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Friday, December 9, 2011

Das Haus ohne Dirigent

Music Director James Levine will not conduct at the Met until 2013.
James Levine, in happier times. He will not conduct at the Met this season or the next.
The Metropolitan Opera dropped another bombshell in the continuing saga of Music Director James Levine. At 5pm today, a story in the New York Times by reporter Daniel J. Wakin announced that the company's longtime podium chief will not conduct at the opera house until 2013 at the earliest.

After enjoying a 40-year career at the opera house, with much of it spent in the key post of Music Director, Mr. Levine started suffering serious health problems in recent years. He has battled cancer, spinal stenosis, and a series of back and shoulder injuries. He cancelled a number of performances in 2010-2011, but has not stepped onto the podium this season. These health issues also led to him stepping down from his job as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a position which he vacated this year.

Mr. Levine was scheduled to make his return to the Met in October leading new productions of Don Giovanni and Siegfried. But a back injury suffered on Labor Day weekend led to emergency surgery, sidelining the conductor. His replacement was Fabio Luisi, who was also promoted to the post of Principal Conductor at the opera house. Mr. Luisi received good notices for his performance in the pit, although the productions were met with mixed reviews.

The latest announcement comes a few weeks after Mr. Levine cancelled his plans to conduct the premiere of the company's new production of Götterdämmerung in January. At six hours in length, this final chapter of Wagner's Ring cycle is a marathon for any maestro.
The complete statement from Mr. Levine can be read at Alex Ross's excellent blog The Rest is Noise. Here's the highlights:
"Since the Met must plan its seasons far in advance, I am now in the position of having to predict when I will again be ready to conduct. I have met at length with Peter Gelb and other members of the Met family to discuss this. We have come to the conclusion that it would be profoundly unfair to the public and the Met company to announce a conducting schedule for me that may have to be altered at a later date. I do not want to risk having to withdraw from performances after the season has been announced and tickets sold.
With that in mind, I have reluctantly decided not to schedule performances until I am certain I can fulfill such obligations. The Met’s 2012-13 season needs to be finalized, and the best conductors available must be contracted now. As my condition improves, I feel confident I will be ready to conduct again soon, but I cannot risk a premature announcement.  It is disappointing to come to this conclusion, but I know it is the right one."
The Met announcement comes as the company works to finalize its plans for the 2012-2013 season, an ambitious slate that may (or may not) include such James Levine specialties as Wagner's Parsifal, Berlioz' Les Troyens and another clank-through of the company's new Robert Lepage production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. The complete Met season will be announced in at a press conference in early 2012.

Mr. Levine's decision also affects the company's much-hyped trio of complete Ring cycles, scheduled for the spring of 2012. These performances will be led by Metropolitan Opera Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi. Mr. Luisi conduct the premiere of Wagner's Götterdämmerung on January 27th.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats