Brazilian musicians fire their American conductor

Brazilian musicians fire their American conductor


norman lebrecht

December 15, 2021

The state government of Rio de Janeiro has announced that the American artistic director and principal conductor Ira Levin is ‘no longer part of the staff of the Teatro Municipal’. Just like that.

Levin tells the local music magazine that this was ‘a unilateral decision of the musicians’. He adds: ‘I was never notified of any complaint or issue to be discussed … I have always had and continue to have a great relationship with the [unions].’

One of the musicians said anonymously: ‘“We were all very uncomfortable with the conductor’s conduct and unhappy with [Saturday’s] chosen program. This was reflected in the result’.

So they let him wake up and smell the coffee?

More here.

UPDATE: The programme the musicians rebelled against was:  Mahler-Schoenberg Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, the last two movements of the Schoenberg opus 10 quartet, the scherzo and Lento of Beethoven opus 135 and Ira Levin’s own arrangement for string orchestra of Schubert‘s Lebenstuerme, D947.



  • RW2013 says:

    Except for dissecting two quartets, the program looked interesting.
    How often do we hear D.947 in any form?

  • John Borstlap says:

    It must have been the Schoenberg, the great stumble block for most musicians.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    As usual, one wonders what the real agenda here might be–I’ve always thought of Maestro Levin as a conductor of serious professionalism and integrity.

  • Michel Lemieux says:

    A conductor should know the limits of his own orchestra. Maestro Levin evidently thought his “boys from Brazil” could play Schoenberg.

  • Patrick Baton says:

    Interesting and smart programma, indeed..

  • George Neidorf says:

    Maybe the Brazilians are sensitive and don’t want Jews and Germans on the same program. ()

  • Ila Rio OSTM says:

    musicians brasilian or not do not like to like to be screamed. And especialy by absent maestro who do not come to work and live in another estate since the begin of covid. That is what happened in reality. Maestro Levin always end fired from orquestras because of his temperament: Colon, São Paulo, Brasília etc.

    • Sheila McLaren says:

      Interesting and understandable. Have long been surprised that Maestro Daniel Barenboim has not been fired by members of the East West Divan orchestra for the same reason.

      • MacroV says:

        WEDO is Barenboim’s creation; they can quit but can’t really fire him (well, unless there’s a board that has ultimate control).

    • I Levin says:

      Well, this exposes the level. I did not „come to work“ in Rio BECAUSE of Covid, I was in Brasilia. And I also had a very serious hip operation which was accompanied by medical attests and full knowledge of the authorities, and took months to prepare for and then recover from. And, like most of the world, in case you forgot, I worked during that entire time from home, and without a single vacation in 20 months, trying to help the Theater survive and planning literally hundreds of online programs and filming, several of which I performed in and flew to Rio during the pandemic to participate in, while only 25% of the Orchestra did the same. This is ALL provable and beyond debate. So, I think I had the right to demand at the third rehearsal, not scream, that the orchestra come prepared for their first concert with at least the Beethoven prepared. Let us end this silly and banal discussion. It is beneath my level and we are all much better off with my departure. Good luck. The experienced and capable conductor before me quit after TWO months, he was right in doing so.

    • I Levin says:

      The „absent maestro“ did not come to Rio because of a thing called Covid, remember that? And he had a serious hip operation in March of this year which made it impossible for him to walk for several months, for which where were medical attests and full support of the Rio authorities. However, I did, as artistic director, plan literally hundreds of online events for the theatre and filming, in which I did participate in, even flying to non-vaccinated Rio in June and September at age 62 to do so.Only 25% of the orchestra participated, but were paid monthly. So, I think I had a right to expect and demand, not scream, that the orchestra at least come prepared after 20 months to play a program of normal difficulty, even after three days for a Beethoven work. Let us stop this silly and banal discussion right now, everybody, especially me, is better off that I left. And, I was not fired from any orchestra, I left because of political changes, which is an everyday and common event, especially in South America.

  • Sheila McLaren says:

    I’ve been told that many orchestras don’t like to rehearse. They sight-read. So anything remotely difficult or foreign to their sensibilities they do not wish to prepare or attempt to rehearse. I do not know how true this is, but have experienced it once.

  • MacroV says:

    I assume there is more going on than one fairly interesting program.

  • hooluuulo says:

    Idiotic program. Schoenberg! In Brazil. (Anywhere for that matter. Ugly)

    Poor conductor probably did not even know the name Villa-Lobos.

    Good riddance to him and his ignorance.

    • RW2013 says:

      If he hadn’t have known the name of Villa-Lobos he wouldn’t have prepared Yerma for Rio.
      And maybe you should actually listen to the second quartet of Schönberg before calling it ugly.
      Ignorance is all yours!

    • I Levin says:

      Whoever you are, that was not an insult to me, rather to the huge amount of very cultured and talented Brazilians. The very same orchestra has performed the much more radical Erwartung years ago, and many orchestras here have played Schoenberg works. I know Villa-Lobos‘ music intimately and have conducted several of his Bachianas and Choros, as well as Uirpuru, Amazonas etc. and prepared his huge opera Yerma, which did not happen because of Covid. Please, do not expose your own ignorance. And I give my name for public comments, I am not a coward

      • Marcio says:

        Gad, Maestro….for heaven’s sake why waste yr darn precious time with them fiddlers and bongoos and whatnot…good ole resentment is in the order of the(every)day for any,anything with a whiff of superiority in’t.Need i say more? Best luck to you anderswo.

  • Ruby Yacht says:

    He’s obviously stuffed his head with Germanism, leaving no room for anything else? Typical product of American conservatories, that cover up their insecurities by over-emphasizing everything Germanic. But he is very handsome.

  • Ila Rio ostm says:

    Maestro Irã Levine like alternate facts like his President. He is unpleasant and iluded person and did almost no work or “hundreds” programs! He must learn how to count better. The fact is he was absent from March 2020 to Decembro 2021 living in another city, not only because of pandemic. Surgery? Strange that at the same he was super health to conduct other orquestras. His ilusions reflect how serious are his temperament problems. It was pathetic to see him try to force entrance in a union meeting where he was not welcome then be lead out of the room by force by the musicians then again try to interrupt, scream at all and tell musician to f**k. He ended up fired in front of the whole orchestra. Secutiry was called to take him out of Theatro Municipal. Shameful end to someone that thinks he is always better than others and has slow destroyed itself

    • Ira Levin says:

      This is a complete and utter lie by yet another coward. If you go to You Tube and the site of the Theatro Municipal you WILL see all the programs I talk about. As artistic director I was responsible for everything that appeared, orchestra, chorus, ballet and chats, all went through me. I conducted a concert in September of 2020 with OSESP and nothing after that, my surgery was in March 2021. I was in Brasilia with my family from March of 2020 because there was a thing called Covid, remember? Rio was not vaccinated until the fall of 2021 and only a few filmings with smaller groups, including with me, took place until the Theater opened in November of 2021, FACTS. I entered the room of the President of the Foundation after having waited 100 minutes on the stage for rehearsal and asked in these words “is there going to be a concert”, FACT. I was not thrown out, just rudely yelled at by somebody who I supported in many ways at the Theatro. I did not use the word f..k and was not taken out by security, FACT. In fact, I had a meeting at 12:30, long after the events you describe, in my dressing room with Bruno F. which can be attested to by him, and then went out and got a coffee. FACT. I was then called by the President into her room at 14:00 for a meeting at which time SHE told me that I was leaving. FACT. For heaven’s sake, stop lying, be a man and not a coward who cannot even give his name. And practise instead of complain. It just confirms the level to which many of you have descended. Good riddance for all of us. Funny thing that I never had such problems with the London Symphony, Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras and dozens of others, or with OSESP and the Theatro São Pedro orchestras in São Paulo, where I have often conducted and continue to be invited to on a regular basis. Or in Buenos Aires where after my first opera at the Colon I conducted 11 more as principal guest conductor. Merry Xmas.