James Levine was a sick man mentally who did some horrible things and seriously ill physically in his last years . But he was also a very great musician and conductor who accomplished so much in his life artistically .
I've admired his conducting for decades both in opera and orchestral repertoire . He made so many superb recordings, both of operas and orchestral works with some of the world's greatest orchestras .
He built the Met orchestra into one of the greatest orchestras of all time and brought them into the concert hall for orchestral concerts , something which it had never done before .
Levine expanded the Met's once stodgy and limited repertoire enormously with new or recent operas , exploration of obscure operatic repertoire and revived operas which had been long out of the repertoire despite the Met's notoriously conservative audience .
Rudolf Bing, who ran the Met from 1950 to 72 , would never have never dared to introduce operas like Lulu, Wozzeck he allowed ) , Moses and Aron, Erwartung, Bluebeard's Castle , Rise and Fall of the City Of Mahagonny and other operas which the Met did under him, conducted by him or others .
Eminent conductors rarely appeared at the Met under Bing, but under Levine the Met had Carlos Kleiber, Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink, Klaus Tennstedt, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Christophe Eschenbach , Valery Gergiev, Neeme Jarvi, Marek Kanowski, Charles Mackerras,
Vaclav Neumann, Seiji Ozawa, Donald Runnicles, Christian Thieleman ,Vladimir Jurowski, and others, at least sometimes . Levine was accused of hogging the repertoire for himself, but at least he was there so much of the time in an era where critics were constantly complaining about "jet-setting conductors who spent so little time with their orchestras as music director ". His constant presence there raised musical standards to unprecedented high standards of performance at the Met .
Levine mentored so many talented young singers who later became world famous .
Yes, not everyone likes or liked his conducting, but the same is true of every renowned conductor who has ever lived .
Despite the terrible things he did in private life , his enormous accomplishments can never and must never be dismissed out of hand