Entertainment & Arts

Met Opera director James Levine to retire after 40 years

James Levine Image copyright Marty Sohl/Met Opera
Image caption Music director James Levine leading the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2013

James Levine, the music director at New York's Metropolitan Opera for 40 years, is to retire for health reasons.

Levine, 72, will step down in May at the end of the current 2015-16 season.

The Met said Levine had in recent years "struggled with the effects of Parkinson's disease, making it increasingly difficult for him to conduct a full schedule of Met performances".

A successor will be announced in "a couple of months".

Levine, who has conducted more than 2,500 performances at the Met, will become music director emeritus and continue to oversee its programme to nurture young talent.

He made his Met debut in June 1971 in Puccini's Tosca and became principal conductor in the 1973-74 season, and music director in 1976-77.

He conducted 85 different operas and also worked with the Three Tenors - Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo.

Levine's struggles with Parkinson's disease and other health issues saw him take two years off in 2011, after which he conducted from a motorised wheelchair.

"I am tremendously proud of all we have been able to achieve together as a company, from expanding the repertory to include new and seldom-heard works, to the development of the orchestra and chorus into one of the glories of the musical world," Levine said.

"Although I am unable to spend as much time on the podium as I would like, I am pleased to step into my new role and maintain my profound artistic ties to the Met."

Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said: "There is no conductor in the history of opera who has accomplished what Jim has achieved in his epic career at the Met.

"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."

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