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Conductor James Levine withdraws from remainder of Metropolitan Opera's season

April 4, 2010 |  8:21 pm

Levine

This has been a difficult season health-wise for James Levine.

The 66-year-old conductor underwent back surgery in the fall, forcing him to miss much of the beginning of the 2009-10 season. Now the opera conductor has bowed out of his final performances for the Metropolitan Opera's current calendar to go under the knife again.

The Met said Sunday that Levine will miss his scheduled four podium appearances for Puccini's "Tosca" in April as well as his three appearances for Berg's "Lulu" in May.

"[Levine] is to undergo corrective surgery for an ongoing lower back problem," said the Met in a statement.

Conductor Fabio Luisi will replace Levine for "Tosca" and "Lulu," according to the New York opera company.

In addition to his role as music director for the Met, Levine is music director with the Boston Symphony. The orchestra said last month that Levine would be withdrawing from March and April appearances because of back problems.

The ailing Levine has experienced a number of health problems in recent years. 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 a kidney.

Last fall, Levine experienced back problems while working on the Met's new production of "Tosca."

He later underwent surgery to repair a herniated spinal disc. It's unclear whether his most recent back trouble is related to his operation in the autumn.

Levine's latest withdraw is the second blow to the Met's critically panned production of "Tosca." Soprano Karita Mattila has nixed her remaining performances of the opera this season. Like Levine, the soprano has cited back problems as the reason for her cancellations.

Sunday's news comes a few days after another withdrawal by a famous conductor from the Met. Leonard Slatkin has stepped down from his remaining appearances in Verdi's "La Traviata" after he received scathing reviews. Various reports have stated that Slatkin was ill-prepared for the job and that his conducting was out of sync with certain musicians during the opening-night performance.

-- David Ng

Photo: Conductor James Levine. Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press.

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