A press release from the Metropolitan Opera reveals that James Levine has withdrawn from all Met engagements through the end of the season, and that he will make no commitments in the 2012-13 season. "While his condition has greatly improved in recent months," the release says, "it is uncertain exactly when he will be fully recovered and able to return to conducting." Whether Levine will really be able to carry on as music director, as his affecting but ultimately baffling statement suggests, remains to be seen. Fabio Luisi will take over Wagner's Ring in April and May, two performances excepted.
Levine's statement in full:
Early last summer I had to undergo three back surgeries to address a condition known as stenosis, from which I was suffering a great deal of pain. The issue has been successfully resolved, and I am no longer in any pain. But at the end of August, just a week before I was to begin rehearsing at the Met, I fell and injured my spinal cord, which required emergency surgery. Fortunately none of the earlier surgeries were compromised. Since then I have been in the hospital on a regimen of rehabilitation and intense physical therapy. After three months, I will finally return home at the beginning of next week but will continue the rehab and therapy as an out-patient.
Spinal cord injuries are well-known for taking a long time to heal. No two people recover at the same rate and the rehab typically is over a long period. Although my doctors and therapists have been very pleased with my progress, and I see the positive results, I am frustrated that I am not yet approaching a complete recovery. However, based on my progress during the initial phase of recovery, my doctors and therapists feel that, given time and continued therapy, the prognosis is excellent.
Since the Met must plan its seasons far in advance, I am now in the position of having to predict when I will again be ready to conduct. I have met at length with Peter Gelb and other members of the Met family to discuss this. We have come to the conclusion that it would be profoundly unfair to the public and the Met company to announce a conducting schedule for me that may have to be altered at a later date. I do not want to risk having to withdraw from performances after the season has been announced and tickets sold.
With that in mind, I have reluctantly decided not to schedule performances until I am certain I can fulfill such obligations. The Met’s 2012-13 season needs to be finalized, and the best conductors available must be contracted now. As my condition improves, I feel confident I will be ready to conduct again soon, but I cannot risk a premature announcement. It is disappointing to come to this conclusion, but I know it is the right one.
On a more positive note, I look forward to resuming my other responsibilities as Music Director. I will continue to collaborate with Peter Gelb on long-term artistic plans, work with the artistic administration on future planning, coach singers, and work with the participants in the Lindemann Young Artist Development program.
I am particularly grateful to Fabio Luisi and the other conductors who have taken over my duties, often on short notice, and I am delighted that Fabio is now a more permanent part of the Met team in the important role of Principal Conductor.