New York's Met loses James Levine to back injury

NEW YORK (Reuters) - James Levine, the music director for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will be unable to conduct performances for the rest of the year because of a back injury, the organization said on Tuesday.

Levine fell and injured himself while on vacation in Vermont last week, according to the opera house.

As a result, Italian conductor Fabio Luisi has been named the Met's principal conductor, and he has canceled performances with the Rome Opera, the Genoa Opera, the Vienna Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony to accommodate his new role at the Met.

Luisi, who last year was named principal guest conductor for the Met, will conduct performances of "Don Giovanni," which premiers on October 13, and "Siegfried," on October 27, as well as the MET Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall on October 16.

"While Jim's latest setback is hugely disappointing for all of us, he joins me in welcoming Fabio's larger role," Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said in a statement.

Luisi is slated to conduct the first five performances of "Don Giovanni" and two performances of "Siegfried." Louis Langree will conduct the last four shows of "Don Giovanni" and Derrick Inouye will conduct "Siegfried" on November 1.

Levine, who had his debut with the Met in 1971, was due to begin orchestra rehearsals for the new season on Tuesday. He was recuperating from another back surgery when he suffered his latest fall, and he underwent emergency surgery in New York on Thursday, the Met said.

Levine will continue to hold his position as music director while he recuperates, the Met said.

He plans to return to the Met in January for the new production of Richard Wagner's "Gotterdammerung."

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis)