The conductor Kenneth Woods has a chilling tale about the firewalls that protected James Levine from mere mortals.
A friend of mine was, for a time, producer and engineer of the radio broadcasts of the orchestra at Verbier when Levine was conducting regularly there. As is the case with the broadcasts of most festivals and orchestras, where there is more than one performance, either the producer or a member of the musical staff (at the Cincinnati Symphony it was usually one of us on the junior conducting staff who had been in the audience for all the performances) will select what they think are the best options and run those by the maestro before the ‘broadcast performance’ is edited together.
The situation my friend found himself working with Levine in was truly bizarre. At the end of each run of performances he would go to the maestro’s office. There he would see Levine and his brother Tom. My friend was not allowed to speak to Levine directly, but would say to Tom something like “I thought the first movement was the best on Sunday and the other three better on Saturday.” Then Tom would turn to James Levine and say “_________ says “the first movement was the best on Sunday and the other three better on Saturday.””
Bear in mind, my friend is in the room.
Jimmy would then say to Tom “Tell ______ that I would like to use the first and last movements from Sunday and the two middle movements from Saturday.” After which, Tom would turn to my friend and say “Maestro Levine says to use the first and last movements from Sunday and the two middle movements from Saturday.” My friend would confirm to Tom that, of course, that was a far better selection. Those would, indeed, be the movements he would use. Tom would relay that to Levine, who would nod silently. After which, my friend would be dismissed. And this is how he treated one of the top Tonmeisters in Europe…
Read on here.