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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Is James Levine Hanging Up His Towel?

Metropolitan Opera Music Director pulls out of Götterdämmerung.
This may soon be an unfamiliar sight. James Levine in rehearsal.
Photo by Koichi Miural.
The Metropolitan Opera press office continues its tradition of springing big stories on Friday afternoon when they think no-one is looking.

The latest is that Music Director James Levine will not conduct the January 27, 2012 premiere of Götterdämmerung, the final chapter of the company's troubled new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi will take over all five performances, including a Met Live in HD telecast on Feb. 5. Mr. Luisi will also lead the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra's Carnegie Hall concert on Jan. 15, featuring soprano Renée Fleming.

The maestro's health problems in recent years have included back trouble, shoulder injuries and a bout with cancer. Earlier this year, he stepped down from his position as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He also cancelled his Tanglewood commitments with that orchestra, leaving the summer free for rest and rehabilitaion.

On Labor Day weekend, Mr. Levine suffered a fall while walking in New England. This forced him to cancel his Met commitments, which included leading the company's new productions of Don Giovanni and Siegfried. He was replaced by newly promoted Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi.

Mr. Luisi's conducting drew better notices than the stagings of the operas. However, the Italian conductor's sudden commitment to the Met sent earthquakes through major European opera houses. The loudest outrage came from Rome, where Mr. Luisi stepped away from a new production of Salome a few weeks before its premiere.

Mr. Levine last conducted at the Met in May of this year, leading performances of Die Walküre, the second chapter in the Ring. He has not conducted since. As of this writing, Mr. Levine is scheduled to conduct three complete Ring cycles in April. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

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