James Levine cancels, more jitters at the Met

James Levine cancels, more jitters at the Met


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2016

The Met music director was to have conducted this week in Philadelphia.

But the orch in a press release says it has been told the trip would be ‘detrimental to his current medical treatment’, presumably for Parkinson’s Disease.

The NY Times has just reported that the Met is once more considering Levine’s immediate future.

james levine wheelchair



  • John says:

    Sad. Very sad. Way too soon for this illustrious musician. I still remember him at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony back in the 70s. He was so robust and vigorous. Singer friends who sang for him said he was the ultimate singer’s conductor. Whoever succeeds him will have huge shoes to fill. His repertoire was vast and his reputation fully deserved.

  • Igor Kennaway says:

    I worked with Jimmy over a number of years at Bayreuth. He was full of energy and his performances of ‘Parsifal’ were memorable. He was always very encouraging to me in my own conducting career. I learned a lot from this guy. I wish him a speedy recovery.

  • Anon says:

    What program was he supposed to conduct, and who replaced him??

    • Stuard Young says:

      Levine’s Pholadelphia Orchestra program was to include Ives Three Places in New England, Brahms Second Serenade, and Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, with soloist Paul Jacobs. Michael Tillson Thomas replaces him, with a revised program. The Ives has been changed to Decoration Day. The Brahms remains. The Saint-Saens is being replaced by Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 2. The Organ Symphony will move to next November. Soloist Paul Jacobs will then perform it on a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the organ in Verizon Hall, on which Mr. Jacobs has already been scheduled to perform the premiere of an organ concerto by Christophet Rouse. That concert will be conducted by Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Many of us were very much looking forward to Levine’s return to the Philadelphia podium after a 20 year absence. Decades ago, he made some fine recordings of Mahler and Schumann with our orchestra for RCA.

      • Olassus says:

        MTT could easily have kept the program as was.

        • Don Ciccio says:

          Strange as it seems, but I could not find any instance of MTT performing Saint-Saens’ 3rd Symphony in the archives of the Boston Symphony, Carnegie Hall, and New York Philharmonic. The San Francisco Symphony does not have an online database, and the ones of Buffalo Philharmonic are currently offline.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    Um, Norman? Methinks that you could have found a better word than “jitters,” especially in light of Maestro Levine’s condition.

  • Milka says:

    It is grotesque and mad the way this dance continues……..

    • Nick says:

      I find myself in the rare position of agreeing with Milka on this issue. How can, as the NYT article suggests, the Met continue the struggle to find yet more last-minute stand in conductors when Levine finds he is unable to take part? His legacy at the Met is massive and will always be remembered. It is time for an orderly succession to be put in place.

      Is it not also somewhat ironic that it is Gelb yet again trying to call the shots (this time without his puppet master Wilford, as the Times points out), when in fact Gelb should be nowhere near that process? (Did anyone mention Fabio Luisi and how he was treated?) With the influence he could bring to bear over an incoming Music Director (would he ever agree to his unofficial Artistic Director title being given to another?), the thought that the Met might fall totally into his hands is utterly appalling.

      • Olassus says:

        Several Tokyo orchestras have the position of “honorary conductor,” which avoids the icky word “emeritus.”

  • cherrera says:

    Levine and his Parkinson’s, Muti with his broken hip, their minds and talents finer than ever before, alas their bodies are betraying them, management’s full time job has become finding last minute replacements for them as they fall ill. Their legacies are assured and their continuing guest appearances on the world’s best podiums always welcomed, Haitink being exemplar, so it’s time to step aside gracefully and let their organizations evolve, move forward and thrive under younger, healthier, stabler leadership.

  • Itsjtime says:

    Norm, you must know I love you…BUT
    This headline is inappropriately awful.

    Parkinson’s jokes are not funny for people who have hearts.

    • Olassus says:


      • Olassus says:

        OK. I see. But I doubt it was intended; “anxieties” at the Met is long.

        • Max Grimm says:

          “Anxieties” might be a few letters longer than “jitters” but I think it wouldn’t have been a problem. If it had been, there’s also “worry”, “unease”, “angst” or “tension” that are the same length or shorter.
          Norman simply likes the occasional ambiguous or innuendo-laden headline (some of which have lacked wit or better judgement at times).

    • Max Grimm says:

      That’s his keen sense of “humour”, I guess…from the “jitters” at the Met to the flattering screen shot of Ton Koopman.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      Poor precious diddums.

  • Peter says:

    This “cult of the irreplaceable conductor” has to stop. There are other younger men and women, who can do the task, just as well and better, if someone is not able bodied anymore.
    This situation says all about the sad state of classical music business in the world, particularly in the US, where it has become all about the names and almost nothing about the music. They need Levine’s name for the income side of the revenue stream. End of the sad story.

  • Nicola Lefanu says:

    ==This “cult of the irreplaceable conductor” has to stop.

    Yes, well said !

  • Katie says:

    There may be many younger, healthier, brilliant, talented conductors, but do they put butts in the seats?

    It’s time for Levine to retire.

    • Peter says:

      Not by fueling the maestro cult and keeping the half dead on the podium, to fill seats with the half deaf.
      Somebody has to break the destructive pattern.
      Or put a hologram on the podium to make it look alright for the sales.
      What a sad, perverted, business.
      What are they actually selling?

  • Daniel F. says:

    The article in question, which was posted on-line mid-afternoon Saturday, appeared on the FRONT PAGE of the NY Times print edition today (Sunday). It is thought by some that Peter Gelb’s connection with the NY Times (through his father Arthur Gelb, who spend most of his adult life writing and editing for the paper) has enabled him to try to force Levine’s hand, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Although Levine’s beat appeared wide, wayward, and ill-defined during the Live in HD telecast of Tannhauser, it was yet a tremendous performance. Yes, other people worked intensely to make certain it was, but the splendor and architectural rigor of it came from Levine. And was his beat hard to follow than Klemperer’s at the end of his career? OK was not, however, the musical director of a large opera company; toward the end he performed sparingly. Perhaps Levine can be persuaded to accept a “transitional” role at the Met while someone else assumes the MD job.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    And thus the long, agonizing Goetterdaemmerung continues at the MET. Maybe the house itself needs to tumble asunder, before fresh, creative and inventive younger leadership takes over. Until then, no Erloesung in sight…

  • Mila says:

    He should be given the boot since he won’t go willingly….he has past his sell by date ..
    He is no dummy and milks this nonsense to the point of lunacy
    and like political egomaniacs he seems unable to relinquish whatever power he has .Of course we will have a slew of “I remember this performance or that performance ” but
    there is a time when a performer must say goodbye … he might take a page out
    of the Flagstad book and leave with dignity rather than have people say at last
    the ah is gone .That Gelb plays into this dance of death speaks volumes .
    To repeat …it is grotesque.

  • Andrew R. Barnard says:

    I had tickets for the concert. Very disappointed.

  • Daniel F. says:

    Hey, Milka, instead of giving him “the boot,” why not just shoot him and throw him overboard in his wheelchair? Would that be good enough?

  • Charrles Fischbein says:

    Lord help traditional opera lovers if Mr. Gelb is left to run the Met without a strong hand keeping him from destroying this world treasure he leads. While HD has improved the revenue stream this years attendance has dropped below 70% of capacity for the first time in history.
    Mr. Levine has more of a traditional eye than Mr. Gelb who seems all to willing to import so called modern Euro Trash productions that play to a half empty house