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Conductor James Levine dies, aged 77


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dhibbard
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« on: March 24, 2021, 05:29:21 am »

American conductor and pianist James Levine has died, aged 77. He is best known for his tenure as music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, a position he held for 40 years between 1976 and 2016 before he was sacked over allegations of sexual misconduct in 2018.

Levine retired from the Metropolitan Opera in 2016 for health reasons, but stayed on as music director emeritus until his contract was terminated in 2018 following an internal investigation by the Metropolitan Opera. He was replaced by Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who remains in the role.

He made his debut with the Met in 1971 in a production of Puccini’s Tosca, and went on to conduct 85 different operas and work with some of the biggest names in opera.

As well as serving as music director of the Met Opera, Levine also held positions at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic.

During his latter years with the Met, Levine lived with Parkinson’s disease and conducted from a motorised wheelchair. He had been scheduled to make his return to the podium this January in a performance of Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem in Italy, but it had to be postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2021, 10:28:44 am »

Whatever the apparent flaws in James Levine's character and however far his behaviour might have fallen below the standard which should be expected, he did, almost single-handedly, return the Met (particularly the orchestra) to the high standards that it had habitually achieved in its heyday. It's a tricky one, separating artists from their character defects and I'm not sure there's much mileage in trying to do so. Look at the hoo-hah that blew up when Barenboim tried to conduct Wagner in Israel. When one sees both sides of an argument...   Undecided
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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2021, 03:09:40 pm »

Extremely difficult issue! Different people have perfectly legitimate and valid views on the extent to which the behaviour or the views of creative artists should affect or influence our response to their artistic achievements. There are people who cannot listen to the music of certain composers because of their lifestyles or their non-musical opinions/outlook. These do not detract from my own responses to, for example, Richard Wagner's music but I respect the antipathy so strongly felt by others.
We are no longer prepared to draw a veil of pretended ignorance over the behaviour of those who enjoyed acclaim for their artistic achievement. We owe it to the victims of totally unacceptable behaviour. Levine profited from the silence of those who could have acted much sooner but preferred to look the other way. This was true of many who enjoyed stellar reputations and abused their positions of power and influence.
Does this mean that we cease to appreciate the work they did? Do we cease to watch the films of Kevin Spacey? It does seem to me that this has to be left to the individual to decide for themselves.
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2021, 03:45:00 pm »

Extremely difficult issue! Different people have perfectly legitimate and valid views on the extent to which the behaviour or the views of creative artists should affect or influence our response to their artistic achievements.... We are no longer prepared to draw a veil of pretended ignorance over the behaviour of those who enjoyed acclaim for their artistic achievement. We owe it to the victims of totally unacceptable behaviour. Levine profited from the silence of those who could have acted much sooner but preferred to look the other way.... It does seem to me that this has to be left to the individual to decide for themselves.

I agree entirely, Colin. I think trying to be prescriptive about how we should respond is a fool's errand. We all have to live with whatever our consciences decide. Let's face it, Wagner was one of the most unpleasant musicians ever to draw breath; not only was he an avowed anti-Semite but he had plenty of other undesirable charateristics as well. We do have to bear in mind, though, that he was hardly alone, even amongst composers, in holding such vile views. Sadly, some days it feels as if humanity hasn't advanced much in the intervening 150-odd years.
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« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2021, 09:28:34 pm »

There was a ridiculous feature on Music Matters on Radio 3 today suggesting that all of Levine's performances should be boycotted or somehow "doctored" to have his name removed. I'm sorry, but this is insanity by the back door...



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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2021, 11:26:03 pm »

There was a ridiculous feature on Music Matters on Radio 3 today suggesting that all of Levine's performances should be boycotted or somehow "doctored" to have his name removed. I'm sorry, but this is insanity by the back door...


Yes, it is. As Colin and I both independently stated, it's up to us as individuals to decide how we deal with these matters. Boycotting would deny us our choice (and the notion of "doctoring" is just very silly).
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2021, 01:03:32 am »

There was a ridiculous feature on Music Matters on Radio 3 today suggesting that all of Levine's performances should be boycotted or somehow "doctored" to have his name removed. I'm sorry, but this is insanity by the back door...


Yes, it is. As Colin and I both independently stated, it's up to us as individuals to decide how we deal with these matters. Boycotting would deny us our choice (and the notion of "doctoring" is just very silly).

It's just the typical standard of cr*p peddled as culture by the BBC these days...



...hark, I can hear John Reith spinning in his grave.

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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2021, 09:40:08 am »


It's just the typical standard of cr*p peddled as culture by the BBC these days...


...hark, I can hear John Reith spinning in his grave.

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 Angry As an old friend of mine (long since gone to glory) used to say when so irritated by idiocy, "It makes me ill in bed!" Just so.
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2021, 12:49:34 am »

The sad thing is, that 39 years ago or so, in 1982, when I was working at the Tower Records Classical Annex on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA, I heard about this, and just blew it off. All of the employees but me and one of my fellow store clerks were gay, and apparently, some of them had East Coast friends and relations, especially the assistant manager. Even way back then, he told me that Levine had a reputation in the gay community, not just for cruising the streets of NYC and picking up street hustlers of color, but actually brutally beating them up, either as part of or after the sexual activities; some pretty horrific stuff. At the time, I just thought they were rumors, but apparently he wasn't just pulling my leg. And somebody/bodies pretty high up must have been running interference for him for a long time. He was lucky he didn't kill one of those kids, and it's a distinct possibility that maybe he did. Ah, well, all I can say is Gesualdo.
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« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2021, 01:13:35 am »

Apparently it was an "open secret" within the community of musicians and music administrators for many years that Levine had a "private life" that was, to put in very mildly, not above reproach. No doubt this was true of other eminent figures. This was kept from public view because that was considered an acceptable response in the past. Clearly, and quite rightly, this is no longer acceptable. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. However distinguished the figure such behaviour cannot be tolerated.
Do we now airbrush the artistic achievements out of history, indeed out of our consciousness? This is a quite different matter. And if we did then where exactly do we stop?
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2021, 09:48:05 am »

The sad thing is, that 39 years ago or so, in 1982, when I was working at the Tower Records Classical Annex on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, CA, I heard about this, and just blew it off. All of the employees but me and one of my fellow store clerks were gay, and apparently, some of them had East Coast friends and relations, especially the assistant manager. Even way back then, he told me that Levine had a reputation in the gay community, not just for cruising the streets of NYC and picking up street hustlers of color, but actually brutally beating them up, either as part of or after the sexual activities; some pretty horrific stuff. At the time, I just thought they were rumors, but apparently he wasn't just pulling my leg. And somebody/bodies pretty high up must have been running interference for him for a long time. He was lucky he didn't kill one of those kids, and it's a distinct possibility that maybe he did. Ah, well, all I can say is Gesualdo.

If what you were told is true, Jim, then it seems Levine was a much more wicked and depraved individual even than we thought. And the same goes for those who were in the know but who "ran interference", as you put it. I'm not much of an opera fan anyway so not listening to his recordings wouldn't be much of a loss for me.

At least Gesualdo could claim his was a crime passionnel; Levine wouldn't have had that defence.
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2021, 09:49:25 am »

It was wrong then and it is wrong now. However distinguished the figure such behaviour cannot be tolerated.
Do we now airbrush the artistic achievements out of history, indeed out of our consciousness? This is a quite different matter. And if we did then where exactly do we stop?

That's it in a nut-shell, Colin, I think.
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2021, 11:37:15 am »

Do we now airbrush the artistic achievements out of history, indeed out of our consciousness?

No, we most certainly do not!



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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
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« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2021, 11:47:08 am »

Do we now airbrush the artistic achievements out of history, indeed out of our consciousness?

No, we most certainly do not!



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 Grin Where do you find this stuff?
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Lionel Harrison
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2021, 11:47:58 am »

Do we now airbrush the artistic achievements out of history, indeed out of our consciousness?

No, we most certainly do not!


"What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd"
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