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James Levine to conduct again at the Met?

The New York Times has performed a great kindness to a sick man by announcing James Levine’s intention to conduct the Metropolitan Opera orchestra at Carnegie Hall in May 2013 and three opera productions in 2013-14. ‘I’m overwhelmingly happy to be coming back,’ said Levine, 69, ‘it’s miraculous for me.’

Slipped Disc’s actuary is refusing to take calls on the likelihood of Levine fulfilling these dates.

The Met’s veteran music director last conducted in May 2011. Over the previous five years he was forced into frequent cancellations as a result of spinal damage (for which he underwent surgery) and uncontrollable tremors in his hands and arms. The Boston Symphony Orchestra fired him as music director.

We wish Levine well and hope that all his dreams come true, but making the announcement now through the incurably gullible New York Times smacks of celebrity wish fulfilment. Levine (we hear) is still in an electric wheel chair. Will he conduct from its control panel?

And why make the announcement at all? Far better, in terms of dramatic gesture and public effect, for Levine simply to roll in one night to the Met pit and conduct without advance fanfare. The house would have erupted, the Times would have held the front page and the world would have paid rightful homage to a man who puts his music ahead of his image.

For a rounded account of Levine’s life and work, see my essay here.


A curtain call in happier times (c) Lebrecht Music&Arts

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  1. He’s conducting 3 productions at the Met, not 2. And 3 concerts at Carnegie with the MET orchestra. They’re supposedly working on some sort of lift to put his wheelchair in place in the pit, so he can conduct.

  2. According to all public reports, the BSO did not fire him. It seemed clear at the time that their preference was for him to conduct, but physically, he just could not. Both parties agreed the arrangement was untenable, which is not the same as someone being fired.

    Perhaps you have other information?

  3. mindful musician says:

    Is the ultimate purpose of this blog the desire to put an ugly and negative spin on all news stories in the realm of the arts? I ask, because I observe a constant dark side to issues ‘reported’. In the case of Maestro Levine, how could you and I know more about his recovery than his doctors? And could we not simply rejoice in the news that he fully intends to take the podium once again? It is not credible that in one breath you say, “We wish Levine well” and in the next breath snark about the possibility of a control panel on his wheelchair. Either you wish him well or you do not.
    Cultural commentary? I think not. It reads more often like a nasty streak gets the better of you.
    Long live art and humanity.

  4. Jimmy needs to conduct to earn money as his health care need rises……

  5. Daniel Farber says:

    I agree with “mindful musician” (above) regarding the current posting. At the same time, I should stipulate, too, that almost always Lebrecht’s interpretive reporting is worth reading. He is especially strong on “political correctness” and was a one-man truth squad in the case of Benjamin Zander and the latter’s shabby treatment by the BSO. The one exception to this profile has been his inexplicable mean-spiritedness with regard to James Levine, especially so in the case the very real health issues that have effectively derailed his career. It’s difficult to say what precipitated the nastiness, but I’ll guess that the ubiquitous Ronald Wilford has something to do with it and that, whatever the circumstances, Lebrecht has never gotten over it. In making fun of Levine’s wheel-chair, though, a new low has been secured.

  6. The BSO DID NOT fire Jimmy. We miss him terribly. The orchestra played so amazingly well under him The BSO gave him every chance to stay on, and then they came to a mutual understanding.

    • Indeed, the BSO was spectacular under Levine and the programming so vibrant. Such a shame that it couldn’t continue.

  7. Daniel Farber says:

    Correction: Zander’s shabby treatment was at the hands of New England Conservatory. “My bad”.

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