“Levine's version of Luisa Miller consistently demonstrates his Verdian mastery, and not just in the best-known masterpieces…Not only in Levine's conducting but also in the sets and costumes of Nathanial Merrill's production the attractive rustic element of the piece is effectively brought out.” (Penguin Guide)
This production of Mozart’s Zauberflöte received enormous and unanimous approval, when it was premiered in Salzburg. The Theatre wizard Jean-Pierre Ponnellecreated a staging which became part and parcel of the festival programme for over nine years and soon acquired the status of a legend. Of course, none of that would have had the same appeal if it had not been in accord with Mozart’s music, performed with perfect blend of lightness and pathos, humour and profundity, by James Levine and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; nor would it all have worked without a truly Festival-worthy cast of singers: the Finnish bass Martti Talvela, who departed way too soon in 1989, in his famous role as Sarastro, the incomparable Edita Gruberová as “the best-ever Queen of the Night” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), the legendary Tamino Peter Schreier as well as the petite, lyrical soprano Ileana Cotrubas˛ as Pamina. Further, Christian Boesch, who sang the role of his life with Papageno, was credited most for his performance in this legendary Zauberflöte.
All the throbbing eroticism—and ultimate heartbreak—of Puccini’s youthful score is unleashed by James Levine and his top-flight cast. Plácido Domingo is Des Grieux, the handsome, headstrong young aristocrat who falls head over heels for the enticing, impetuous Manon Lescaut (Renata Scotto). Manon returns his love, but her obsession with luxury ruins them both. Gian Carlo Menotti’s opulent production, with sets and costumes by Desmond Heeley, superbly captures the colorful world of 18th century France.
Deutsche Grammophon is proud to present Franco Zeffirelli's iconic staging of La Bohème as recorded liveat the Metropolitan Opera on January 16, 1982, available once again on DVD. This timeless production continues to thrill audiences almost every season since it was first introduced in 1981, and this performance captures the production at the very beginning with the original cast. Teresa Stratas, renowned for her acting abilities, captures the essence of Mimì–her fragility, her resolve, her passion. Stratas is partnered by José Carreras as Rodolfo, the poet and love of her dreams. The cast is rounded out with a lively Renata Scotto (who was filmed as Mimì in an earlier MET production, also available on DVD from Deutsche Grammophon) and sonorous Richard Stilwell. James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, culminating with over 200 people on stage for the conclusion of Act 2. This performance, well-known for its musical and visual qualities, is now available again.
Leading the enormous forces to bring Puccini's huge vision to life in this now-legendary performance, James Levine presides over an evening of three one-act operas that cover the full spectrum of human experience. The great singing actress Renata Scotto is featured in all three operas, perhaps most memorably in her searing portrayal of Suor Angelica - a nu whose extreme atonement for he sin ultimately wins her redemption.
Levine’s legacy at the Met will be defined in part by the works he has introduced to its repertory. These include not only Berg’s “Lulu’’ but also Weill’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,’’ that brilliantly synthetic score that seems to distill the musical essence of Weimar Berlin while serving up a scorching social and political critique that still resonates today.
its many virtues include a formidable Queen of the Night in Luciana Serra, an adorable Pamina in Kathleen Battle, and vivid, primary-colour designs by David Hockney. James Levine paces everything to perfection.–Presto Classical
“This is straight and unfussy in its staging, and the video production by Brian Large could not be more expert and unobtrusive (save for one or two close-ups of Jessye Norman's larynx). Tatiana Troyanos's Composer is quite superb, and neither Battle nor Norman can be faulted vocally” (Penguin Guide)
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After a two-year hiatus due to health problems, James Levine returned to Carnegie Hall on May 19, 2013, to lead the Met Orchestra in a stirring presentation of music by Richard Wagner, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert. This concert showed Levine to be both resilient and confident as he conducted from his elevated wheelchair, demonstrating the inner strength that has sustained him through several injuries and surgeries. The program opened with a beatific performance of Wagner's Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, and the orchestra responded to Levine's direction with warmth and intensity.
The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walkure ("The Valkyrie") with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god.
Levine's powerful and starrily cast DVD of Aida brings a grandly traditional staging…Zajick is a vibrant, powerful Amneris,and Sherrill Milnes, only just past his peak, is a magnificent Amonasro…Levine is in his element, drawing warm and dramatic playing and singing from his formidable team at the Met. (The Penguin Guide)
It takes a certain amount of forethought if Das Rheingold is to be more than a series of special effects scenes, though moments like the appearance of the giants through the mist or Alberich's transformations need to be as thrilling as they are here. As always in his Wagner, and perhaps especially in this very traditional 1990 Metropolitan Opera production of the Ring cycle, James Levine keeps to the forefront the underlying humanity of Wagner's gods and monsters. In the first scene, for example, he brings out the thoughtless, callous frivolity of the Rhine maidens as they precipitate the events of the four operas by taunting the gnome Alberich: it helps that they swirl around, green and gold, in a convincing representation of the bottom of the Rhine, but the emotions are the point. Ekkehaard Wlaschiha is a convincingly menacing Alberich partly because Levine brings out his vulnerability as well as his evil temper. James Morris is splendid as the younger less care-worn Wotan and Siegfried Jerusalem as Loge enjoys the sarcasm of his cynical commentary on Wotan's aspirations. The smaller parts have luxury casting: Matti Salminen as Fafner and Christa Ludwig as Fricka, for example.(Roz Kaveney)