For nearly four decades, James Levine reigned as the great conductor of the New York Metropolitan Opera. An accomplished violinist since childhood, he conducted his first show with the Met in 1971 and was named music director in 1976. Mr. Levine, a mop-headed coachman of minimal body language, turned a highly erratic, pretty good orchestra into a consistently great one. Although the Met’s productions and performers change, audiences could count on consistent, top-notch orchestration when Mr. Levine was at the helm.
Mr. Levine conducted almost 2,500 performances, a record for a Met conductor, until he took a leave of absence due to illness in May 2011. This spring, the man who reaffirmed the Metropolitan Opera’s standing as one of the greatest cultural products of New York and one of the greatest opera companies in the world will return to the rostrum for a series of performances that promise to be spectacular.