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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

James Levine Nixes Boston Gig, Tour

James Levine, conducting at Tanglewood.
Conductor James Levine, who has done double duty as the maestro of the Metropolitan Opera and the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 2004 has cancelled his remaining Spring 2011 appearances with the BSO.

According to a report on Boston.Com, the official web portal of the Boston Globe, the 68-year old conductor is suffering from an unspecified ailment connected to a surgical procedure on his back, which Mr. Levine underwent last year. This same ailment forced Mr. Levine to withdraw from four performances of Mahler's Ninth Symphony last weekend.

The late cancellation will force the BSO to scramble to find replacement conductors for the two concert series that Mr. Levine was scheduled to conduct this spring.
The programs include:

  • The world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle's Violin Concerto. Christian Tetzlaff is the soloist. 
  • An exploration of Mozart and Schoenberg featuring pianist Maurizio Pollini.

The cancellations also apply to the Orchestra's short East Coast tour, planned for the middle of March. The band is scheduled to play three nights at Carnegie Hall, followed by appearances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. According to the orchestra's Facebook page, changes to the programs will be announced tomorrow morning.

The 68-year old conductor has suffered from a slew of injuries and ailments in recent years, including a broken clavicle (suffered during an onstage fall in 2006), a bout with cancer and a series of back problems. He has been forced to do all of his conducting from a special chair, and rarely makes onstage appearances after an opera performance.  Mr. Levine's ailments have forced him to cancel his Tanglewood appearances in 2008 and 2010, leaving the orchestra to find replacement conductors for their summer season.

All these injuries have led to some speculation that Mr. Levine may be ready to step into a lesser, advisory position with the Met and the BSO. Mr. Levine is in the last year of his Boston contract.

Met General Manager Peter Gelb denied these rumors at the company's season-announcing press conference, claiming that Mr. Levine will have many more years at the musical helm of the Met.

As of this writing, there was no statement from the Met regarding whether Mr. Levine would also cancel his upcoming commitments at Lincoln Center. Those obligations include:
  • Two performances of Das Rheingold at the end of March.
  • Four performances of Alban Berg's Wozzeck in early April
  • Seven performances of Richard Wagner's Die Walküre, the second chapter in the Met's multi-million-dollar production of Wagner's Ring.

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