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Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Back Issues" Sideline James Levine

James Levine onstage with the BSO, in happier days.
Photo by Michael Lutch © 2010 Boston Symphony Orchestra
Greetings from Boston, where your intrepid reviewer is braving winter weather and Boston traffic (OK, I took the bus) to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra tonight, in their "home" building of Symphony Hall. The program: Mahler's Ninth Symphony. The conductor: Sean Newhouse.
Sean Newhouse will conduct tonight's Mahler Symphony No. 9
Photo © SeanNewhouse.com
Sean Newhouse?

Yes. James Levine has cancelled this weekend's scheduled concerts. According to a statement by the BSO, the conductor was suffering "ill effects from a recent procedure addressing his ongoing back issues." Mr. Newhouse, an assistant conductor with the orchestra, led Thursday and Friday's performances, and will conduct the remaining two concerts as well.

An article in today's Boston Globe by Jeremy Eichler indicated that the conductor, who currently pulls double duty at the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera as music director for both organizations, is apparently willing to negotiate a "reduced" role with the venerable orchestra. In an interview with the Globe, the conductor's brother Thomas Levine confirmed the rumor that the BSO wants to negotiate a lesser position for Mr. Levine.

At a recent press conference announcing the Metropolitan Opera's 2011-2012 season, Met general manager Peter Gelb affirmed that Mr. Levine has no intention of relenqushing control or reducing his duties at the opera house, where he has conducted since 1971. Mr. Levine held the post of Artistic Director at the Met from 1986 to 2004.

This season, Mr. Levine is schedule to conduct the Met's upcoming productions of Wozzeck and Die Walküre. Nexthe conductor plans to unveil the new Met stagings of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, closing out the 2012 spring season with three complete readings of the Ring cycle. This ambitious schedule is in addition to his duties at Tanglewood this summer and with the BSO next season in the final year of his Boston contract.

A rumor circulating on various opera blogs before the Met press conference speculated that Mr. Levine may soon accept the post of Music Director Emeritus at the Met, giving way to principal guest conductor Fabio Luisi and others, and staying on in an advisory position. Mr. Gelb vociferously denied rumors of this change at the press conference.

Watch this space for future updates concerning Mr. Levine, as well as a review of tonight's Mahler 9 featuring Mr. Newhouse on the podium.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.