Sunday, March 12, 2006
Levine Out for the rest of the MET Season
Regretfully, it is now official: his rotator cuff is torn and James Levine requires surgery. This unfortunate event will lead the Maestro to cancel his participation for the rest of the Metropolitan Opera season which included multiple performances of Beethoven's Fidelio, the new production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale, and Wagner's Lohengrin and Parsifal. Maestro Levine will also have to cancel the May 20 Gala Farewell Concert for the MET's general manager Joseph Volpe, as well as the company's summer tour of Japan where he was to have conducted Wagner's Die Walküre and Mozart's Don Giovanni. According to the general manager this type of injury is unprecedented, and it has sent the MET scrambling to fill the conductor positions for the thirty-five performances that Levine has been forced to cancel. This will not be an easy task for the Metropolitan Opera. The management will have to find conductors who are available, who know the scores, and who have the international reputation worthy of one of the largest opera companies in the world. Already Maurizio Benini has been selected to conduct the new Don Pasquale, and the MET expects to make a final decision on Fidelio as early as Monday. This now leaves the Wagner operas temporarily unattended. Parsifal, with its dream cast of Ben Heppner, René Pape, Waltraud Meier, and Thomas Hampson will be a particular loss. In my opinion, this is the strongest ensemble that the MET has put together in years for Parsifal, and Levine's conducting is very much the main character of any performance of this opera, in particular, in terms of tempi. Undoubtedly, if a second-tier assistant conductor takes over, Levine's tempi will remain intact, and the three performances will hopefully not lack the gel that's needed to keep everything together. On the other hand, if the MET is able to find a great conductor (has Pierre Boulez's official retirement after he conducted Parsifal at Bayreuth this summer kick in yet?) then we are in for some interesting surprises in the merry month of May.