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Meet the New Boss

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James Levine added another notch to his belt by presiding over his first Madama Butterfly at the Met. Although not the infallible genius he’s sometimes made out to be, Levine does have a special way with Puccini and his contemporaries, focusing on a generous amount of orchestral detail without sacrificing the overall arch and thrust of the melodic line. Even though the latter half of the opera was too lovingly dwelled upon and drawn out, it’s always salutary to hear a warhorse treated with this sort of care and respect. So much for the good news. If there was any weeping to be heard at the new Met on opening night, it was for a sorry distortion of Puccini’s intentions, not the searing tragedy of his favorite heroine. Poor Butterfly.

Madama Butterfly
Puccini. Metropolitan Opera. Through November 18.


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