Levine Cancels Fall Met Appearances; Luisi Named Principal Conductor

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James Levine, the music director of the Metropolitan Opera, has cancelled his fall appearances at the Met, after falling and damaging his vertebrae on Thursday. He will be pulling out of new productions of Don Giovanni and Siegfried, as well as the MET Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall on October 16.

The announcement on Tuesday was followed by the not entirely unexpected news that principal guest conductor, Fabio Luisi, will become principal conductor, effective immediately. Levine will continue to serve as music director.

“While Jim’s latest setback is hugely disappointing for all of us, he joins me in welcoming Fabio’s larger role,” the Met’s General Manager Peter Gelb said in a statement. “I am very pleased that Fabio was able to rearrange his fall schedule, and I appreciate the understanding of those companies with whom he was scheduled to conduct.”

Levine, 68, was on vacation in Vermont recuperating from another back surgery when he fell on Thursday. He was immediately flown to New York for an emergency operation. Levine has withdrawn from numerous performances in recent seasons because of various health problems, including a spinal condition called stenosis. In March he stepped down as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; he had been planning to begin rehearsing at the Met after Labor Day.

The Italian-born Luisi, 52, became the Met's principal guest conductor in April, six years after making his Met debut in Verdi’s Don Carlo. He recently relocated his family to New York from Vienna, where he is the principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In addition to his Met position, he will become the next general music director of the Zurich Opera in 2012-13. In order to replace Levine, Luisi cancelled performances in Rome, Genoa, Vienna and San Francisco.

According to the Met, Levine remains scheduled to conduct Götterdämmerung starting January 27, Das Rheingold on April 4 and three complete cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in April and May.