Conductor James Levine out of commission until December

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James Levine, the ailing music director of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is having back surgery for a herniated spinal disc this week and has announced that he is withdrawing from conducting engagements this fall.

The Metropolitan Opera said that Levine will miss all of his scheduled conducting appearances with the company through the beginning of December -- including performances of ‘Tosca’ and ‘Der Rosenkavalier.’

‘Levine’s doctors expect him to recover in time to conduct the new production of ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’ which opens Dec. 3,’ said a Met spokeswoman in an e-mail statement.

Representatives for Levine, who is 66, confirmed that he will miss performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra scheduled for today and Saturday. Levine was scheduled to make several more concert appearances with the orchestra during 2009, and it is unclear if he will be able to honor any of these commitments.


A spokeswoman for the Boston Symphony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levine’s current back problems arose during the Met’s new production of ‘Tosca,’ which opened last week. In 2006, he fell onstage during a performance with the Boston Symphony and had to undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. In 2008, the conductor underwent surgery to remove one of his kidneys.

In addition to the aforementioned cancellations, Levine will miss Thursday’s opening night performance at Carnegie Hall with the Boston Symphony.

-- David Ng