Mastodon Levine Withdraws From Met Fall Season, Luisi to take over the Ring? - The Wagnerian

Levine Withdraws From Met Fall Season, Luisi to take over the Ring?

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 6 September 2011 | 9:00:00 pm

James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, has withdrawn from all performances at the Met for the rest of the year after falling while on vacation in Vermont and damaging a vertebra, the house said on Tuesday. Mr. Levine had emergency surgery on Thursday. The injury comes after a series of health problems, including back operations and periods of rehabilitation to correct a painful spinal condition called stenosis, have curtailed Mr. Levine’s activities.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s more frustrated and upset than he is,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said of Mr. Levine. “Obviously it’s very disappointing for everybody in the company.”

While the Met said Mr. Levine would remain music director, it elevated its principal guest conductor, Fabio Luisi, to the title of principal conductor and handed over to him most of Mr. Levine’s fall conducting assignments, including a new production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” opening on Oct. 13, and the third installment of a new and expensive “Ring” cycle, “Siegfried,” on Oct. 27. Louis Langrée was engaged to conduct some “Don Giovanni” performances and Derrick Inouye was assigned a Nov. 1 “Siegfried.”

Mr. Levine has struggled to return from a series of setbacks that have forced his withdrawal from several performances over the past five years. He had surgery to repair his rotator cuff, injured in another fall; the removal of a kidney because of a cancerous tumor and two back operations. It was an operation on his back that led to complications that, he said, pushed him to make the decision earlier this year to leave the Boston Symphony, where he was the music director.

Mr. Gelb rejected the suggestion that Mr. Levine’s latest health setback would lead to his departure from the Met.

“Sure the Met could say it’s time to make a change,” Mr. Gelb said, “but why would we want to do that if we have the possibility to continue with him? At the point he can’t do it any longer, he’ll stop. But he wants to come back, we owe it to him to support him.”

He added: “At the same time we don’t want to put ourselves in artistic jeopardy.” Hence, Mr. Gelb said, the Met took on Mr. Luisi last year on a regular basis.

“We are dealing with it as best we can, and I think effectively,” Mr. Gelb said. “Certainly we do not want to let down the audiences, and Jim doesn’t want to let down the audiences.” Mr. Levine celebrated his 40th anniversary with the company last season.

In order to take up Mr. Levine’s conducting responsibilities, Mr. Luisi was forced to cancel appearances with the Rome Opera, his hometown Genoa Opera, the Vienna Symphony, where he is chief conductor, and the San Francisco Symphony. He will still lead the Vienna Symphony on a United States tour.

“Well, of course they are not pleased,” Mr. Luisi said in an e-mail message of the other orchestras. “Neither am I, since I always honor my contracts. But they understand the ‘bigger picture,’ and the dimension of the projects we are talking about.”

Mr. Levine, the Met said in a statement, “hopes to recover in time to return to the Met in January, for the new production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” which opens on Jan. 27, and for the complete “Ring” cycles in April and May. Mr. Gelb said that Mr. Luisi would be expected to step in if health problems prevent Mr. Levine from taking on the “Ring,” a major undertaking for any house.