JAMES LEVINE – Celebrating 40 Years at the Metropoitan Opera

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The Metropolitan Opera celebrates the 40th anniversary of James Levine’s company debut with James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met, two special boxed sets of 21 DVDs and 32 CDs featuring highlights from the longtime Music Director’s record-breaking career with the company. The two sets contain 22 complete performances, 19 of which have never been previously available in any format. All titles have been digitally remastered in state-of-the-art sound. The 21-DVD set features 11 complete operas including such star-studded performances as Smetana’s The Bartered Bride from 1978 with Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, and Martti Talvela, and Der Rosenkavalier from 1982 with Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos, Judith Blegen, Luciano Pavarotti, and Kurt Moll. The DVDs also include highlights from historic concerts in 1982 and 1983 featuring five legendary names, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Tatiana Troyanos, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes. The 11 historic performances on the 32-CD set range from early 1980s innovations like the Parade triple-bill (including Satie’s ballet Parade, and the operas Les Mamelles de Tirésias by Poulenc and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges by Ravel) to the world premiere of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby from 2000.

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All performances have been digitally remastered and are presented in state-of-the-art sound in the new releases. Jay David Saks, who has been the Met’s music producer for 30 years, oversaw the sound restoration for the sets. “During my 30 years at the Met,” says Saks, “it frequently came into my mind that many Met radio broadcasts—the really great ones—should somehow find a place within permanent documentation for listeners’ benefit, rather than only in their original, fleeting one-time broadcast existence. In particular, my thoughts centered upon James Levine’s own broadcast performances. Because his opera repertoire is so vast and his genius so great, one could assume that many of his broadcasts were of such standard as to define not only the repertoire within these broadcasts, but his own personal artistry and collaboration with countless superb singers and his great Met orchestra and chorus during his unparalleled encompassing tenure at the Met.”

“No conductor has played a more vital role in the history of the Metropolitan Opera than our music director, James Levine,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met. “I am so pleased that we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of his Met debut with this anniversary collection of some of his great Met performances.”

“This set contains performances that, for various reasons, are not in the commercial mainstream,” said James Levine. “The new collections come mostly from some less familiar masterpieces that were important for us in the development of our artistic quality—an especially exciting part of our work over these many years.”

The collection highlights operas that Levine has made central to his work with the company, such as Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu, each of which is presented in two different versions – one on DVD and one on CD. The performances of each opera are recorded years apart, with the Wozzeck DVD from 2001, featuring Falk Struckmann and Katarina Dalayman in the cast, and the CD version from 1980 with José van Dam and Anja Silja. Levine’s Lulu from 1980 with Julia Migenes in the title role is in the DVD set and his more recent performance from 2001 with Christine Schäfer is on CD.

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All audio recordings are from live radio broadcasts. They include two works which Levine was responsible for bringing to the Met for the first time—Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini from 2003 and Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron from 1999—recorded in their premiere seasons. Two of the operas on CD are accompanied by bonus discs that include excerpts from other Met performances of the same opera. The complete Pelléas et Mélisande is from 1983 and has Jeannette Pilou, Dale Duesing, van Dam, and Jerome Hines in the cast. The bonus CD contains excerpts from two other performances: one from 1978 with Stratas, Gabriel Bacquier, and Hines, and a second from 1995 with Frederica von Stade and Dwayne Croft. The bonus CD accompanying the complete Lohengrin from 1998 with Ben Heppner, Deborah Voigt, Deborah Polaski, and Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, features excerpts from a 1985 performance with Domingo, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, and Eva Marton, as well as a 1976 version with René Kollo and Pilar Lorengar. Other operas in the 32-CD set include Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, and two famous Met triple bills—Parade and Stravinsky (with the ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, the opera/ballet Le Rossignol, and the opera/oratorio Oedipus Rex).

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In addition, the live telecasts featured on DVD also include John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles from its world premiere season, a 1979 performance of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Stratas—another opera Levine brought to the Met for the first time—and classic performances of Le Nozze di Figaro, Il Trittico, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Don Carlo. The two DVDs which have been previously available are The Ghosts of Versailles (released on Laserdisc and VHS in 1993) and Lulu, recently released by the Met on DVD.

James Levine made his Metropolitan Opera debut on June 5, 1971 conducting Puccini’s Tosca and has since led more performances at the Met than any other conductor in the company’s history, nearly 2,500 in all. In honor of his 40th anniversary with the company, the Met will also produce a documentary film and a book, among other tributes.

The Complete Titles on 32 CDs:
BERG: Lulu
Christine Schäfer, Hanna Schwarz, David Kuebler, Clifton Forbis, James Courtney; April 21, 2001
BERG: Wozzeck
José van Dam, Anja Silja, Ragnar Ulfung, Richard Cassilly, Dieter Weller; March 8, 1980
BERLIOZ: Benvenuto Cellini
Marcello Giordani, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Kristine Jepson, Peter Coleman-Wright, John Del Carlo, Robert Lloyd; December 27, 2003

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BERLIOZ: Les Troyens
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Deborah Voigt, Ben Heppner, Dwayne Croft, Robert Lloyd; February 22, 2003
DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Mélisande
Jeannette Pilou, Dale Duesing, Jocelyne Taillon, José van Dam, Jerome Hines; January 22, 1983
HARBISON: The Great Gatsby
Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Dwayne Croft, Susan Graham, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Mark Baker; January 1, 2000
(Triple Bill) SATIE: Parade / POULENC: Les Mamelles de Tirésias / RAVEL: L’Enfant et les Sortilèges
Ainhoa Arteta, Danielle de Niese, Earle Patriarco, Ruth Ann Swenson, Wendy White; March 16, 2002
SCHOENBERG: Moses und Aron
Philip Langridge, John Tomlinson; February 20, 1999

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STRAVINSKY: The Rake’s Progress
Dawn Upshaw, Paul Groves, Samuel Ramey, Stephanie Blythe; April 19, 2003
STRAVINSKY (triple bill): Le Sacre du Printemps / Le Rossignol / Oedipus Rex
William Lewis, Florence Quivar, Franz Mazura, Gianna Rolandi, Philip Creech; February 25, 1984
WAGNER: Lohengrin
Ben Heppner, Deborah Voigt, Deborah Polaski, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, Eric Halfvarson; March 21, 1998

Complete Titles on 21 Discs:
BERG: Lulu
Julia Migenes, Franz Mazura, Evelyn Lear, Kenneth Riegel; December 1980
BERG: Wozzeck
Falk Struckmann, Katarina Dalayman, Wolfgang Neumann, Graham Clark, Michael Devlin; October 2001
CORIGLIANO: The Ghosts of Versailles
Teresa Stratas, Håkan Hagegård, Marilyn Horne, Gino Quilico, Graham Clark, Renée Fleming; January 1992
MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro
Carol Vaness, Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Allen, Ruggero Raimondi; December 1985
PUCCINI: Il Trittico
Renata Scotto, Cornell MacNeil, Vasile Moldoveanu, Betsy Norden, Jocelyne Taillon, Gabriel Baquier, Italo Tajo, Philip Creech; November 1981
SMETANA: The Bartered Bride
Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Martti Talvela; November 1978
R. STRAUSS: Ariadne auf Naxos (Virgin Classics release)
Deborah Voigt, Natalie Dessay, Susanne Mentzer, Richard Margison, Nathan Gunn; April 2003
R. STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier
Tatiana Troyanos, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kurt Moll, Judith Blegen, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Luciano Pavarotti; October 1982
R. STRAUSS: Elektra
Hildegard Behrens, Deborah Voigt, Brigitte Fassbaender, James King, Donald McIntyre; January 1994
VERDI: Don Carlo
Vasile Moldoveanu, Renata Scotto, Tatiana Troyanos, Sherril Milnes, Paul Plishka, Jerome Hines; February 1980
WEILL: The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
Teresa Stratas, Astrid Varnay, Richard Cassily, Ragnar Ulfung, Cornell MacNeil; November 1979
In Concert at the Met (Highlights)
Plácido Domingo, Tatiana Troyanos (February 28, 1982); Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne (March 28, 1982); Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes (January 30, 1983).

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JAMES LEVINE

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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