05 May 2005

La Scala in La-La Land

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This prospect of opening up the roster of conductors [in the wake of the operatic ouster of Riccardo Muti] is apparently one reason that La Scala's musicians have welcomed Mr. [Stéphane] Lissner. Sandro Malatesta, a trumpet player and union representative, said he looked forward to "a gust of novelty," with new titles and top artists, including James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, "who has never conducted here and I don't know why." Last week, during a quick visit to New York, Mr. Lissner talked with Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager-designate, about closer ties.
French Master Moves to La Scala [NYT]

Sieglinde says, good luck. Already, seeing our principal conductor conduct at the Met is becoming increasingly difficult, thanks to his competing commitments at the Boston Symphony and elsewhere. How can the Milano Zoo entice the maestro to give up a month of his time (factoring rehearsals) when he's already finding it a pain to shuttle between Boston and New York? Here's the situation: at the Met next season, Levine is set to conduct the new production of Don Pasquale, ceding Roméo et Juliette (new production), Mazzepa (Met opera premiere), and An American Tragedy (world premiere) to other batons (of variable quality). In addition, he conducts semi-exciting revivals of Così fan tutte (7 evenings), Falstaff (less than 8; he shares the run with Colaneri), Fidelio (less than 7; shares with Nadler), Lohengrin (measly 6), Parsifal (only 3), and Wozzeck (only 4). The total of about 40 evenings at the Met podium (accounting for the shared duties on Cosi and Falstaff, not including galas and performances with the Met Orchestra elsewhere) is probably the lowest it has been in decades. During his 3rd full season with the company (1973-74, at the tender age of 30), he led about 45 performances; in the 1996-97 season, he led more than 60; the current season (2004-05), he'll finish with only 48.

Meanwhile, I don't know what "closer ties" with the Met would mean. Could it be an influx of US-based artists into Milan's pathetic local roster? Well, here goes: I foresee the triumphant return of Renée Fleming (among the major artists who despise La Scala and/or don't sing there) in Norma, a work created for that historic stage, with Stephanie Blythe as her Adalgisa (company debut), conducted by James Levine (or if unavailable, the other American James, Maestro Conlon). Who shall be booed? What vegetables shall be thrown during curtain call? Deep questions. Plot thickens. Sieglinde *yawns*.