Conductor Zubin Mehta will not join the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on a U.S. tour that was to be his last here as orchestra leader, a step attributed to Mehta’s health by tour organizers who announced a replacement conductor Friday.
The tour — six stops including concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 3, West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center on Feb. 5 and Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center on Feb. 6 — will continue with Yoel Levi at the podium in Mehta’s place, the organization American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra said in a statement.
The Indian-born and much-traveled Mehta, 82, one of the most celebrated conductors of the 20th Century, had intended the tour as part of a series of farewell concerts around his retirement from the Israel Philharmonic, which named him music director for life in 1981.
Before then, Mehta led orchestras in Montreal, Los Angeles and New York. He counted music luminaries such as Luciano Pavarotti and Ravi Shankar as friends and collaborators, and performances with Mehta were often major events unto themselves. He conducted the first Three Tenors concert, in Rome in 1990, and an emotional performance in the ruins of Sarajevo with the city’s hometown orchestra at the end of the Yugoslav Wars in 1994.
Mehta first announced his retirement plans in 2016. “The unexpected news of Zubin’s cancellation is an unfortunate turn of events, but we are grateful to Yoel for stepping in to conduct what we know will be a very exciting and uplifting U.S. Tour for the IPO,” said David Hirsch, board president of the American Friends organization.