Maestro James Levine to Retire as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera at the End of the Current Season;
Will Become The Company’s First Music Director Emeritus
New York, NY – Maestro James Levine, the Met’s Music Director since 1976, announced that after 40 years in the position, he will retire at the end of the current season, for health reasons. At that time, he will assume the new position of Music Director Emeritus. In this role, he will continue as the artistic leader of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, a training program for operatic talent he began in 1980, and will continue to conduct some Met performances. Next season, he will withdraw from the new production of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but plans to lead revivals of Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, Verdi’s Nabucco and Mozart’s Idomeneo—three works he has led more than any other conductor in Met history.
Levine, who will turn 73 in June, has suffered from bad health for some time, but the troubles became visible in 2006, when he fell on stage at a BSO concert) and tore a rotator cuff. After many missed performances, he finally resigned that position, and as music director of Tanglewood, some time afterwards. The conductor had already been confining his career to the US, when once he was a regular at the world’s most prestigious musical addresses – the Bayreuth and Salzburg festivals, and the orchestras of Berlin, Vienna and Munich.
Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager, Gelb ordered special wheelchair podiums in the pit and rehearsal rooms, on which the conductor is hoisted, like a deus ex machina, before he raises his baton. But Levine’s health continued to decline, and choices had to be made as to the new productions he was involved with, and Gelb had immense pressure applied to make a decision on how to handle the continued decline of the Met’s artistic leader.
Levine say he intends to conduct his remaining performances for the current Met season, which include the current run of Verdi’sSimon Boccanegra and a five-performance revival of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail later this month, as well as the May 19 and 26 MET Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. He will not conduct the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on May 22.
Over the course of his unparalleled career at the Met, Levine has led 2,551 performances—far more than any other conductor in Met history—working with thousands of the world’s most gifted musicians and conducting more than 85 different operas, ranging from 18th century works to contemporary world premieres. In recent years, Levine has struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, making it increasingly difficult for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances.
“There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “We are fortunate that he will continue to play an active and vital role in the life of the company when he becomes Music Director Emeritus at the end of the season.”
“Through 45 years of unwavering devotion, Maestro Levine has shaped the MET Orchestra into the world-class ensemble it is today,” said Jessica Phillips, chair of the orchestra committee and a clarinetist in the Met’s orchestra. “He has a unique ability to inspire those around him to perform to the best of their abilities and beyond. We eagerly anticipate his upcoming projects as Music Director Emeritus, which promise to add to an already incomparable legacy of tireless dedication and artistic integrity. It is an honor to carry the values Maestro Levine has instilled in us into this new era at the Metropolitan Opera—the house that Jimmy built.”
Replacement conductors for this season’s May 22 Carnegie Hall concert, and for the remainder of Mo. Levine’s 2016-17 engagements—the new production of Der Rosenkavalier, and three May 2017 MET Orchestra Carnegie Hall concerts—will be announced in the coming days.
A plan is in place to appoint a new Music Director for the Met, who will be announced in the coming months.
As Mo. Levine transitions to his new role at the Met, John Fisher, currently Director of Music Administration, has been promoted to Assistant General Manager, Music Administration, effective immediately. Fisher’s duties include overseeing the Met’s staff conductors, rehearsal pianists, and prompters; coaching principal singers; and working with Mo. Levine and the conductors for each Met performance to prepare and maintain the highest level of musical quality.
James Levine at the Met
Levine made his Met debut in 1971 at the age of 28, leading a performance of Puccini’s Tosca, and quickly became a company favorite. He was named Principal Conductor of the Met less than a year later, in February of 1972, and became Music Director in 1976.
He has led a total of 2,551 performances with the company, including more than 2,000 opera performances at the Met itself as well as orchestral and chamber concerts, and national and international tours. This is more than twice the number led by any conductor in the company’s history.
Perhaps more than any musician in Met history, Levine has been noted for the ever-expanding range of operatic repertory in which he excels, one of the hallmarks of his extraordinary career. He has led Met performances of works by 33 composers, ranging from the Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and Wagner operas that are staples of the company’s seasons to works by such composers as Berg, Berlioz, Bartók, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. Earlier this season, he conducted Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus for the first time in his Met career.
A tireless champion of new works and neglected masterpieces, Levine expanded the company’s repertory by leading the first-ever staged Met performances of Berg’s Lulu; Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; Rossini’s La Cenerentola; Verdi’s I Vespri Siciliani, Stiffelio, and I Lombardi; Mozart’s Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito; Schoenberg’s Erwartung and Moses und Aron; Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; Busoni’s Doktor Faust; and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.