There was a Good News story out of the Metropolitan Opera last night, even if the thought of tenors and sopranos gives you the heeby-jeebs.
James Levine, who has been music director and art director and principal conductor at the Met over the course of 40 years, returned to the podium for the first time in two years after illnesses and injuries so debilitating that it was thought he would never conduct again. Or perhaps even walk away.
Levine has been hit with a form of Parkinson's Disease, and then a couple years ago fell, injured his vertebrae and lost all feeling in his legs. However, he's been rehabbing and is able to do a small amount of walking, with the hope of a full recovery, at least to walk again. A special wheelchair was designed for him (it can push him into a near-standing position) and a special podium was constructed that can turn 180-degrees and face the audience, which allowed him to make a triumphant return to Carnegie Hall earlier. But it was the Met -- his home for nearly half a century, where he's conducted 2,442 performances (over double the next closest) -- that was most anticipated.
He was not only greeted with a 71-second standing ovation (as you'll see above), but the production of Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte got raves. Here's a passage from the New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini --
If the performance had simply been a solid success, that would have been enough to gratify the opera fans who cherish his work and to reassure his concerned colleagues at the Met. But it was much more. Over many years I have heard Mr. Levine give some remarkable accounts of Mozart operas and I don’t think I have ever heard a more vibrant, masterly and natural performance than this “Così Fan Tutte,”
I've written here in the past how I used to work at the Ravinia Music Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when I was a kid. The music director during those years was a young, James Levine. So, I follow such things about him.
I believe that this concert will be broadcast on the Live from the Met radio series, though not until April 26. Their website here will list what stations in your area carry it. In Los Angeles, that's KUSC, 91.5 FM.
For those who'd like to read a more detailed write-up on the event, the celebration is nicely described by the Associated Press.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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