Boston Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Sean Newhouse made an unexpected debut on the podium tonight when music director James Levine was unable to conduct as scheduled. BSO managing director Mark Volpe attributed Levine's absence from Symphony Hall to the conductor's ongoing back problems, combined with a viral infection.
An e-mail to The Boston Globe contained the text of Volpe's statement to the audience:
"Although James Levine has been rehearsing with the Orchestra the past two days, he recently had a procedure to address his ongoing back issues. Unfortunately, he is experiencing some ill effects which have been further complicated by a viral infection. Consequently, he is unable to conduct tonight. In Maestro Levine's absence, the BSO's new Assistant Conductor Sean Newhouse will make his debut tonight with the Boston Symphony. Thank you for your understanding."
Levine, who is also the music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, missed a matinee performance there on Saturday, his third missed performance since Jan. 24, according to The New York Times.
Plagued by health problems in recent years, Levine missed 22 concerts, or 60 percent of his scheduled engagements, in the 2009-10 BSO season, as well as all eight of his scheduled Tanglewood performances last summer.
The BSO could not immediately be reached for further comment.