When Music Director James Levine returned to the Met podium last fall to conduct Mozart's CosÐ fan tutte after a two-year injury hiatus, the response from critics and audiences alike was overwhelming. "Having Mr. Levine in the pit at the Met, his primary domain for more than 40 years, was the real deal," declared the New York Times of that historic performance. "Now, it can truly be said that James Levine is back."
If last season marked a triumphant return, 2014 _15 signals a resumption of the kind of super-active, wide-ranging schedule for which the maestro has long been famous. Levine will conduct his 31st Met Opening Night when a new production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro launches the season. A few months later, he'll return to Wagner's monumental human comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which he and the company last performed in 2007, followed in February by Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. In March Levine will reunite with the man he calls his "musical soul brother," Plšcido Domingo, when Verdi's Ernani returns to the stage. Levine has conducted Domingo more than 300 times at the Met, but he'll be collaborating for the very first time with one of the current generation's top tenors, Piotr Beczala, when Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera returns. And he will preside over three performances of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, last heard in the 2002 _03 season, with, of course, Levine on the podium.
Throughout the season Levine will also conduct three concerts with the Met Orchestra, continuing their acclaimed series at Carnegie Hall. And if that's not enough, he's also resuming the Met Chamber Ensemble series at Carnegie Hall.
"It's a full schedule, to be sure," Levine says. "But I'm feeling good, and I get such enormous energy from these pieces, which represent so many different styles."
Of course, for the maestro, it's not quantity that matters; it's quality and detailed artistic improvement that he's focused on.
"What excites me about this season," Levine says, "is the chance to revisit a work like Figaro, which is so central to our repertory, with new singers and with a fresh theatrical perspective. And then to bring back The Rake's Progress, which our audience knows but perhaps not intimately. This is one of the many ways a great company like the Met maintains the highest artistic standards: by refining our interpretations of well-known pieces and by presenting rarer works as regularly as we can so that the company masters them and audiences discover an affinity. It's an ongoing process: and I can't tell you how rewarding it is."