Official: The Met calls time on James Levine

Here’s the version given to house mouthpiece Opera News:

The Metropolitan Opera  announced today that James Levine, the company’s music director since 1976, will retire at the end of the company’s current season for health reasons.

Capping an historic, forty-year tenure, Levine will assume the new position of Music Director Emeritus next season, the company announced, where he will continue as the artistic leader of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and will continue to conduct some Met performances.

The company intends to appoint a new music director at the Met in the coming months. The Met also announced that John Fisher, currently the company’s director of music administration, has immediately been promoted to the role of Assistant General Manager, Music Administration. Fisher’s duties include overseeing the company’s staff conductors, rehearsal pianists and prompters; coaching principal singers; and working with Maestro Levine and the conductors for each Met performance to prepare and maintain the company’s musical quality.

Levine has withdrawn from conducting the Met’s new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier next season, but the company reported that he intends to lead revivals of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’sIdomeneo. This season, he will conduct the company’s remaining performances of Simon Boccanegra as well as five performances of the company’s revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail in April; he will also lead the Met Orchestra in May 19 and 26 concerts at Carnegie Hall, though he will not lead the orchestra in a concert scheduled for May 22 at Carnegie.

More here.

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  • It can hardly be a mere coincidence that the President of Lincoln Center Jed Bernstein is leaving his post on exactly the same day as the JL “retirement” announcement.

  • With no Artistic Director and soon no Music Director, it would be reasonable to suppose that John Fisher and Robert Rattray should be much more heavily involved in repertoire decisions. But Fisher’s job description above makes it clear he is to be involved purely in performance preparation – not repertoire selection. I suspect the same may be true of Rattray’s. The Board must quake at the thought of two Brits holding the artistic fort!

    Is it too much to hope that this same Board will finally betray a modicum of sense, a quality it has not been known for in recent years, and appoint an Artistic Director? Alas, though, he or she is unlikely to take up the job on more than a very part time basis for a couple of seasons or so. And thus the unqualified Peter Gelb rises even further up the ladder. When, one wonders, will he fall off – or might even he be pushed?

  • Is there not something odd about the announcement of James Levine’s retirement and elevation? In every announcement I have seen there is not one comment from any member of the Met’s Board! From Gelb and a member of the orchestra, yes. But from the Board members who are ultimately responsible for the company, who have contracted him for all these 40 or so years and basked in the glory he has brought the company – absolutely nothing! The Met’s main Board has a Chairwoman, a President and CEO, a Vice-Chairwoman, an Executive Committee Chairman and seven other luminaries. Yet not one has said anything! Is this some sign of a major rift between Levine and his Board? A huge error by the media department? Or merely another signal from the incompetent but very rich Mrs. Ziff that her acolyte Gelb does all her talking?

    • Perhaps it is caused by the fact that some of the Board members may have first-hand knowledge of certain episodes in JL’s personal past that prevents them from being objective in recognizing and fully appreciating his musical achievements.

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