(simonbutler)For more than 40 years, we have been fans of James Levine and of his way with Wagner, especially the Ring of the Nibelungen. We have seen four Ring cycles with him (more than 20 hours of music in four operas each time) and have witnessed his growth into perhaps the most eminent Wagner conductor of our time.
Thursday’s concert of Ring excerpts at Carnegie Hall reminded us and all the other Levine devotees that it is unlikely we will hear him conduct another Ring, perhaps not even any other Wagner opera; they are prohibitively long and demanding. So it was a bittersweet but glorious way to say farewell to the special Levine/Wagner relationship, if it is farewell. He is scheduled to conduct three operas next year, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Rossini’s Italian in Algiers and Verdi’s Nabucco and we hope to see him then, but for now, it was great to hear all the Ring highlights–Wagner’s greatest hits– played by a master and the great Met Orchestra he developed. The audience celebrated the occasion with a 15-minute standing ovation.
The singers, soprano Christine Goerke and tenor Stefan Vinke, shook the house and we look forward to hearing them at the Met. Wonderful Wagnerian sopranos and tenors are in short supply in the opera world and must be cherished.
We heard selections from each of the four operas–the “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Das Rheingold, “Ride of the Valkyries” from Die Walkure, “Siegried’s Rhine Journey” from Siegfried, and a healthy portion of Gotterdammerung including the triumphantly tragic “Funeral March,” maybe my favorite. The program ended with Brunnhilde’s “Immolation Scene” and the ending of the Ring, where all of Valhalla collapses and the Rhine maidens finally get their gold back. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Hearing the 100+ piece orchestra play their hearts out on that wooden stage, with us sitting right above it, and feeling the vibrations going up our spines, was an incredible musical experience. As we know, Wagner was not a very nice man but fortunately, we don’t have to socialize with him and his music is stupendous. Our grateful thanks to Levine for so many wonderful years of Wagner and our fervent hopes that the next Met Opera Music Director gives us something akin to the gift we have received from “Jimmy” over the last 40 years. Btw, we paid $41 for our spectacular seats.