Levine scheduled but uncertain for 2016-17 Met Opera season

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James Levine is scheduled to conduct 31 performances of four productions at the Metropolitan Opera next season. Whether he actually appears remains uncertain.

“Ultimately, his ability to conduct next season will be determined by how he is physically, and it’s too soon to say,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said in an interview timed for the company’s announcement Wednesday of its 2016-17 schedule.

Levine, who turns 73 in June, has been the Met’s leading force since his debut in 1971 and has been music director or artistic director since 1976. He was sidelined for two years with a spinal injury and before he returned in 2013, conducting from a motorized wheelchair, the Met said he was being treated for a Parkinson’s disease-related disorder.

His baton technique was erratic during performances of “Tannhaeuser” and “Die Fledermaus” this season, and Levine withdrew from a new staging of “Lulu.” Gelb said the Met was prepared to announce Levine’s retirement as music director a few weeks ago, effective at the end of this season, but was awaiting word whether a medication change would lead to improvement.

Levine is scheduled to conduct revivals of Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” starting April 1 and Mozart’s “Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio)” beginning April 22.

“It’s really going to be a question of how rehearsals go,” Gelb said Monday.

Gelb wouldn’t say whether he has spoken with possible successors.

Levine is to lead Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” starting April 13, 2017, in a Robert Carsen staging that appears to be Renee Fleming’s farewell to staged performances of the core opera repertoire.

Levine also is slated to conduct revivals of Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeria (The Italian Girl in Algiers),” Verdi’s “Nabucco” with Placido Domingo in the title role and Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”

Next season features the company premiere of “L’Amour de Loin (Love from Afar)” by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, only the second staged work by a female composer at the Met and the first since Ethel Smyth’s “Der Wald” in 1903.

“I was doubting (for a) long time before daring to take the steps to believe that I could be a composer, because there were not any around me,” Saariaho said from Paris. “We are not used to having woman composers writing large works.”

The only totally new staging next season is Mary Zimmerman’s production of Dvorak’s “Rusalka,” which opens Feb. 2 and stars Kristine Opolais.

Other new-to-the-Met productions include Lepage’s staging of “L’Amour de Loin” (opening Dec. 1); Mariusz Trelinski’s version of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” which starts the season Sept. 26; Pierre Audi’s staging of Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell,” which opens Oct. 18; and Bartlett Sher’s staging of Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette,” which opens Dec. 31.

Willy Decker’s minimalist production of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” which debuted on New Year’s Eve in 2010, will be given 15 performances in its fifth and final season. A Michael Mayer staging will replace it in 2018-19.

The Met also said a new production of Bellini’s “Norma” with Anna Netrebko and Joyce DiDonato will open the 2017-18 season.

Ticket prices will remain the same, $25-$480. The Met sold 69 percent of box office capacity last season, down from 79 percent in 2010-11, and Gelb said this season is slightly behind.

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