James Levine, suffering from debilitating back problems, will withdraw from the remainder of his performances this season as music director of the Metropolitan Opera. He has also announced that he won’t conduct at all during the 2012-13 season.
Fabio Luisi, who was appointed the Met’s principal conductor in September after Levine cancelled his fall performances, will take over the three Wagner Ring Cycles scheduled for April and May, except for the last two dates, a May 9 Siegfried and a May 12 Gotterdammerung. The Met expects to announce other conductors for those dates shortly.
This marks the first time Levine has missed an entire season at the company since he made his debut in 1971.
Levine, 67, has withdrawn from numerous performances in recent seasons because of various health problems, and had operations to address spinal stenosis on May 31 and July 20. He had another surgery on Sept. 1 after falling and damaging a vertebrae.
In a statement, Levine said that he is making excellent progress but his recovery remains unpredictable, and he is consulting with general manager Peter Gelb and other members of the Met staff. “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," he said. "I do not want to risk having to withdraw from performances after the season has been announced and tickets sold.”
The decision to cancel performances through 2012-13 was also made in order to give the Met time to find replacement conductors, whose schedules are mapped out sometimes years in advance. In the statement the Met went on to say that Levine is expected to gradually resume his other music director duties including coaching and planning, and artistic leadership of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
The Italian-born Luisi was appointed the Met's principal guest conductor in April 2010, then was promoted to principal conductor in September. He has already stepped in for Levine this season in new productions of Don Giovanni, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. In order to replace Levine, Luisi cancelled performances in Rome, Genoa, Vienna and San Francisco.
The Met's 2012-13 season is expected to be announced in February.