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Star conductor follows wife from Met's ill-fated 'Tosca'

© AFP/File | Andris Nelsons (R), pictured in August 2015, is the third high-profile departure from the New York Metropolitan Opera's upcoming production of "Tosca"

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

Star conductor Andris Nelsons on Monday followed his soprano wife Kristine Opolais in leaving the Metropolitan Opera's upcoming "Tosca," in the latest shakeup for a closely watched production.

The New York opera house said in a statement that Nelsons had "withdrawn" from the new take on the Puccini classic that will premiere on New Year's Eve, without further explanation.

He will be replaced by another major conductor -- James Levine, who stepped down last year amid health problems after four decades as the music director of the Metropolitan Opera.

Nelsons, a 38-year-old Latvian, is a rising star of classical music who was named the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2013. He will simultaneously take charge of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Germany starting next season.

With Nelsons already juggling a busy schedule, speculation had grown that he would leave the production after his wife pulled out last month from the title role in "Tosca."

Opolais has also been a rising name but has recently faced mixed reviews, with some critics hearing a thinning of her voice.

The couple's departure was only the latest blow to the "Tosca" production. It was set to star Jonas Kaufmann, one of the most famous stars of opera, but the German tenor withdrew in March citing a desire to spend more time with family.

The latest "Tosca" -- one of the most popular works of opera -- is a new version by Scottish director David McVicar. The Met has promised that it will restore some of the grandeur of the Met's longtime production designed by Italian legend Franco Zeffirelli.

The Met in 2009 modernized "Tosca" with a new production by Swiss director Luc Bondy, who stripped back the ornate staging for a bare-bones look. The audience reaction was hostile, with booing on opening night.

In a twist, Nelsons had his debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2011 when he stepped in for the ill Levine.

© 2017 AFP