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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Seiji Ozawa Leaves Boston For Vienna After 25 Years

VIENNA, Austria -- Seiji Ozawa, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's longtime conductor and music director, will resign in August 2002 to become music director of the Vienna State Opera for at least three years in what he called "the last directorship of my life.''

The formal announcement was made Wednesday in Vienna by State Opera director Ioan Holender at a news conference.

He said that Ozawa is "a real great artist who has no enemies, that's something absolutely unique,'' adding that the conductor will be present at the State Opera for five months per season to conduct one premiere and "at least 25 performances.''

He said Ozawa had agreed to come to Vienna for three years, "perhaps even longer.''

Holender called Ozawa, a familiar presence in Austria because of his guest appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic, "one of the greatest, one of the most musical, one of the most open, one of the most modest conductors of our time, whose highest aspiration is to serve music.''

Ozawa, 63, has led the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1973. He has been the longest-running music director in the orchestra's 117-year history, and one of the longest serving musical director of any major orchestra.

The only previous music director of the Vienna State Opera so far has been Claudio Abbado. He took over that position in 1986 and left for health reasons in 1991. The post has been vacant since, and Holender has been the director for artistic and business management of the house.

"Boston is already my family, and, then, after 25 years, for anybody to say goodbye is very emotional. But it's a wonderful timing of my life, so I'm sure they will understand, and I will keep very close relations with them,'' Ozawa, who flew to Vienna from Germany for the announcement, told reporters.

"I think I will enjoy the last directorship of my life,'' the soft-spoken conductor said. "For me the opera house has a wonderful orchestra, a wonderful chorus and very good music staff and very good singers ... and that is a very happy thing for a conductor.

"I myself am very happy that he [Holender] offered me [the job], but, you know, I'm not a young man,'' he said.

Ozawa is credited with elevating the Boston orchestra and the Tanglewood music festival into world-class ensembles.

In a letter distributed to his colleagues, Ozawa cited a desire to perform more opera as a deciding factor in accepting the job in Vienna, the Boston Herald reported.

"My relationship with the great Boston Symphony Orchestra has and continues to be the most rewarding artistic experience that a musician could ever hope to have. I would never leave the Boston Symphony for another orchestra. However, in my own growth as a musician, I increasingly have come to love the operatic repertoire.''