Friday, December 08, 2017

More on James Levine

So the Met has canceled all of James Levine's performances this season, while it investigates; Ravinia has "cut ties" with him; the BSO has issued a statement about its due diligence before they hired him as music director (but now it turns out - surprise! - they'd heard the rumors but "saw no cause for concern"); Levine himself has issues a statement.

Let's take a look at some of this. Here's the BSO statement, which they put on Twitter (click to enlarge):

"We followed our standard procedures and decided to hire him. Nobody complained!" Well, sure. He wasn't going to approach adult women, girls, or adult men, and he wasn't going to assault minors at Symphony Hall. And apparently the vetting process, at least as described here, didn't include asking a few grad students or opera fans about Levine. We would have clued them in.

Seriously, it is not credible that the Met and BSO didn't know about the rumors. I heard them around 1980-82 when I was a musicology grad student at Stony Brook, from housemates who hung around Lincoln Center. Terry Teachout heard the rumors in the 1970s when he was living in Kansas City, a good 1200 miles from Lincoln Center, according to his WSJ article. And a fellow on Twitter mentions hearing the rumors in 1995, when he lived in Los Angeles and was 15 years old.

But wait - the BSO had heard the rumors! Not only that, but this extremely moving and intense piece by Ben Miller makes it perfectly clear that the rumors reached far enough that members of the BSO itself warned their children against being alone with Levine because they knew he was a pederast.

It's just amazing what institutions can manage to ignore or forget when an important person is involved.

As to Levine's statement, shudder. (Link is to Michael Cooper's NY Times article.) It is the very essence of a non-denial denial, the statement of a person who doesn't see how wrong his actions were. This is what Cooper's article quotes:
“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” he said in a written statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
“I have devoted my energies to the development, growth, and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world — particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination,” he said in the statement. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”
The second paragraph is mostly filler: I have lived a life of artistic good, including my work with musicians! I couldn't have done anything wrong! That stuff about his hope that "people will come to understand the truth" is nauseating and goes with "the [accusations] are unfounded" in the first paragraph. This all boils down to: "Sure, there was sex, but it wasn't the way my victims say! I didn't harass them and moreover the truth is that they were into it."

Well, no, they weren't. Read their accounts of how it felt to them at the time and what the long-term psychological effects of the abuse were.

Here's what you need to keep in mind: the four men's accounts are very similar. It's also apparent that there was some kind of cult around young James Levine; he had a coterie of followers. And the four men's accounts close resemble accounts by people who've been sexually victimized by authority figures such as priests and music teachers. (See reporting on the Royal Northern College of Music and Chetham's scandals, for example, and everything about sexual abuse by priests.)

I doubt that Levine will work again. The police report and publicity have made him completely radioactive. But, you know, this should have happened long ago. He has conducted plenty of performances with young choristers; he has taught here and there; he's had plenty of opportunities.

What I expect to happen: Peter Gelb will be fired for having sat on the Lake Forest police report for a year with no attempt at independent verification or investigation because "Jim denied it all." (OF COURSE HE DID. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?) Perhaps the Met board will lose a few members. More recent police reports or victim accounts will surface. Maybe there were payoffs. Perhaps we'll find out whether Diva X really did get an opening night in exchange for getting him out of jail. And possibly one of the reports will be about actions that still fall under the statute of limitations, and there will be a trial.

Friday Photo

Grave of Muzio Clementi
Westminster Abbey
May, 2014

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Girls of the Golden West, San Francisco Opera World Premiere

Davóne Tines (Ned Peters) and Julia Bullock (Dame Shirley)
Cory Weaver photo, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

It's December 9 and I've added John Masko and Patricia Wallinga to the list.

It's December 7 and I think I've got everything that will be published. If you spot someone else, let me know. Added today: Alex Ross, Hugh Canning, Batty Masetto, Michael Strickland.
I'm planning to read these all over the weekend and try to respond to a few comments in various reviews.

Further to Previous: Levine Replacements

The Met has announced who will conduct upcoming runs of Il Trovatore and Luisa Miller, replacing James Levine. Marco Armiliato gets Il Trovatore and Bertrand de Billy gets Luisa Miller.
Sir David McVicar’s production of Il Trovatore will feature Maria Agresta as Leonora, Yonghoon Lee as Manrico, and Anita Rachvelishvili as Azucena. Quinn Kelsey and Luca Salsi will share the role of Count di Luna, with Štefan Kocán and Kwangchul Youn both singing the role of Ferrando.
Performances of Il Trovatore are on January 22, 26, 30, Feb 3 (matinee), 6, 9, 12 and 15, 2018.
Elijah Moshinsky’s production of Luisa Miller features Sonya Yoncheva in the title role, with Plácido Domingo as her father. Piotr Beczała sings Rodolfo, with Olesya Petrova as Federica, Alexander Vinogradov as Count Walter, and Dmitry Belosselskiy as Wurm.
Performances of Luisa Miller are on March 29Apr 2, 6, 9, 14 (matinee), 18 and 21 (matinee), 2018. The April 14 matinee will be transmitted live as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 73 countries around the world.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Claire Chase: Density 2036 at Cal Performances

Space where the concert was held.

I was lucky enough to see the great flutist Claire Chase the other night at Cal Performances. The venue was the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and not in the theater where movies are shown. Instead, they used the stepped-down amphitheater right inside the building. Audience members with tickets could sit on the stairs; audience members without could stand and look down at the stage from the main-floor-level area.

It was one of those programs where, really, all you can do is gape, take notes, and come up with more and better superlatives, considering that Chase's performance was about as close to flawless as you can get. I mean, I didn't hear anything that sounded like an error or misstep, and she played for something like four and a half hours. It was an astonishing display of musicianship, technique, and sheer endurance.

I'd question just one decision she made about the program: her flutes were amplified for every piece she performed (21 in all), through a body mike. The venue was small and for most of the works, audibility would not have been a problem. Some of the pieces might well call for amplification, but I doubt that's the case for the pieces from before 2000 and certainly not for Varèse's Density 21.5. In some cases, the decision might have been made to make sure that the live flutes would be able to properly balance the recorded flutes and electronics. Fair enough, in those cases, but why for all of them?

As it happens, I've got a review of this concert in SFCV. I chatted with Louisa Spier from Cal Performances and heard that no SFCV reviewer was there, so partway through the marathon, I sent email reading "I'm at Claire Chase's program. Want a review? Signed, Former Flutist." They were happy to take one. Apparently the only other reviewer there was Joshua Kosman -- shocking, because, honestly, this was an extraordinary concert and I will fall over if it's not on both Joshua's and my best-of lists for 2017, or for the 2017-18 season.

Fortunately, since Chase is at the beginning of a 22-year-long commissioning program -- you read that right, twenty-two years -- you'll have a few more chances to hear her.

Nota bene: my word processor thinks both of these reviews are around 900 words.

Va, Tosca!

The Met announces most of the conductors who will take over the new Tosca from James Levine, who has been relieved of his duties following this weekend's news:
Emmanuel Villaume will conduct the Met’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca, on December 31, 2017, and January 3, 6, 9, 12, 23, and 27, 2018, replacing James Levine.
Maestro Villaume, who recently conducted Massenet’s Thaïs at the Met, is Music Director of the Dallas Opera and Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Prague Philharmonia. He made his Met debut in 2004 conducting Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and his subsequent performances with the company have included Saint-Saëns’sSamson et Dalila, Bizet’s Carmen, Massenet’s Manon and Gounod’s  Roméo et Juliette.
Sir David McVicar’s new staging of Tosca opens on December 31, with Sonya Yoncheva as Tosca, Vittorio Grigolo as Cavaradossi, and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. The January 27 matinee will be transmitted live as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 73 countries around the world.
Later performances on April 21, 26 and 30, and May 4, 8 and 12, 2018, will star Anna Netrebko in the title role opposite Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi and Michael Volle and Željko Lučić sharing the role of Scarpia. The April and May performances will be conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
Gareth Morrell will conduct the performance on January 18, 2018. The conductor for the January 15 performance will be announced at a later date.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The AFM Weighs In

The musicians' union, Local 802, AFM, has a statement:
December 3, 2017– The Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM has released a statement on the allegations of sexual abuse on the part of Music Director Emeritus James Levine:
“We are horrified and sickened by the recently reported allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Levine. The Metropolitan Opera has an obligation to all employees to provide a safe workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination. Throughout history, artists have stood for our society’s values and priorities. As musicians of the MET Orchestra, Local 802 and members of labor unions, we have the power to bring about positive change. It is incumbent upon our community to decisively and immediately denounce actions of abuse, assault and sexual harassment.” — Tino Gagliardi, President, Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, AFM
I'm really pretty sure that there were members of the union who'd heard about this.

Statement from the Metropolitan Opera Regarding James Levine (and an Update)

Received about 20 minutes while I was putting up a pot roast to braise:
The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it is suspending its relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct committed by Mr. Levine that took place from the 60's to the 80's, including the earlier part of his conducting career at the Met. 
Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled
performances at the Met this season. The Met has appointed Robert J. Cleary, former United States attorney and currently head of the investigations practice at Proskauer Rose, to lead a full and complete investigation into the relevant facts. 
“Based on these new reports, the Met has made the decision to act now, while we await the results of the investigation,” said Peter Gelb, Met General Manager, whose actions are fully supported by the leadership of the Met Board and its Executive Committee. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.” 
There will be no further comments or statement regarding this issue from the Met at this time.
Multiple allegations from the 60s to the 80s? New reports? I must have missed something.

Here's the update, in a Times story from Michael Cooperthree two more men, with their names in the paper, have gone to the Met to say "this happened." The third is the man who filed the police report.

Not the First Public Classical Music Abuse Story in the US

Updated & more strongly worded 12/3/2017

So no, this isn't the first, as I was saying yesterday. There's the Johannes Somary case, which came out a few years ago, after his death. There've been stories about other figures in classical music for decades, including at least one prominent composer, now deceased. And there were the Chetham's and RNMC scandals in Great Britain a few years back.

But the NY Post story on James Levine is likely a surprise to very few: there've been rumors about him at least since I first heard them as a grad student back in 1980-81. And it will be no surprise that neither the Met nor Peter Gelb has responded to the report's questions about the story. (Here is Michael Cooper's NY Times story, released a few hours after that of the Post. It includes a brief statement from the Met, which is opening an investigation.)

By the way, if you have a story about someone, and you are unable to discuss it publicly, the Times has a tip hotline. Read information on how it works here. It is almost always possible to make an anonymous tip or talk to a reporter on deep background.


And now the Met and the BSO are telling us that they're shocked, shocked to hear about this. C'mon, people, this is total bullshit. If I heard about Levine in 1980-82, and a guy on Twitter heard it in Los Angeles in 1995 when he was 15 years old, there is no way that nobody on the Met Board of Directors or in management hadn't heard the stories. I mean, really: he wouldn't be abusing kids in the Met's orchestra pit, right?? Note the careful grooming of the man discussed in the Post story, whom Levine met for the first time when he was a boy of four (4) years.

The man at the center of the Post and Times reports isn't likely to be the only victim. And Levine isn't the only famous person you'll be hearing about in the next six months.

As I said to someone, or intended to say, a few weeks ago, if I were a journalist on this story, I'd be talking to the parents of Met Children's Chorus members right now. And I imagine there is enormous panic at Lincoln Center just now: how many donors, big or small, will keep giving to an institution that may have protected a child sex abuser for decades? If this is what happened, and if the company collapses, the Met will have sacrificed their entire staff for one person.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ojai Festival News:

Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris will retire from the Ojai Festival after the 2019 festival, of which Barbara Hannigan will be the music director. He will have been Artistic Director for 16 years at that point. Press release after the cut.