The Metropolitan Opera announced yesterday that it has appointed Fabio Luisi as its principal guest conductor, beginning at the start of the 2010-2011 season. The post was held for much of the last decade by Valery Gergiev.
The Italian-born Luisi, who is now chief conductor of the Vienna Symphony and until recently led the Dresden State Opera and the Dresden Staatskapelle Orchestra, has had a significant presence at the Met already this year, leading performances of "Elektra," "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Tosca." He will also fill in for Levine shortly in performances of Berg's "Lulu."
The Met's general manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times that this was not about grooming a successor for music director James Levine, whose medical ailments have forced him to miss large portions of the current season both at Met and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Still, Levine himself commented to the Times that Luisi's presence fosters a "much more secure feeling for everybody" in case additional absences are required.
Levine is currently recuperating from his most recent back surgery. The conductor is still officially scheduled to lead an opening night performance of Mahler's Second Symphony at Tanglewood on July 9. Asked for an update on the orchestra's contingency planning, a BSO spokeswoman sent a comment from the orchestra's managing director, Mark Volpe:
"Since James Levine's surgery took place less than two weeks ago, it's too soon to know what changes might be necessary to the 2010 Tanglewood schedule or at any point thereafter," Volpe said. "Though we've had preliminary discussions with Jim about his BSO schedule, our current plan is to sit down with him in the next few weeks to determine what his participation at Tanglewood will be, or whether he will need the summer for further recuperation from his recent back surgery. We plan on having an announcement concerning any updates to the Tanglewood schedule in early June. In terms of any other contingency plans down the road, it's premature to address anything beyond Tanglewood until we have an accurate read on Jim's health situation after he's had a chance to recover more fully from his surgery."