New York, NY (December 9, 2011) – Music Director James Levine will not conduct at the Metropolitan Opera for the remainder of this season, or during the 2012-13 season, in order to allow for a full recovery from the spinal injury he suffered last August. After falling while on vacation last summer, Levine underwent emergency surgery that forced him to withdraw from his performances in the first part of this season.
Due to the severe injury to his spinal cord, Levine’s doctors have said that his post-operative recovery will be a long-term process. Since September he has been at a rehabilitation facility, which he will be leaving shortly. While his condition has greatly improved in recent months, it is uncertain exactly when he will be fully recovered and able to return to conducting.
Following recent consultations with Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager, Levine has decided not to conduct for the remainder of the current season, or for the entire 2012-13 season. Although he might be ready to start conducting sooner, the decision about next season had to be made now in order to secure the services of replacement conductors for the works Levine had been scheduled to lead. The Met’s 2012-13 season and casting will be announced this coming February.
“While this is a blow to Jim, our company, and his many fans, we want to make it possible for him to eventually return to the Met,” said Gelb. “The extended time off will give him the opportunity to recover fully, while also providing the Met with the chance to offer the best replacement conductors for next season.”
A personal statement from Levine follows this release (see below).
As Levine continues his recovery, it is anticipated that he will gradually resume his other Music Director duties including coaching and planning, and artistic leadership of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
Luisi, who has already substituted for Levine this season leading the new productions of Don Giovanni, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, will also conduct the the cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen this coming April and May, with the exception of the last two performances of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung on May 9 and May 12 matinee. Conductors for those two performances will be announced shortly.
The conductor who will replace Levine for the Met Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall on May 20 will also be announced shortly.
As planned, Luisi will conduct the new production of Manon, which premieres March 26, and the revival of La Traviata, which opens April 6, although he will be replaced for the last four performances of the Traviata run (April 21, 25, 28, and May 2) to allow for the Ring performances he will be taking on. The replacement conductor for the four La Traviata dates will be announced shortly.
Statement from Music Director James Levine
December 9, 2011
Early last summer I had to undergo three back surgeries to address a condition known as stenosis, from which I was suffering a great deal of pain. The issue has been successfully resolved, and I am no longer in any pain. But at the end of August, just a week before I was to begin rehearsing at the Met, I fell and injured my spinal cord, which required emergency surgery. Fortunately none of the earlier surgeries were compromised. Since then I have been in the hospital on a regimen of rehabilitation and intense physical therapy. After three months, I will finally return home at the beginning of next week but will continue the rehab and therapy as an out-patient.
Spinal cord injuries are well-known for taking a long time to heal. No two people recover at the same rate and the rehab typically is over a long period. Although my doctors and therapists have been very pleased with my progress, and I see the positive results, I am frustrated that I am not yet approaching a complete recovery. However, based on my progress during the initial phase of recovery, my doctors and therapists feel that, given time and continued therapy, the prognosis is excellent.
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.
On a more positive note, I look forward to resuming my other responsibilities as Music Director. I will continue to collaborate with Peter Gelb on long-term artistic plans, work with the artistic administration on future planning, coach singers, and work with the participants in the Lindemann Young Artist Development program.
I am particularly grateful to Fabio Luisi and the other conductors who have taken over my duties, often on short notice, and I am delighted that Fabio is now a more permanent part of the Met team in the important role of Principal Conductor.