For the first time in almost 25 years, conductor James Levine will return next season to the Ravinia Festival, where he was music director from 1973-1993. To celebrate the 45th anniversary of his Ravinia debut, Levine will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 on July 23, 2016, for the festival’s annual gala concert.
In a statement, Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman said, “We chose today, June 24, as the date to announce this most eagerly awaited homecoming because it was on this date in 1971 that a 28-year-old James Levine first stood in front of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Levine is one of the busiest, most sought-after artists in the world, and his return to us is truly a special occasion, a true welcome-home celebration, especially for the Ravinia family members who witnessed his rise.”
Now music director of the Metropolitan Opera, Levine made his Ravinia debut as a last-minute replacement for an ailing István Kertész, then the festival’s music director, in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. (Kertész was to replace the originally scheduled Eugene Ormandy.) During his term as Ravinia’s music director, Levine programmed an array of symphonic, chamber and operatic works; performed as an acclaimed concert pianist in recitals, and introduced many rising artists. He left Ravinia in 1993 to concentrate on leading a new Ring cycle that would open at Bayreuth the following summer.
As was the case for his 1971 debut, Levine’s 2016 appearance will be for the festival’s annual fund-raising gala, presented by the Ravinia Women’s Board. Ticket information will be released at a later date, with tickets on sale in April.
MORE: James Levine was the subject of one of the last interviews by CBS correspondent Bob Simon, who died in a car accident earlier this year. To watch the segment, click here.