It was a rare homecoming for James Levine when he led Berlioz's Requiem at the final concert of Cincinnati's May Festival. Levine, a Cincinnati native, last conducted at the choral festival in 1980; his most recent professional visit to Cincinnati came in 1998, when he performed with his Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Levine was music director of the May Festival from 1974 to 1978; the Berlioz Requiem was the final work he conducted in that capacity. On this recent visit to the Queen City, the maestro was greeted like a king. "Welcomed on his 'home court' by a surge of applause, Levine led a chorus of 220, the Cincinnati Symphony, four brass ensembles and a phalanx of 16 timpani with the kind of understated authority that only a master conductor can command," the Cincinnati Post gushed. While in Cincinnati, Levine also helped his mother, Helen Levine, celebrate her 90th birthday.
The May Festival appearance was the latest in a string of triumphs for the 61-year-old Levine. His just-completed first full season as the Boston Symphony's music director was widely hailed. The conductor was credited with reviving the orchestra and sparking new interest in classical music in Boston despite a hectic schedule that saw him splitting time between the BSO and New York's Met, where he remains music director. In a few weeks, Levine will take over as music director of Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony's summer home. He will open his first Tanglewood season July 8 with Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8, the "Symphony of a Thousand." Levine led the same work in Symphony Hall last October to kick off his tenure with the BSO.
Meanwhile, on May 20, Levine's alma mater, Juilliard, honored him with its Centennial Medal, one of 17 such medals in honor of its anniversary. Among the other recipients, all of whom received honorary doctorates from Juilliard in the past, were soprano Leontyne Price, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and composers David Diamond and Elliott Carter. (Diamond received the honor just weeks before his death on June 13.)
When the emperor and empress of Japan's toured Ireland last month, one of the "sights" they saw was flutist James Galway. Galway, along with famed poet Seamus Heaney, was a special guest at a reception for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who were visiting Ireland for the first time in 20 years. The royal couple's visit was intended to help cement the expanding cultural and economic relationship between the two countries. Galway, who was born in Belfast, has been one Ireland's most famous "exports" to Japan, performing there often. His latest visit there was earlier this month; in the first two weeks of June, Galway played in Tokyo, Sapporo, and Osaka before moving on to appearances in Taiwan. The Japanese, of course, aren't the only ones who consider the Man with the Golden Flute to be an institution. In May, Galway received a prestigious Classical Brit award for his outstanding contribution to music over the course of a solo career that began 30 years ago. Galway will head for the United States in July and August, making the rounds of the summer music festivals in Philadelphia (Mann Music Center), Wolf Trap, Ravinia, New York (Mostly Mozart), and Tanglewood.
Violinist Sarah Chang loves to perform with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra—visiting Hawaii gives her an opportunity to indulge in some rather adventurous pastimes. On her first visit a couple of years ago, the young virtuoso went parasailing over Waikiki Beach. Last year, she used an off day between concerts to learn how to surf. But her escapades have made some people a bit nervous. "I learned to surf on...the day before my concert, and I stayed out most of the day," Chang told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. "When I woke up, I could barely lift my arms and when I told [conductor Samuel Wong], well, he was, well, concerned." Chang thinks that may be why the orchestra changed her schedule when it booked her this year—her recent gig included no day off between concerts.
Swiss-Italian opera singer Salvatore Licitra's career has been boosted, or burdened, depending on your point of view, by comparisons to the Three Tenors ever since he stepped in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti in a performance of Tosca at the Met in May 2002. The hype shows no sign of fading. With Licitra and Marcello Giordani sharing the role of Cavaradossi, the Washington National Opera billed its recent production of Tosca as a battle between young tenors. "The search for the next 'Three Tenors' continues, and Washington National Opera has two of the leading contenders...." an opera company press release said. For his part, the 36-year-old Lictra seems to be taking the pressure in stride. He recently dropped 40 pounds and, according to press accounts, is comfortably settled in New York, where he can frequently be seen skateboarding around the Upper West Side or strolling about in one of his many pairs of cowboy boots. Professionally, Licitra recently completed a recital tour and is embarking a series of engagements in the next few years that will showcase him with many of the world's major opera companies in important Italian tenor roles. Next season, he will appear in Tosca at the Vienna State Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, Aida and La forza del destino at the Met, and Verdi's Ernani at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.