Yesterday, Thursday, April 14th, was a very bitter sweet day for me, while I was preparing to listen to the Opening night of Strauss’ “Elektra” at the MET (Metropolitan Opera House) I was reading, at the same time the breaking and unexpected news of the retirement of Maestro James Levine, who has been the music Director of the MET for more of 4 decades.
The news came for me like a bucket of cold water. I grew up watching and listening to many wonderful, extraordinary operas, with James Levine conducting. It was always a huge pleasure and joy to watch James Levine conduct because, just like Leonard Bernstein, he really loved what he did, I always noticed, on James Levine’s face, while he always conducted, a huge, sincere pleasure, joy and love (just like Bernstein) for the music and no matter if it was Verdi, Mozart, Puccini or Wagner, James Levine was always there, ready, at the MET (which was practically his second home) conducting and bringing us joy, beauty and poetry to all of us, Opera lovers. My Opera life wouldn’t be the same, without my wonderful experiences of watching the many Operas of the MET, with James Levine conducting. James Levine brought me Placido Domingo, Leontyne Price, Sherrill Milnes, Jessye Norman, Luciano Pavarotti, Renata Scotto, James Morris, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Leo Nucci, Matthew Polenzani and many, many more Opera stars that I can name to musical life.
2,551 performances at the MET, more than twice the number led by any conductor in Met history—of works by thirty-three composers, his retirement marks the end of an era, and of an important period in New York City’s cultural history. James Levine made his debut (with Puccini’s Tosca) at the MET in 1971 and became the Met’s music director in 1976. James Levine transformed the MET Orchestra into one the finest of the world. He became the company’s artistic director in 1986 and held that post for nearly two decades, and was lauded for conducting the core Italian repertory as well as works by Wagner and Mozart, and for championing key 20th-century operas by Berg and Stravinsky, several of which he brought to the Met for the first time.
The name of James Levine was synonymous to the MET.
Thank you, James Levine, for your many, many, many years of hard work and love for the Opera. Thank you, dear Maestro.