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Met Maestro James Levine Faces An Uncertain Future

  The Metropolitan opera and the whole opera world  are celebrating the 40th anniversary of  maestro James Levine  with America's ,largest and most prestigious opera company .  But there are  universal worries about his health at the age of almost 68 ,  which is not  very old by conducting standards .

  Levine has accomplished  miracles with the Metropolitan opera , turning its orchestra into  one of the world's greatest ,even in orchestral repertoire , nurturing the careers of  generations of  renowned  opera singers with his  support and coaching ,  adding  many  important operas  to  the Met repertoire  which  had  never been performed there or  not performed  there for ages ,
bringing such great maestros as  Riccardo Muti, Daniel Barenboim ,Simon Rattle ,   Christian Thielemann,Seiji Ozawa , Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev ,  Carlos Kleiber and others to make their Met debuts ,  and so much more . 
   The Met still attracts the world's greatest opera singers on a regular basis , such as Renee Fleming,  Deborah Voigt , Natalie Dessay , Ben Heppner,  Angela Gheorghiu ,Roberto Alagna , Anna Netrebko,  Thomas Hampson ,  Rene Pape,  Olga Borodina ,  Dmitri Hvorostovsky , Placido Domingo ,  Juan Diego Florez ,  Waltraud Meier, Jonas Kauffman , Bryn Terfel, Stepahinie Blythe , Susan Graham ,to name only  some . 

   No one can accuse the company of being  a stodgy ,hidebound  and irrelevant  opera company  any more, although some  biased music critics do  still level this perverse accusation against it
No longer does the Met restrict itself to the same old  ever popular  operatic warhorses  by  Verdi,Puccini ,Mozart ,  Bizet , Gounod ,  and Mascagni  etc. Audiences there in recent years have been able to  experience  superb perfrmances of  great but challenging operas by  such composers as Schoenberg ,Berg , Busoni , Janacek ,  Prokofiev, Shostakovich ,  Handel ,  and other composers  which  have never been  ever daily fare there .

   The Met has also done  new  or recent operas by  leading  contemporary American  composers such as John Adams, Philip Glass , William Bolcom , John Corigliano , Tobias Picker and John  Harbison , as well  as  the  Chinese-born  Tan Dun, now a U.S. resident . 

   The singers  are no longer  a bunch of  people with  gorgeous voices  who just stand there and   and sing , but many  can act as well as  any  great stage or screen actor .  They portray real people interacting , not  just concerts with scenery .

   But Levine's health  problems, which include not only severe back  trouble but sciatica ,arm tremors , and accident which broke a rotator cuff  and  the removal of a kidney  because of a cyst ,  have put  the Met in a difficult situation .  He now conducts  sitting in a chair ,unlike most conductors . Some critics and commentators are calling for him to resign  from his position as the Met's music director .
He has already   had to resign from the Boston symphony orchestra .

   Fortunately ,  the Met has been able to secure the services of  the gifted and  much-admired  Italian conductor  Fabio Luisi ,  who is about 16 years younger ,as principal guest conductor, and there are rumors that he may  accept  Levine's job sometime soon.
He has had a flourishing career in Europe  as music director of the Dresden State opera , the Vienna symphony (not  the Vienna Philharmonic ) ,  and  appearances elsewhere , and the  Met orchestra  seems to  be very fond of him .  Luisi  is  highly versatile and  is at home in both Italian and German opera . Only time will tell what will happen .

   But whatever happens,  let's all hope that  maestro Levine, whatever his ailments, will  recover  and still be able to conduct  for many years to come , both in the opera house and the concert hall.
Posted: May 21 2011, 11:26 AM by the horn | with no comments
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