Met Opera opens its archives for James Levine’s 40th anniversary

James Inverne11th Aug 2010
James Levine (photo: Koichi Miura/Metropolitan Opera)Celebrating an anniversary: Met music director James Levine (photo: Koichi Miura/Metropolitan Opera)

The Metropolitan Opera House, New York, has announced the release of dozens of previously unavailable live opera performances to celebrate the 40th anniversary of James Levine’s debut at the house. In those 40 years Levine has become one of the most successful music directors in music history (he won the music director job in 1973) – his name as synonymous with the Met as Leonard Bernstein’s once was with the New York Philharmonic.

Opera fans will be salivating at the prospect of no fewer than 11 Levine-conducted performances on CD and a further 11 complete operas plus concert highlights on DVD. They may have to save up though as the sets – which will be released on the Met Opera Shop website and on Amazon.com on September 21 – cost $200US (for the CD box) and $300 (for the DVDs) respectively.

Among the notable CD casts, there’s a 2003 Les Troyens with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Deborah Voigt and Ben Heppner, a 1999 Moses und Aron with Philip Langridge and John Tomlinson, and John Habrison’s The Great Gatsby from 2000 with Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Lieberson, Dwayne Croft and Susan Graham.

The DVDs include Le Nozze di Figaro (1985) with Carol Vaness, Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Allen and Ruggero Raimondi, a 1981 Il Trittico with Renata Scotto, Cornell MacNeil, Gabriel Baquier and Italo Tajo, The Bartered Bride (1978) with Jon Vickers, Nicolai Gedda, Teresa Stratas and Martti Talvela, and a 1982 Der Rosenkavalier with Tatiana Troyanos, Kiri Te Kanawa, Judith Blegen, Kurt Moll and Luciano Pavarotti.

The music of Alban Berg features heavily – a Lulu (Christine Shafer, Hanna Schwarz) and Wozzeck (José van Dam, Anja Silja) on CD, and the same pair again on DVD (the Lulu with Julia Migenes and Franz Mazura, the Wozzeck with Falk Struckmann and Katarina Dalayman). There is perhaps less Italian opera than might have been expected from Levine – only a DVD Don Carlo with Scotto, Troyanos, Vasile Moldoveanu, Sherrill Milnes and Paul Plishka in addition to the aforementioned Trittico.  But there is a healthy helping of French opera – that Troyens, also CDs of Benvenuto Cellini with Marcello Giordani, a Pelleas et Melisande with Jeannette Pilou, Dale Duesing and van Dam, and a French one-acter triple-bill entitled Parade.

For those looking for Met stars, there’s a concert highlights DVD with Plácido Domingo, Troyanos, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Domingo and Milnes. But those looking for the unexpected will enjoy a 1979 film of Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with the stellar cast of Stratas, Astrid Varnay, Richard Cassily, Ragnar Ulfung and MacNeil.

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