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