Met Opera's James Levine to return in May after spinal injury

Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:33pm EDT
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine will return to the conducting podium in May 2013 - initially in a wheelchair - after a fall more than a year ago that left him partially paralyzed, the New York opera house said on Friday.

Levine, 69, who has been the Met's music director since 1976, will conduct the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in May 2013, before leading three operas during the Met's 2013-14 season, the Met said in a statement.

Met General Manager Peter Gelb called Levine's return to conducting "great news for opera lovers throughout the world," while Levine said: "I'm looking forward more than I can say to getting back to work."

Levine has been in long-term rehabilitation since injuring his spine in a fall while on vacation in August 2011 that required surgery and left him partially paralyzed.

While his upper body strength has returned, his injuries have left him temporarily unable to walk.

The Met said that for the time being, he will conduct from a motorized wheelchair. In anticipation of Levine's return, the Met's technical department is designing customized, elevating podiums that will be utilized on the Carnegie Hall stage and in the Met's orchestra pit.

Levine referred to the "long healing process" from his spine injury, but said he feels better with each passing day.

For the 2013-14 season, Levine is scheduled to conduct a new production of Verdi's "Falstaff" and revivals of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" and Berg's "Wozzeck."   Continued...

James Levine talks about the power of symphonies after being announced as the next conductor and music director of The Boston Symphony Orchestra October 29, 2001 at a news conference at Symphony Hall in Boston.