11 October 2012

James Levine to Return to Conducting at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013

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Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine will return to conducting at the company in 2013 following a two-year hiatus owing to health issues, the Met announced today. Levine, 69, will take the podium on May 19, 2013, to lead the MET Orchestra in a concert at Carnegie Hall, and he will pace subsequent performances of three operas during the Met's 2013-14 season, as well as three additional concerts at Carnegie Hall that season. 

Levine's return will mark the first time that he has led a performance for the Metropolitan Opera following an August 2011 fall that caused a spinal injury and resulted in his withdrawal from performances during the company's 2011-12 season as well as the cancellation of appearances during the 2012-13 season. Levine has recently resumed some of his duties as the Met's music director, the company reported, including coaching members of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, holding artistic and administrative planning sessions, listening to auditions and meeting with the Met's orchestra and chorus. 

"I’m feeling better with each passing day and look forward to returning to the company I love so much," Levine said in a statement issued by the Met on Thursday evening. "It has been a long healing process, but with a team of excellent doctors and the unwavering support of my friends and colleagues, I’m looking forward more than I can say to getting back to work."

Levine has been in long-term rehabilitation since the traumatic August 2011 injury, which required surgery and caused complete paralysis in his legs, the Met disclosed. While Levine continues his rehabilitation, the company reports, he will conduct from a motorized wheelchair. Levine told The New York Times on Thursday that he has already recovered some sensation and movement in his legs, and his doctors — several of whom were quoted in the Met's press release — have characterized his upper-body strength as remarkable and his prognosis good.

Prior to the surgery necessitated by his August 2011 fall, Levine had undergone other surgeries to correct painful problems with his spine, including stenosis and fractured and herniated discs. Levine is now pain-free, and does not require additional surgery. The Met also reported that the conductor's previous spinal discomfort had exacerbated a long-standing, non-progressive neurological disorder that, while related to Parkinson’s disease, is considered relatively benign. The condition, which affected Levine's legs and caused a mild tremor in his left hand, was previously not disclosed by the conductor for reasons of privacy, the Met said. Levine's neurologist, Dr. Stanley Fahn, said that the attenuation of spinal pain means that the conductor's mild Parkinsonism should have little future impact on his dexterity, his quality of life or his return to conducting. 

Levine's return was announced to the company's executive committee on Thursday afternoon by Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb, who also informed the Met's 1600 employees in an announcement the same evening. 

The Met also noted that Fabio Luisi will continue in his role as the company's principal conductor while Levine is resuming his duties as music director. "The Met is extremely fortunate to have Fabio's strong presence in the pit," Gelb noted in the press release. "The orchestra and chorus admire him greatly and both Jim and I are very grateful for all that he brings to the Met with his artistry and continuing presence." 

Levine has served as the Met's music director since 1976, and has led 2,441 performances at the company, more than anyone in the Met's 129-year history. Levine's most recent performance was a Die Walküre matinee on May 14, 2011. During the Met's 2013-14 season, he will lead performance of a new production of Falstaff as well as revivals of Così fan Tutte and Wozzeckspacer 

More information can be found at The Metropolitan Opera and the New York Times.

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