BOSTON (AP) – James Levine returned to podium in healthy form for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s gala opening night performance at Symphony Hall, after taking several weeks off following surgery for kidney cancer.

During a dress rehearsal Wednesday at historic Symphony Hall, Levine said he felt great and was even more thrilled than usual to be back.

“I’m feeling very well and I was a very lucky boy,” Levine said at a news conference following the rehearsal.

Levine, who was forced to miss much of the BSO’s Tanglewood season this summer after having a kidney removed in July, said he had “smart doctors” who caught the cancer early. The BSO has said he will need no further treatment for the early-stage tumor.

“In the end, I felt just very, very lucky,” Levine said.

Levine offered the musicians his critiques during the rehearsal ending one piece by saying, “the blend, the shape, wonderful.”

As the rehearsal drew to a close, several members of the orchestra stopped by the maestro’s podium to chat with him before he exited through a stage door.

Levine led the BSO Wednesday night in an all-Russian performance, including the “Letter Scene” from the Tchaikovsky opera “Eugene Onegin,” featuring Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” by Mussorgsky, and Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila.”

The 65-year-old Levine is also music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he has already conducted this season. He led a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem Mass” at the Met to honor the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti last week, and a segment of the opera’s opening gala Monday night.


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