Levine returns to the Met in triumph

James Levine

Conductor James Levine performs an all-Brahms program with Pianist Daniel Barenboim (not in photo) for the CSO pension fund at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Anthony Robert La Penna / Chicago Tribune / May 24, 2005)

After an absence of two full seasons, music director James Levine returned to the podium at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time Tuesday night and by all accounts scored a triumph.

The former Ravinia music director, 70, had been missing in action because of a series of debilitating injuries and illnesses that forced him to step down as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2011.

On Tuesday, seated in a custom-designed, motorized wheelchair, Levine conducted the Met’s second performance of the season, Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte,” long a favorite of the conductor. According to the Associated Press, “He led his beloved musicians like a man rejuvenated…His energy seemed never to flag throughout the long evening.”

Levine’s return marked what officials say was the 2,442nd performance he has led at the Met during an unprecedented tenure of more than 40 years there. He also held the title of Met artistic director before his BSO appointment took effect in 2001. He is credited with having built the Met orchestra into what some consider the finest opera orchestra in the world.

This season at the Met, Levine is scheduled to conduct a total of 24 performances of “Cosi,” Verdi’s “Falstaff” and Berg’s “Wozzeck.”