I hope you were listening to NEPR on Saturday, May 7 to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio. It turned out to be an historic performance, marking James Levine’s final appearance as the Music Director of the Met, a position he has held since 1976.
As it happens, I was near the center of the second row, almost directly behind the conductor, a fabulous position to observe just why he has been such a beloved figure. When we bought our tickets about a year ago, we had no idea how important a day it would become. We just wanted to see an opera we had never seen before with an attractive cast and great music; Levine’s conducting was just one more factor making it an attractive prospect. But just last month he announced his retirement as Music Director and assumption of the new post as Music Director Emeritus. He will continue conducting next season.
The cast was indeed excellent. Albina Shagimuratova as Konstanze has an excellent voice and delivers a glorious “Martern aller Arten,” swearing that she would withstand any tortures rather than be untrue to her love, and if necessary would find liberation in death. Kathleen Kim was equally skilled vocally, with great comic turns as Blondchen, especially as she (tiny) stood up to the (huge) Osmin, sung by Hans-Peter König. He has a glorious bass voice, which Mozart used to the fullest. Peter Appleby as Belmonte and Benton Ryan as the servant Pedrillo were both also excellent. There has been some talk of the orchestra having difficulty following Levine’s conducting, but from my vantage point it seemed to be very clear.
We didn’t originally have those great seats, but the Met is generous about making exchanges, and on an earlier visit we had requested better seats – and got them in spades.
The audience greeted Mr. Levine with a storm of applause each time his wheelchair was raised into conducting position. It was a standing ovation as he took his place for the third act, and another the moment the curtain came down and he laid down his baton. Once the cast had taken a couple of bows, they joined the audience in applauding Mr. Levine, as did the entire orchestra. You can see a photo of the ovation in The New York Times’ article about this performance .
The man in the blue shirt was seated right in front of us. Those might be my hands applauding behind him.