The question of when and how to say farewell to a leader is one that bedevils all kinds of institutions, from Viacom, where the aging chairman Sumner M. Redstone recently stepped down under pressure, to the Denver Broncos, who will soon have to decide whether to ease out their quarterback, Peyton Manning, if he does not retire willingly.
Now the Metropolitan Opera is weighing the future of James Levine, 72, its music director of four decades. Mr. Levine is struggling to hold onto a position that has defined his life — and shaped the company — after continuing health problems have made it difficult for many performers to follow his conducting.
The question of Mr. Levine’s status has exposed tensions at the Met, dividing supporters who would like to see him stay on and members of the company and board who believe it is time for him to relinquish his role. They fear that the lack of a strong musical hand could leave the house adrift as opera struggles for relevance and the Met’s finances remain precarious.
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