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Japan's Ozawa vows to weave musical spell as long as health holds

Japan's maestro Seiji Ozawa speaks during a news conference in Tokyo December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino
Japan's maestro Seiji Ozawa speaks during a news conference in Tokyo December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

By Junko Fujita

TOKYO (Reuters) - Seiji Ozawa, one of the world's most famous music conductors, said on Thursday he intended to keep going for years to come, despite frustration that recent ill-health has prevented him from being as active as he used to be.

Ozawa, 78, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2010, which was followed by lower back surgery in January 2011, and has since concentrated his activities in Japan.

"I will continue doing everything I have always done - teaching and conducting orchestra until I die," Ozawa, former director of the Vienna State Opera, told Reuters.

His most recent major appearance was in September, when he conducted the Ravel opera, "The Child and the Spells" at the Saito Kinen Festival in the central Japanese city of Matsumoto.

Ozawa, who plans to go skiing later this month near his house in the mountains, will conduct Mozart's opera, "The Marriage of Figaro", in four cities in Japan in March.

"Of Mozart's three biggest operas, the music in "The Marriage of Figaro" is the easiest to understand, and that's why we chose it," said Ozawa, with his trademark flowing grey hair and wearing a black jacket and Boston Red Sox tie.

A former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ozawa participated in a video in October featuring that group and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra before the first game of the World Series between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ozawa happened to be in Boston at the time and watched all the baseball games at Fenway Park, home field for the Red Sox, who won their third World Series since 2004.

He said his team had not won during the nearly three decades he lived in Boston.

The "Figaro" production, for the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy Opera Project, will be directed by long-time Ozawa collaborator David Kneuss, and partly conducted by conductor and pianist Ted Taylor.

(Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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