Opera to Orchestra Commute

Boston Symphony Orchestra audiences will have a chance to see their next music director February 21 through 23, when James Levine is scheduled to guest conduct. Levine was tapped in late October as the successor to Seiji Ozawa beginning with the 2004-05 season. He assumes the title of music director designate this September.

The news means that Levine will keep a busy New York-Boston commuting schedule, as he will also retain the music directorship of the Metropolitan Opera. The 58-year-old Levine's contract with the Met runs through 2008. His Met association stretches back 30 years, a tenure that includes establishment of the Young Artist Development Program and emergence of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as a respected ensemble with its own concert schedule.

However, Levine has indicated he will cut back guest-conducting appearances and is not expected to renew his contract as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic when it expires in 2004. The BSO music directorship also includes the orchestra's Tanglewood season. The Cincinnati-born Levine becomes the first American to lead the BSO in its 121-year history, inheriting the post from the orchestra's longest-tenured music director. Ozawa will leave the BSO at the end of this season after 29 years.

Rumors that Levine was negotiating with the BSO had circulated for several months prior to the official announcement, with insiders speculating that Levine was angling for a contract that would allow him to continue a full schedule at the Met. Maybe he was just waiting for Amtrak's new high-speed Acela train to begin regular service between New York and Boston.