Metropolitan Opera's James Levine named music director of the Boston Symphony

Monday, October 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The Metropolitan Opera's James Levine will shuttle between New York and Boston when he becomes music director of one of America's most prestigious orchestras _ the Boston Symphony.

The BSO board on Sunday approved a five-year contract for Levine, effective 2004, ending a search for a successor to Seiji Ozawa, whose 29-year tenure made him the BSO's longest-serving music director.

The BSO would not comment on Levine's salary. Forbes magazine has reported that he earned $3 million last year, including salaries at the Met and at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany.

Levine, 58, becomes the 120-year-old orchestra's first American-born music director.

``I have loved the Boston Symphony since I was in my early teens,'' Levine said in a statement. ``It is a magnificent orchestra that is dedicated to making music at the highest level. Its home, Symphony Hall, is simply the best. The city of Boston is unique in it emphasis on education and, culture.''

The contract calls for Levine to lead the orchestra in about 12 weeks of its 23-week subscription season, the BSO said. He also will conduct at least three weeks at Tanglewood Music Center in the Berkshires.

Ozawa is leaving at the end of the 2002 summer season to become music director of the Vienna State Opera. In September 2002, Levine will become the BSO's music director-designate.

Levine will begin his five-year, full-time contract in Boston in 2004 when his tenure as music director of the Munich Philharmonic ends. He is now in his third season conducting that orchestra.

Levine's contract with the Met, meanwhile, was extended two more years, through 2007. The Met, which approved of Levine's appointment to Boston, said he would maintain his 23-week-a-year commitment to conduct at least 50 opera performances. At the end of the 2004 season, his title will be downgraded slightly to music director.

BSO managing director Mark Volpe said leading two major orchestras won't pose problems.

``Most of the elite conductors have more than one appointment, so it's very common,'' he said.

Levine, a Cincinnati native, made his Met debut at age 28 in 1971. He awed classical music audiences as one of the world's most promising young conductors.

He's since conducted almost 2,000 performances of 75 different operas, and launched the ``Metropolitan Opera Presents'' television series on PBS.

Met general manager Joseph Volpe (no relation to the BSO's Mark Volpe) told The Boston Globe he sees ``no downside'' to Levine's appointment to the BSO.

``I've said Jim will be conducting at the Met long after I'm gone,'' Volpe said. ``There is no point in standing in the way of anyone's artistic development. What would the Met stand to gain from that?''