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When James Levine conducts Così fan tutte at the Metropolitan Opera later this month, audiences in New York – and worldwide, thanks to 'The Met: Live in HD' cinema transmission on April 26 – will be witnessing something both routine and remarkable.America’s greatest conductor, Levine has been a fixture at the Met since 1971, and music director there since 1976, with a tally of over 2,500 performances in the house to date.In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal, women and men alike have been more vocal about speaking out against unwanted sexual advances and contact.The accusations have been many, and the reaction and fallout has been swift across the industry. In a recent post on Instagram, Shelton poked fun at Levine’s clothes and said that he hopes his music is better than his attire.The post was met with mixed reactions amongst fans.“It took me a long time before I was comfortable with the seating balance, and I haven’t gone further.It’s really a project I don’t want to start until I can finish it.
Though famously interview-shy, when we finally manage to talk – this interview involved hanging around in New York for a few days in order to get the short-notice call when Levine felt able to do it – he speaks quite candidly about his bad fall nearly three years ago, the series of operations that followed and his long period of recuperation. I wondered if I would get strong enough, whether the surgery would succeed.
Yet, as a consummate Mozartian, he is unlikely to deliver anything musically routine, especially now as he is relishing every minute of being back on the podium.
Though he still conducts from his motorised wheelchair, many never expected to see him return when in summer 2011 his health issues all collided and he was left paralysed and unable to work.
I feel that I won’t have a stamina problem, and I don’t have any pain.
“If I carry on in this direction, who knows what might be possible?
Solving the problems set by a composer gives us plenty to do already, without any other distractions.” Gradually expanding his duties again, in 2014-15 Levine will conduct six productions, beginning with more Mozart: a new season-opening production by Richard Eyre of Le nozze di Figaro. I’m crossing fingers and toes and hope it will be all right.” Next season also includes Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, a brave but potentially exhausting challenge, and something Wagnerians will welcome given Levine’s legendary prowess with this composer.