Press release from the Metopolitan Opera (September 6, 2011) – After a fall last week that damaged one of his vertebrae, James Levine underwent emergency surgery on Thursday in New York, forcing him to withdraw from his performances at the Metropolitan Opera this fall. Levine was scheduled to begin orchestra rehearsals for the new season today. According to his doctors, he was successfully recuperating from another back surgery when the accident happened while he was on vacation in Vermont.
While Levine will continue in his position as Music Director, Fabio Luisi has been named the Met’s Principal Conductor, with the new appointment taking effect immediately. In April 2010, Luisi was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Met. He will replace Levine for most of the fall performances, conducting the new productions of Don Giovanni (premiering October 13) and Siegfried (premiering October 27), as well as the MET Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall on October 16.
“While Jim’s latest setback is hugely disappointing for all of us, he joins me in welcoming Fabio’s larger role,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “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.”
In order to replace Levine, Luisi had to cancel performances with the Rome Opera, the Genoa Opera, the Vienna Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony.
“I am honored to have been asked to take on these additional responsibilities, but my thoughts are also with Maestro Levine,” said Luisi.
Luisi will conduct the first five performances of Don Giovanni on October 13, 17, 22, 25, and 29 matinee, and Siegfried on October 27 and November 5 matinee. Louis Langrée will conduct the remaining four performances of Don Giovanni on October 31, November 3, 7, and 11. Derrick Inouye will conduct Siegfried on November 1.
Levine hopes to recover in time to return to the Met in January for the new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (premiering January 27, 2012), as well as for the full cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen in April and May.
Luisi made his Met debut in 2005 with Verdi’s Don Carlo and has also conducted a new production of Richard Strauss’s Die Ägyptische Helena (2007), as well as revivals of Simon Boccanegra, Turandot, Elektra, Le Nozze di Figaro, Hansel and Gretel, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Rigoletto with the company. In addition, he has previously stepped in for Levine to conduct performances of Tosca (April 2010), Lulu (May 2010), Das Rheingold (March/April 2011), and, in the June 2011 tour of Japan, Don Carlo, La Bohème, and a concert with the MET Orchestra. He also conducted the MET Orchestra in concert with Natalie Dessay as soloist at Carnegie Hall in May of this year, again replacing Levine. This season, Luisi also conducts a new production of Massenet’s Manon (March 26-April 23, 2012) starring Anna Netrebko and a revival of La Traviata (April 6-May 2, 2012) with Dessay in the title role for the first time at the Met.
Luisi, a native of Genoa, is currently Chief Conductor of the Vienna Symphony and Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. He served as General Music Director of Dresden State Opera and Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra from 2007 to 2010, Artistic Director of the MDR Symphony Orchestra in Leipzig from 1999 to 2007, Music Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1997 to 2002, and Chief Conductor of the Tonkünstler Orchestra in Vienna from 1995 to 2000. He has appeared with many of the world’s most renowned orchestras and opera companies, including the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia Symphony Orchestras, NHK Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Deutsche Oper, and Berlin State Opera. He made his Salzburg Festival debut in 2002.
Levine has had previous surgeries to address spinal stenosis, the most recent on May 31 and July 20 of this year. He is scheduled to conduct Götterdämmerung from January 27 to February 11, Das Rheingold on April 4, and three complete cycles of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen between April 7 and May 12. He is also scheduled to conduct concerts with the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on January 15and May 20. Levine, who made his Met debut on June 5, 1971 conducting Tosca, celebrated his 40th anniversary with the Met last season.