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December 9, 2011

James Levine withdraws from the Metropolitan Opera through 2012-13

The news is not surprising, but will reverberate wildly in the days ahead: James Levine, still recovering from a spinal injury, has withdrawn from all conducting assignments at the Metropolitan Opera through the 2012-13 season.

Fabio Luisi, who has already filled in for Levine this season in several productions, will continue to do so, including Wagner’s "Ring" Cycle in the spring (except for a couple of performances).

Here's Levine's full statement:

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.

Posted by Tim Smith at 4:18 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


till 2013 and even this uncertain? One thing CERTAIN is that this is a JOKE. ENOUGH hearing about LEVINE'S health problems. ENOUGH. Give it UP. And making it clear here that you are happy for Luisi taking over "YOUR" responsibilities............they are now "HIS" and not yours. KNOW WHEN TO GIVE UP. 40 yrs in one place. TOO MANY GREAT GREAT GREAT High B.O. Tkt sale producer Conductors out there. And to not even make EYE CONTACT with audiences during DRESS REHEARSALS to acknowledge their presence. The world is not all about you and some day you may figure out why.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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