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Biography
Since his June 5, 1971, debut at the Metropolitan Opera with Tosca, Music Director James Levine has developed a relationship with that company that is unparalleled in its history and unique in the musical world today. He conducted the first-ever Met performances of Mozart's Idomeneo and La Clemenza di Tito, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, I Lombardi and Stiffelio, Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Schoenberg's Erwartung and Moses und Aron, Berg's Lulu, Rossini's La Cenerentola and Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini, as well as the world premieres of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles and John Harbison's The Great Gatsby; all told, he has led nearly 2500 performances of 85 different operas there. This season at the Met, he conducts 30 performances of five operas, including Opening Night’s new production of Tosca, the new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann in December, and revivals of Der Rosenkavalier, Simon Boccanegra and Lulu.

Maestro Levine inaugurated the "Metropolitan Opera Presents" television series for PBS in 1977, founded the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program (LYADP) in 1980, returned Wagner's complete Der Ring des Nibelungen to the repertoire in 1989 (in the first integral cycles in 50 years there), and reinstated recitals and concerts with Met artists at the opera house -- a former Metropolitan tradition. Expanding on that tradition, he and the MET Orchestra began touring in concert in 1991, and since then have performed around the world including at Expo '92 in Seville, in Japan, on tours across the United States and Europe, and each year during and after the opera season on its own subscription series at Carnegie Hall; this season his concerts there are in December and January and feature mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and soprano Diana Damrau and music of Elgar, Mahler, Beethoven, Schubert and Richard Strauss. (Maestro Pierre Boulez makes his debut with the MET Orchestra and soprano Deborah Polaski to close the Orchestra’s season in May.) Since 1998, Maestro Levine and the MET Chamber Ensemble have performed annually at Carnegie's Weill and Zankel halls; this season’s Chamber Ensemble performances also take place in December and January with sopranos Judith Bettina and Jo Ellen Miller, mezzo-soprano Kristin Hoff and bass-baritone Evan Hughes in works by Mozart, Strauss, Sessions, Boulez, Babbitt and Carter. He also gives a masterclass for the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Zankel Hall in January and debuts with the Staatskapelle Berlin with Mahler’s Third Symphony in March, as well as playing a special gala fundraising concert there for the imminent restoration of the historic Deutsche Staatsoper (with its Artistic Director, Daniel Barenboim, and Dorothea Röschmann, Waltraud Meier, Matthew Polenzani and René Pape in Brahms’ Liebeslieder-Walzer).

James Levine's sixth season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra opens on September 23, two days after Opening Night at the Metropolitan, and includes Chopin with Evgeny Kissin and the world premiere of John Williams’ “On Willows and Birches” (written for the longtime harpist of the BSO, Ann Hobson Pilot, who is retiring); this program also opens Carnegie Hall’s new season on October 1. He conducts 40 performances of fourteen programs in Boston in 2009-10 (four of which travel to Carnegie), including a Beethoven symphony cycle (the orchestra’s first on subscription concerts in many decades); three commission premieres from Peter Lieberson (“Farewell Songs”), Elliott Carter (Flute Concerto) and John Harbison (Double Concerto); Mendelssohn’s Elijah; a Pension Fund Concert featuring all four Strausses (both Johanns, Josef, and Richard!); and music of Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel, Schubert, Berg, Brahms and Mahler.

In addition to his responsibilities at the Met and the BSO, Mr. Levine is a distinguished pianist and an active and avid recital collaborator, especially in Lieder and song repertoire. He began accompanying such artists as Jennie Tourel, Hans Hotter and Eleanor Steber more than 40 years ago, and since that time has given recitals with most of the great singers of our time. From 1973 to 1993, Levine was Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where in a dozen programs each season he led an immense repertoire of symphonic masterpieces, operas, major works for chorus and orchestra, works for unusual combinations of instruments, one-composer marathons, oratorios, concerti, and performed as piano soloist in concerti, chamber music and song recitals. Outside the United States, his activities have been characterized by his intensive and enduring relationships with Europe's most distinguished musical organizations: the Salzburg (1975-1993) and Bayreuth (1982-1998) festivals, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Berlin Philharmonic. He was Chief Conductor from 1999-2004 of the Munich Philharmonic and has conducted every major orchestra in America and Europe.

James Levine was the first recipient, in 1980, of the annual Manhattan Cultural Award and was presented with the Smetana Medal by the Czechoslovak government in 1986, following performances of the Czech composer’s Má vlast in Vienna. He was the subject of a Time cover story in 1983, was named "Musician of the Year" by Musical America in 1984, and has been featured in a documentary in PBS' "American Masters" series. Maestro Levine holds honorary doctorates from the University of Cincinnati, the New England Conservatory of Music, Northwestern University, the State University of New York and the Juilliard School, and is the recipient in recent years of the Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts from New York's Third Street Music School Settlement; the Gold Medal for Service to Humanity from the National Institute of Social Sciences; the Lotus Award ("for inspiration to young musicians") from Young Concert Artists; the Anton Seidl Award from the Wagner Society of New York; the Goldenes Ehrenzeichen from the cities of Vienna and Salzburg; the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; the Centennial Medal from The Juilliard School; the 2005 Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the 2006 Opera News Award; the first-ever Opera Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (2008); and the National Medal of Arts (1997) and Kennedy Center Honors (2003).

-above from the Metropolitan Opera website

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-below from the Boston Symphony Orchestra website

James Levine made his BSO debut in April 1972 and became music director in the fall of 2004, having been named music director designate in October 2001. His wide-ranging programs balance orchestral, operatic, and choral classics with significant music of the 20th and 21st centuries, including newly commissioned works from such leading American composers as Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Peter Lieberson, Gunther Schuller, and Charles Wuorinen. Mr. Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra made their first European tour together following the 2007 Tanglewood season, performing in the Lucerne Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival (in Hamburg), Essen, Düsseldorf, the Berlin Festival, Paris, and the BBC Proms in London. At Tanglewood in 2008 he was Festival Director for the Elliott Carter Centenary Celebration marking the composer’s 100th-birthday year. In February 2009, Mr. Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra released their first recordings together on the BSO Classics label, all taken from live performances—Ravel’s complete Daphnis et Chloé (which recently won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance of 2009), Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, and William Bolcom’s Eighth Symphony and Lyric Concerto.

James Levine is also Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, where, in the thirty-eight years since his debut there, he has developed a relationship with that company unparalleled in its history and unique in the musical world today. All told at the Met he has led nearly 2,500 performances—more than any other conductor in the company’s history—of 85 different operas, including fifteen company premieres. In 2009-10 at the Met he conducts new productions of Tosca (introduced on Opening Night) and Les Contes d’Hoffmann and revivals of Der Rosenkavalier, Simon Boccanegra, and Lulu, as well as concerts at Carnegie Hall with the MET Orchestra and MET Chamber Ensemble. Also in New York this season, in January at Zankel Hall, he gives a master class for the Marilyn Horne Foundation. In June 2010 the Cincinnati native conducts a new Cincinnati Opera production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for that company’s 90th Anniversary Season.

James Levine has conducted every major orchestra in the United States and Europe. Outside the United States, his activities have been characterized by his intensive and enduring relationships with Europe’s most distinguished musical organizations, especially the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the summer festivals in Salzburg (1975-1993) and Bayreuth (1982-98). He was music director of the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra from its founding in 2000 and, before coming to Boston, was chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic from 1999 to 2004. In the United States he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for twenty summers as music director of the Ravinia Festival (1973-1993) and, concurrently, was music director of the Cincinnati May Festival (1973-1978). Besides his many recordings with the Metropolitan Opera and the MET Orchestra, he has amassed a substantial discography with such leading ensembles as the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic. Over the last thirty years he has made more than 200 recordings of works ranging from Bach to Babbitt. Also a distinguished pianist, Maestro Levine is an active chamber music and recital collaborator, especially in Lieder and song repertoire with the world’s great singers.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 23, 1943, James Levine studied piano from age four and made his debut with the Cincinnati Symphony at ten, as soloist in Mendelssohn’s D minor piano concerto. He was a participant at the Marlboro Festival in 1956 (including piano study with Rudolf Serkin) and at the Aspen Music Festival and School (where he would later teach and conduct) from 1957. In 1961 he entered the Juilliard School, where he studied conducting with Jean Morel and piano with Rosina Lhévinne (continuing on his work with her at Aspen). In 1964 he took part in the Ford Foundation-sponsored “American Conductors Project” with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Alfred Wallenstein, Max Rudolf, and Fausto Cleva. As a direct result of his work there, he was invited by George Szell, who was on the jury, to become an assistant conductor (1964-1970) at the Cleveland Orchestra—at twenty-one, the youngest assistant conductor in that orchestra’s history. During his Cleveland years, he also founded and was music director of the University Circle Orchestra at the Cleveland Institute of Music (1966-72).

James Levine was the first recipient (in 1980) of the annual Manhattan Cultural Award and in 1986 was presented with the Smetana Medal by the Czechoslovak government, following performances of the composer’s Má Vlast in Vienna. He was the subject of a Time cover story in 1983, was named “Musician of the Year” by Musical America in 1984, and has been featured in a documentary in PBS’s “American Masters” series. He has received numerous honorary doctorates and international awards, among them the Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts from New York’s Third Street Music School Settlement; the Gold Medal for Service to Humanity from the National Institute of Social Sciences; the Lotus Award (“for inspiration to young musicians”) from Young Concert Artists; the Anton Seidl Award from the Wagner Society of New York; the Wilhelm Furtwängler Prize from BadenBaden’s Committee for Cultural Advancement; the George Jellinek Award from WQXR in New York; the Goldenes Ehrenzeichen from the cities of Vienna and Salzburg; the Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; America’s National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors; the 2005 Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; a 2006 Opera News Award, the NEA Opera Award from the National Academy of the Arts, and, most recently, in December 2009, the first Bard Award in Vocal Arts from the Bard College Conservatory of Music.
This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 23 Jun 2010
steven - 23 Jun 2010
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