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Japan maestro Ozawa to make comeback in August

Maestro Seiji Ozawa conducts the Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-juku orchestra during a rehearsal at the National Theatre in Beijing April 15, 2009. REU
Maestro Seiji Ozawa conducts the Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-juku orchestra during a rehearsal at the National Theatre in Beijing April 15, 2009. REU

TOKYO (Reuters) - Seiji Ozawa, Japan's most famous conductor, is set to make a comeback in August at a music festival after taking more than a year off to recover from a spell of bad health that included bouts of pneumonia.

The former Vienna State Opera music director, 77, who before that was conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2010 and completed treatment later that year.

Last March, he announced he would take a year-long break from conducting to recover his strength after a number of health issues but vowed to return to performing.

Ozawa is set to conduct Maurice Ravel's opera "The Child and the Spells" at the Saito Kinen Festival in the city of Matsumoto, central Japan, in late August, said an official at the festival office.

"Maestro Ozawa said last March that he was taking a year off, and that year is almost up," the official said, noting that it's hard to know if the performance will truly mark Ozawa's comeback since the performance date is so far away.

"It just so happens that this coincides with the announcement of the festival program. He may well have other performances planned before then that we just don't know about."

Ozawa underwent endoscopic lower back surgery in January 2011 and took a six-month break from conducting at that time. This was followed by the announcement last March of a more extended break.

Ozawa was one of the first Asian classical musicians widely recognized abroad and has strived to revitalize the classical music scene in his native country by founding the Saito Kinen orchestra, named after his former music teacher.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)

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