Maybe someday they'll think I was crazy, putting all this work and energy into an art form in decline. Frankly, I'm not at all sure that it isn't a losing battle.Oh, I won't be coy. It's James Levine, music director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, rounding on 40- years' association with the company. The remark is quoted in The Maestro Myth, Norman Lebrecht fascinatingly gossipy history of modern conducting. I'm not clear on the exact date but it seems to be about 1990. Lebrecht says that Levine's "prime achievement" (at least in his early years) was "to nurture a succession of fine singers in a world bereft of vocal talent.
But he adds that "in addition to developing singers, Levine worked wonders with the troublesome orchestra, never one of the Met's glories." I'll say; I'm not old eno--well, actually am old enough to remember the earlier barren years but I wasn't doing opera back them (my first Met encounter was 1990; they were doing
Dvořák's Rusalka; we were in the upper balcony and it was hot). Still if you follow opera journalism at all, you can sense the awe with which his reputation is held among opera professionals and fans. We saw him just a couple of weeks ago in the HD performance of Don Pasquale; he looked pretty decrepit (but if I count right, he's only 67). Still, as I guess I said back then, the opera was good but the overture itself was one of the most remarkable I've ever heard. One can only wish him 40 more.
Update: Here's a source that says that the Met premier of Rusalka doesn't come until 1993. Memory a little shaky tonight is it, old boy?