Conductor James Levine cancels fall performances after new injury

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James Levine, the ailing music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, has suffered from recurring back problems in recent years that have forced him to cancel a number of appearances. On Tuesday, the company announced that Levine has had to withdraw from all fall appearances this season due to an accident last week that damaged one of his vertebrae.

The new cancellation marks the biggest health setback so far in Levine’s illustrious 40-year career at the Met. The company said that Levine’s fall happened last week while he was on vacation in Vermont and that he underwent emergency surgery Thursday in New York. The 68-year-old conductor had been scheduled to begin rehearsals this week.


Fabio Luisi has been named the Met’s principal conductor, with the new appointment taking effect immediately, said the company. Luisi was appointed principal guest conductor of the Met last year. Levine will retain the title of music director.

Luisi will replace Levine for most performances this fall, including for new productions of ‘Siegfried’ and ‘Don Giovanni.’

The company said Levine hopes to recover in time to return in January for the new production of ‘Götterdämmerung,’ as well as for the full cycles of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ in April and May.

Levine’s new injury raises fresh questions about his tenure at the Met. The frequency of his cancellations in recent years has led some to believe that he will retire soon.

Earlier this year, Levine announced he would be stepping down from the top artistic position of the Boston Symphony, citing the stress of juggling two jobs at once. The Boston orchestra will perform at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Dec. 10, led by French conductor Ludovic Morlot.


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-- David Ng