as a big, hard-to-push institution, which in many ways it is. Yet in 2013, I was dismayed to hear him address this topic on “Charlie Rose.” Some people, Mr. Levine said, have argued that the Met should present a new opera every year. To that he answered, “I wish I really thought there was a new opera good enough for the Met every year.”That last remark...it is very sad that what comes to mind as a response is "Jimmy, you needed to get out more." There is no paucity of new operas good enough for the Met. The Met should have been commissioning the great composers of our day and building a repertory of great works.
This brings us to Zachary Woolfe's article in the Times about his interview with Yannick Nézhet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and widely rumored to be the prime candidate to succeed Levine. First, there's the dismaying line about Philly being among the most conservative American orchestras: one longs for the days of Leopold Stokowski and his unending thirst for the new. Just look up the number of important early 20th c. works that got their first US performances under him.
Then there's this:
When I asked him, though, which underappreciated composers, works or corners of the repertory he might seek to champion — the Nézet-Séguin equivalents of Mr. Levine’s advocacy for Berg, marginalized Mozart or “Moses und Aron” — he seemed slightly at a loss.
“It’s still a bit at the beginning,” he said of his career. “I’m still at the stage when I enjoy so much broadening my repertory and the orchestra’s. If someone was someday to say, ‘Yannick has helped bring back this composer,’ I’m not sure who it would be.”I love their operas, but it's sad that Woolfe has to reach for Berg, Mozart, and Schoenberg to find Levine's advocacy for the new and unusual, considering how long Berg and Schoenberg have been gone.
And unfortunately, if it is to be YN-S at the Met, don't expect heaps of commissions or the sudden prominence of, say, Schreker. For that, the Met ought to hire my favorite candidate, James Conlon.