No matter what people say, you don’t have to be a toffee-nose in a mink stole to enjoy opera. Especially when you can spend the last week of summer watching it on HD on a giant screen outdoors in front of the Met as dusk fades into night and the Moon emerges. While sitting with friends, sipping wine from cans and munching peanut butter sandwiches (which pair nicely with red, white or rosé).
As for Mark Twain’s crack about Wagner’s music not being as bad as it sounds –obviously he’d never seen the Ring Cycle conducted by James Levine.
Although if the #MeToo cranks had their way, the rest of the world would never see it either. Because some middle-aged guys suddenly decided that this was a good time to accuse Maestro Levine — now in his mid-70’s, struggling with Parkinson’s and conducting from a wheelchair — of having committed sexual improprieties against them 40 years ago when they were teenagers. The Met obligingly fired him, canceled all his scheduled performances and conspicuously omitted his HD recordings from last year’s outdoor opera week.
Levine sued for defamation. Earlier this year, the court held that although it wasn’t defamatory for the Met to announce that this was “a sad moment,” it was defamatory to post on its website that it possessed “credible” “corroborated” “evidence” that he had committed sexual misconduct against “vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.” The court rejected the Met’s argument that it was merely expressing an opinion, finding that “the average reader” would infer that the Met had supporting facts “detrimental to the person” that it wasn’t telling. Needless to say, none of these “facts” had been determined by anyone except the Met.
Whether because of this decision or an uprising by the mink-stole crowd, the Met allowed “Das Rheingold,” conducted by Levine in 2010, to be shown at this year’s outdoor HD festival. Marvelous! The version that Mark Twain slept through most likely portrayed Wotan as a dreary old stick, his wife Fricka as a nagging scold and Alberich the Dwarf as nothing but a grotesque villain. But Levine’s version was full of feeling and infinitely more riveting than “Star Wars.”
But the Met had to extract its pound of flesh. Except for a quick glimpse of Levine’s head at the beginning, it cut out all the footage of him conducting. The way the Soviet Union used to airbrush out disfavored persons from official photos.
But nothing could destroy the music.
We hear Levine’s case was recently settled. We hope one of the conditions is that the Met bring back all the uncut HD’s of him conducting. Or else they’ll have to reckon with the canned wine and peanut butter sandwich crowd.