James Levine Plots His Conducting Comeback

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If all goes according to plan, James Levine will be returning to the podium later this month. The music director of the Metropolitan Opera since 1976 is scheduled to lead the Met Orchestra in a concert at Carnegie Hall on May 19. In the first episode in a two-part interview with the conductor, host Marilyn Horne talks with Levine about his comeback.

Levine's health issues have been ongoing. After suffering back pain for years, he had a series of operations to alleviate the problem. While he was recovering, he fell and injured his spinal cord, which required further surgery.

The 69-year-old Levine says the last two years have been difficult, but he's walking now and the pain has subsided. He tells Horne about the ways in which he passed the time while undergoing therapy.

Horne and Levine have collaborated many times on stage, having first worked together at the Met in 1973, in a production of The Barber of Seville. Given that history, she asks him about the current state of operatic voices, and especially about some of the Wagnerian singers active today.


Part I: In the first part of the interview, Horne asks Levine about his recovery:

Part II: Horne asks Levine about the dearth of big voices today, the impact of HD broadcasts on singers and the potential impact of microphones in opera.

Part III: Levine talks about his interest in cabaret singing and how that informs his approach to opera.

Online Bonus: Levine talks tenors, including what he learned from Luciano Pavarotti.



James Levine conducting Marilyn Horne and Leontyne Price in 1982 (Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera)