Twenty-five years after he stepped down as music director, James Levine will return to the Ravinia Festival as conductor laureate in the 2018 season, announced Welz Kauffman, Ravinia president and CEO, in a statement released April 12.
Currently music director emeritus of the Metropolitan Opera, Levine served as Ravinia’s music director from 1973 to 1993. As guest conductor, he led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Ravinia concerts last season and will do so again in 2017, when conducts the CSO and Chicago Symphony Chorus in Haydn’s The Creation on Aug. 8. In his new role, which he assumes in 2018, Levine will conduct multiple programs during a two-week annual residency, as part of the CSO’s six-week summer residency.
“Ravinia commands the ideal resources, a superb orchestra and chorus in a welcoming environment, for live audiences to experience music’s rich and varied masterworks,” Levine said in a statement. “I look forward to sharing this music and my lifelong love for it with Ravinia audiences over the next several summers.” His appointment runs through 2022, with an evergreen renewal provision.
Along with conducting CSO concerts, Levine will lead master classes at the festival’s professional conservatory, the Steans Music Institute, which he established with Edward Gordon, longtime Ravinia executive director, in 1988.
“Every presenter strives to share the world’s greatest artists with their audiences, and this historic appointment is prime proof of Ravinia’s devotion to the music, the listeners, and to the man himself,” Kauffman said. “Ravinia’s love of Levine has shone brightly for decades, and we’re thrilled that this exciting new Levine residency demonstrates that the feeling is mutual.”
In 1971, Levine made his Ravinia debut as a last-minute replacement, and was such a success that he was appointed as the festival’s second music director just months later.
Levine, who made his downtown CSO debut in November, said, “This is a homecoming that few musicians are privileged to experience. It’s an exciting amalgamation of history and my future, and how proud I am to feel at home in front of one of the world’s finest ensembles in one of the world’s most charming and inviting venues.”
TOP: James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia’s 2016 gala. | Photo: Patrick Gipson/Ravinia