James Levine found himself incapable of conducting last nights Boston Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Mozart’s Requiem. Shi-Yeon Sung, (his assistant conductor) had to step in for him at the last minute, as Levine will have to undergo immediate back surgery, and will be out of commission until early December. A link to the article in the New York Times can be seen here Back Surgery.
This new health issue forming on top of all of the other health problems he has had recently (most notably a cancerous kidney had to be removed, he tore his rotator cuff and had some ongoing hand tremors) are cause for concern. He holds two high profile conducting positions and is the highest paid conductor in the United States, earning over $3 million a year - replacing him would be no easy feat.
Back to the main point here though, stepping in at the last minute like Shi-Yeon Sung did could be a defining moment in her conducting career. Leonard Bernstein did a similar thing while he was the assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic by stepping in for Bruno Walther at the last minute, making headlines around the world, and truly establishing himself as a respectable conductor.
This is not the first time Shi-Yeon Sung has stepped in for Levine, though. Back in 2008 when he was having his kidney operation, she stepped in then too. This, of course, is her job, but maybe if she does well enough in the coming weeks, she too will get the worlds attention.
I expect more articles such as this will be surfacing in the days to come.