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After 40 Years, James Levine Steps Down as Met Opera’s Music Director


James Levine leading the Metropolitan Orchestra at Carnegie Hall last season. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

The Metropolitan Opera, New York, announced on Thursday, April 14, 2016 that at the end of the 2015-16 season, James Levine will step down as music director, a position he has held with the company since 1976. Levine first conducted at the Met in 1971 in performances of Tosca. A year later, became the Met’s principal conductor. Since, Levine has conducted 2,551 performances with the Met musicians.

Since 2008, Levine has suffered from a number of health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, that have caused him to withdraw from scheduled performances with the Met and other organizations, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for which he served as music director from 2004-2011. On April 4, 2010, Levine officially withdrew from remaining performances at the Met during the 2010-11 season. In 2011, Levine cancelled all of his 2011 performances there for the remainder of the calendar year. After a series of surgeries, Levine was able to return to the podium on May 19, 2013 conducting from a wheelchair.

Levine was originally scheduled to conduct 31 performances during the 2016-17 season at the Met. According a report by the Associated Press, “Met General Manager Peter Gelb said in February it was too soon to say whether Levine would be up to it physically. Levine’s health seemingly remains the company’s biggest preoccupation.”

In a press release issued by the Met, Gelb said, “There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met. We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active and vital role in the life of the company when he becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the season.”

Levine will finish conducting his remaining scheduled performances at the Met to conclude the 2015-16 season. According to the release, “John Fisher, currently Director of Music Administration, has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Music Administration, effective immediately.”

Replacement conductors for some of Levine’s originally scheduled performances during the 2016-17 season have yet to be announced, though he plans to conduct performances of L’Italiana in Algeri, Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’s Idomeneo. Levine will continue to work with the Met as its first Music Director Emeritus.


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