The Metropolitan Opera celebrates the 40th anniversary of James Levine's company debut with James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met, two special boxed sets of 21 DVDs and 32 CDs featuring highlights from the longtime Music Director's record-breaking career with the company. The two sets contain 22 complete performances, 19 of which have never been previously available in any format. All titles have been digitally remastered in state-of-the-art sound. The 21-DVD set features 11 complete operas including such star-studded performances as Smetana's The Bartered Bride from 1978 with Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, and Martti Talvela, and Der Rosenkavalier from 1982 with Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos, Judith Blegen, Luciano Pavarotti, and Kurt Moll. The DVDs also include highlights from historic concerts in 1982 and 1983 featuring five legendary names, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Tatiana Troyanos, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes. The 11 historic performances on the 32-CD set range from early 1980s innovations like the Parade triple-bill (including Satie's ballet Parade, and the operas Les Mamelles de Tirésias by Poulenc and L'Enfant et les Sortilèges by Ravel) to the world premiere of John Harbison's The Great Gatsby from 2000.
"No conductor has played a more vital role in the history of the Metropolitan Opera than our music director, James Levine," said Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager. "I am so pleased that we can celebrate the 40th anniversary of his Met debut with this anniversary collection of some of his great Met performances."
"This set contains performances that, for various reasons, are not in the commercial mainstream," said James Levine. "The new collections come mostly from some less familiar masterpieces that were important for us in the development of our artistic quality-an especially exciting part of our work over these many years."
The collection highlights operas that Levine has made central to his work with the company, such as Berg's Wozzeck and Lulu, each of which is presented in two different versions-one on DVD and one on CD. The performances of each opera are recorded years apart, with the Wozzeck DVD from 2001, featuring Falk Struckmann and Katarina Dalayman, and the CD version from 1980 with José van Dam and Anja Silja. Levine's Lulu is represented in the DVD set with Julia Migenes in the title role from 1980 and his more recent performance on CD with Christine Schäfer from 2001.
All audio recordings are from live radio broadcasts. They include two works which Levine was responsible for bringing to the Met for the first time-Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini from 2003 and Schoenberg's Moses und Aron from 1999-recorded in their premiere seasons. Two of the operas on CD are accompanied by bonus discs that include excerpts from other Met performances of the same opera. The complete Pelléas et Mélisande is from 1983 and has Jeannette Pilou, Dale Duesing, van Dam, and Jerome Hines in the cast. The bonus CD contains excerpts from two other performances: one from 1978 with Stratas, Gabriel Bacquier, and Hines, and a second from 1995 with Frederica von Stade and DWayne Croft. The bonus CD accompanying the complete Lohengrin from 1998 with Ben Heppner, Deborah Voigt, Deborah Polaski, and Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, features excerpts from a 1985 performance with Domingo, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, and Eva Marton, as well as a 1976 version with René Kollo and Pilar Lorengar.
Other operas in the 32-CD set include Berlioz's Les Troyens, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, and two famous Met triple bills-Parade and Stravinsky (with the ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, the opera/ballet Le Rossignol, and the opera/oratorio Oedipus Rex).
In addition to those already mentioned, the live telecasts featured on DVD also include John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles from its world premiere season, a 1979 performance of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Stratas-another opera Levine brought to the Met for the first time-and classic performances of Le Nozze di Figaro, Il Trittico, Elektra, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Don Carlo. The two DVDs which have been previously available are The Ghosts of Versailles (released on Laserdisc and VHS in 1993) and Lulu, recently released by the Met on DVD.
James Levine made his Metropolitan Opera debut on June 5, 1971 conducting Puccini's Tosca and has since led more performances at the Met than any other conductor in the company's history, nearly 2,500 in all. In honor of his 40th anniversary with the company, the Met will also produce a documentary film and a book, among other tributes. This season he leads the first two installments of the Met's new Der Ring des Nibelungen production by Robert Lepage: Das Rheingold on opening night of the season, September 27, and Die Walküre on April 22. He also conducts revivals of Don Pasquale, Simon Boccanegra, Il Trovatore, and Wozzeck, as well as three concerts with the Met Orchestra in Carnegie Hall.
The complete collection will be available at the Met Opera Shop, its online store www.metoperashop.org, and Amazon.com on Tuesday, September 21. The CD and DVD collections are sold separately with the CD set priced at $200.00 and the DVD set at $300.00.
Digital Remastering and Sound Restoration
All performances have been digitally remastered and are presented in state-of-the-art sound in the new releases. Jay David Saks, who has been the Met's music producer for 30 years, oversaw the sound restoration for the sets. He wrote the following appreciation excerpted from the liner notes.
During my 30 years at the Met, it frequently came into my mind that many Met radio broadcasts-the really great ones-should somehow find a place within permanent documentation for listeners' benefit, rather than only in their original, fleeting one-time broadcast existence. In particular, my thoughts centered upon James Levine's own broadcast performances. Because his opera repertoire is so vast and his genius so great, one could assume that many of his broadcasts were of such standard as to define not only the repertoire within these broadcasts, but his own personal artistry and collaboration with countless superb singers and his great Met orchestra and chorus during his unparalleled encompassing tenure at the Met.