Classical Press Piles on Levine Story (… plus a bonus zing at DG)

The press is piling on in the day and a half since the Metropolitan Opera announced that James Levine is withdrawing from the fall portion of the company’s 2011-12 season. A few are worth a read, including Zachary Wolffe at the NY Observer, who writes:

The music directorship is a much wider-ranging role that involves setting the Met’s overall artistic agenda, a part of the job that has been largely off the radar since Mr. Levine’s health troubles began to become more acute, about five years ago. It remains to be seen if the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, is willing to share power with another strong figure.

Gelb, according to insiders I’ve spoken to, learned his lesson after he honchoed as many debacles as successes at Sony Classical. Insiders say he’s adopted a far more collegial and diplomatic — yet still strong and persuasive — management style at the MET. There’s no reason he and principal conductor Fabio Luisi, who is taking on Levine’s autumn and early winter workload, couldn’t make a similarly excellent team if Levine steps down.

Nevertheless, Alex Ross at The New Yorker has a different take:

Luisi has said in interviews that Zurich remains the principal focus of his attention. The Met might make him a better offer, but the more probable scenario is that Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, will keep Luisi on a short-term contract while seeking a younger maestro to take over for the long haul. (Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Andris Nelsons are two rising conductors who have lately had successes at the house; Nelsons, as I reported ina recent column from Bayreuth, is an extraordinary talent.)

Extraordinary, but — at least in the two outings I have seen in concert — uneven. Gelb would take market and public relations issues into consideration, and Nelsons is getting plenty of quality hype with the help of savvy publicists on both sides of the Atlantic. And he’s good in the studio, but I’m not sold on Nelsons live — at least yet.

Finally, there is this tidbit from my favorite classical controversialist, Norman Lebrecht, at his must-read blog:

Two people close to James Levine have told me he is suffering from uncontrollable shaking as a result of his various condition.

I’ve heard similar reports, though not in as dire terms, at least not to the extent that it would interfere with his conducting if he hadn’t reinjured his back.

On an unrelated topic, check out what Lebrecht has to say about the new regime (and the old) at Deutsche Grammophon. Right on, Norman!

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