James Levine plans Met Opera return in May

Associated Press—October 12, 2012

James Levine plans to return to the podium at the Metropolitan Opera in May following a two-year absence, conducting from a wheelchair following a fall last year that left him partially paralyzed.

The Met announced Thursday that its music director intends to conduct a concert at Carnegie Hall on May 19 and will lead three productions in the 2013-14 season.

Levine, 69, has not conducted since a televised performance of Wagner’s "Die Walkuere" on May 14, 2011. He canceled his entire schedule for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons following surgery to address spinal stenosis on May 31 and July 20, 2011, and another operation that Sept. 1 after he fell and damaged his dorsal spine No. 4 vertebrae, an injury Dr. Patrick O'Leary said caused "major paralysis."

O'Leary said Levine currently is free of back pain.

"I'm feeling better with each passing day," Levine said in a statement. "It has been a long healing process, but with a team of excellent doctors and the unwavering support of my friends and colleagues, I'm looking forward more than I can say to getting back to work."

O'Leary, a spine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery who operated on Levine, said in a statement that "he is no longer in need of additional surgery, his upper body strength is remarkable, and his prognosis is good."

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