The Metropolitan Opera is celebrating Music Director James Levine’s 70th birthday June 23 with two full days of special programming on Met Opera Radio (Sirius XM Channel 74).
The weekend-long marathon is presenting 14 classic Levine performances, picked by the conductor himself. It began June 22 at 6 A.M. (ET), and continues until 3 A.M. on Monday, June 24.
The first broadcast starred Luciano Pavarotti in a 1991 performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera“.
The celebration concludes with Verdi’s rarely heard “Stiffelio”. Plácido Domingo sings the title role in this 1994 performance.
Here’s a sampling of the other extraordinary offerings, featuring some of the greatest 20th century opera stars:
June 22 at noon, “The Ghosts of Versailles” by John Corigliano, with Teresa Stratas, Marilyn Horne, and Renée Fleming in a 1992 performance.
June 23 at 6 A.M., Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” starring Leontyne Price and Plácido Domingo, with Cornell MacNeil and Rosalind Elias, in a 1977 performance.
June 23 at 3 P.M., Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani” with Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Justino Díaz, from 1974.
For the schedule, including casting and original broadcast dates for all 14 performances, click here.
Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and has conducted 2,442 performances with the company, more than any other conductor in the Met’s 130-year history.
Last month, he returned from a two-year absence due to serious back injuries, and conducted the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
In its review of the concert, “The New York Times” praised Levine as “one of the greatest living American conductors and a musician who has defined the Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years.”
Levine, who now uses a motorized wheelchair, will lead three operas at the Met during the upcoming season: a new production of Verdi’s “Falstaff”, and revivals of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” and Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck“.
Levine’s illustrious career began like this, he revealed in James Levine: 40 Years at The Metropolitan Opera” (Amadeus Press), edited by Metropolitan Opera:
“When I was four, I had a speech impediment, and the doctor asked my parents what I was interested in. My mother said, ‘Well, when he passes the piano he reaches up and bangs on it and makes us crazy.’ So (the doctor) suggested piano lessons, and I became a marathon talker.”
He also became a child prodigy. At age ten, the pianist made his concert debut with the Cincinnati Symphony.
And Levine was only 27 when he made his Met conducting debut 42 years ago this month.