After an absence of more than two years, Music Director James Levine returned to the Met podium in triumph last night, leading the season premiere of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Entering the orchestra pit, the maestro was greeted by a minute-long standing ovation and cheers from the packed house (pictured below) before launching into the performance. Levine, who had been sidelined by health issues, made his comeback with the Met Orchestra in concert at Carnegie Hall last May, but this was his first appearance at the opera house since the end of the 2010–11 season. “[He] led his beloved musicians like a man rejuvenated,” the Associated Press says. “This was prime Levine: a lithe, energetic, transparent account of Mozart’s miraculous score, brisk but not rushed, polished and profound. His energy seemed never to flag throughout the long evening.”
The cast—Susanna Phillips, Danielle de Niese, Isabel Leonard, Matthew Polenzani, Rodion Pogossov, and Maurizio Muraro—responded to Levine’s inspired conducting with a stirring and unforgettable performance. “Così is replete with ingenious ensemble scenes for the six characters in various configurations, and this winning cast performed like a crack comedic theater troupe,” the New York Times raves. "I don't think I have ever heard a more vibrant, masterly and natural performance than this." But the night belonged to the maestro. “Seeing Mr. Levine in the pit at the Met, his primary domain for more than 40 years, was the real deal. Now, it can truly be said that James Levine is back.”
Così fan tutte runs through October 5 and returns in April with the same cast. In December, Maestro Levine will conduct the new production of Verdi’s Falstaff, followed later in the season by a revival of Berg’s Wozzeck.