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Friday, October 12, 2012

The Astonishing Return of James Levine

Met music director to conduct in May. Three operas to follow.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
He's back! James Levine is scheduled to conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in May, and at the Met in 2013.
Photo by Koichi Murai.
The Metropolitan Opera chose 7:30 on a Thursday night, on the same night as the 2012 Vice-Presidential Debate to tell the world that music director James Levine is slotted make a May 19th return to conducting for North America's most prestigious opera company.

"I’m feeling better with each passing day and look forward to returning to the company I love so much" Mr. Levine said in the official release. "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."

The news was first revealed to Superconductor in a Washington Post article by critic and correspondent Anne Midgette.

In an official statement, Met general manager Peter Gelb said: “Jim’s return to conducting is the welcome news that our company has long been waiting for."

The curly-haired maestro, 69, has been absent from the podium since a May 14, 2011 performance of Wagner's Die Walküre. He will make his return at Carnegie Hall, conducting the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in a program that is currently announced as including the Sibelius Fourth Symphony, Robert Schumann's Konzertstück for Four Horns and Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with soloist Evgeny Kissin.

For the 2013-2014 season, Mr. Levine is scheduled to conduct a new production of Verdi's Falstaff. Also on his schedule, a revival of Wozzeck (planned as a replacement for François Girard's Parsifal) and Mozart's Così fan tutte.

Mr. Levine chose Wozzeck to start his brief return to conducting in April of 2011. He has been sidelined with a long and difficult rehabilitation, starting with a fall on Labor Day weekend 2010 which forced him to cancel performances of Siegfried and Don Giovanni. These events also led to the promotion of Fabio Luisi to the post of Principal Conductor. His medical issues also cost Mr. Levine his position as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a procedure described as "slow torture" by BSO insiders.

The press release went into some medical detail. To sum up: Mr. Levine has lost a good deal of upper body strength, but  has been pronounced "fit to return to conducting" by his neurologist, Dr. Edward Reich at Lenox Hill Hospital. However, he is currently unable to walk. He will conduct from a motorized wheelchair, and use a customized, elevated podium that will be used at Carnegie Hall and in the Met orchestra pit.

Mr. Levine has suffered a number of ailments in recent years, including spinal stenosis, and fractured and herniated discs. The injuries have triggered a benign condition in his legs that is related to Parkinsons disease, He is taking a powerful Parkinson-related medicine for the tremors in his legs and left hand.
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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.