After 40 years as music director of the Metropolitan opera , the renowned American conductor James Levine has finally agreed to step down from this prestigious and demanding post because of serious health problems which have plagued him for year
The veteran Met maestro will continue until the end of the 12015-16 season after which he will be given the title music director emeritus . At the age of 72 , Levine is not particularly old or superannuated as conductors go ; many have remained active well
into their 80s . But severe back trouble, progressing Parkinson's disease symptoms , sciatica and arm tremors etc have forced him to conduct from a motorized wheelchair and he has had to cancel numerous performances in recent years , not only with
the Met . His ailments also forced him to resign as music director of the prestigious Boston symphony orchestra .
Unlike many other conductors , James Levine has singlehandedly devoted himself to one position at the Met for the greater part of his life , and the two have become synonymous . After making his debut there in 1971 as a rising young conductor , he
became so popular with audiences, the Met orchestra and singers he was soon appointed music director , a post which America's foremost opera company had never had for some reason , and he carefully and painstakingly guided and molded the venerable
organization , the largest performing arts group in the world , building the Met orchestra into one of the finest in the world and initiating orchestral concerts with it in in Carnegie hall , working with the world's greatest opera singers and fostering the careers
of numerous talented young opera stars .
Under Levine , the Met's repertoire continued to grow and diversify greatly ; it had tended for many years to concentrate on the beloved staples of the repertoire by Verdi, Puccini et al to the neglect of new operas and and important operatic masterpieces
which it had never presented , especially 20th century works . Levine conducted the Met premieres of such operatic masterpieces as Alban Berg's Lulu , Moses & Aron by Arnold Schoenberg , Mozart's Idomeneo and La Clemenza Di Tito , Benvenuto Cellini
by Berlioz, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess , Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani , Stiffelio and I Lombardi , The Rise & Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill . He also led the world premieres of several operas by leading American composers such as John Corigliano
and John Harbison , as well as revivals of operas which the Met had not performed for many decades , such as Francesca Da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai , Verdi's Nabucco and Ernani , and Smetana's The Bartered Bride among others .
Other Met premieres which he did not conduct included the Met's first performances of operas by George Frideric Handel such as Rodelinda, Rinaldo , and Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar ) , Capriccio by Richard Strauss , Satyagraha by Philip Glass ,
Doctor Atomic , Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams , Katya Kabanova, The Makropoulos Case and From The House of the Dead by Leos Janacek , Dvorak's Rusalka, The Nose and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District by Shostakovich ,
to name only a partial list .
Maestro Levine is scheduled to conduct three operas next season at the Met and the company under general manager Peter Gelb , is busy searching for a conductor of international stature to succeed him . This will be no easy task , but the brilliant
Canadian French conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who has conducted regularly there for several years with great success and is currently music director of the Philadelphia orchestra , is considered to have a strong chance of doing this .
Maestro Levine has led the Metropolitan opera through good and bad times , weathered numerous artistic , financial and labor crises , had his share of dazzling triumphs and controversial productions which failed to please the music critics ,
faced captious reviewers who faulted him for his interpretive approach to certain operas , complained bitterly about the design and direction of many operas , casting of singers and the quality of guest conductors - you name it .
However, under Levine, the Met has been able to engage such eminent conductors as Daniel Barenboim , Riccardo Muti, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christian Thielemann , Christoph Eschenbach , Valery Gergiev , Vladimir Jurtowski ,
Carlos Kleiber, Lorin Maazel , and others . No matter harsh the critics may be, the Met audience adores James Levine, and rightly so , as well as its superb , devoted and hard-working orchestra and chorus .