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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A once-in-a-lifetime experience: Deeper life after cancer treatment for James Levine

James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony Orchestra maestro, said on Friday that his recent brush with cancer brought a glimpse of mortality that will inevitably color his work.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to have your doctor say, 'You have cancer,'" he said. A kidney with a malignant growth was removed on July 15. "It makes one feel…snatched from the jaws. "

He is the music director of both the Met and the Boston Symphony and one of the eminent opera conductors of the age.

He said his surgery brought another layer of meaning to the Verdi Requiem that he conducted at the Met on Thursday. "It had a dimension of significance, richness – the piece and the whole experience – which was clearly related to this one-of-a-kind experience I just had. It was without a doubt a more significant and deep-feeling experience to prepare it now than it was before."

But while "this business about mortality" made everything feel more significant, he did not feel more driven to accomplish new tasks.

"I realize that if I had three lifetimes I could never do everything. Therefore, I feel very grateful for what I've been able to do."

James Levine's Advice: "I must make sure that I bring to bear whatever fresh insights and richness come from that experience."

Read another story on how a famous person has been living well after a cancer diagnosis.

Thanks to Daniel Wakin for the source story in yesterday's New York Times.

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