Maestro James Levine has been named Conductor Laureate of Ravinia it was announced today.
The title, a first for Ravinia, is “reserved for an exalted musician whose eminent leadership has formed and shaped an institution’s artistic quality over time,” the announcement stated. “For James Levine, [it recognizes] him as one of the most significant conductors in history.”
“The title references many things,” said Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman, “beginning of course with his long tenure with us beginning in the 1970s. Moving forward, he will undertake a 2-week residency here starting in 2018 that will result in two to five performances during that period with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of their annual summer residency.” The five-year appointment includes an evergreen renewal for Levine.
Levine served as Ravinia’s music director from 1973 to 1993. He returned for a concert performance in 2016, marking his return to the festival for the first time in more than two decades.
In addition to his performance and conductor duties, Levine will also conduct master classes at the Ravinia Stean’s Music Institute, which he founded in 1988 with longtime Ravinia executive director Edward Gordon. “This will be an incredible opportunity for the students at Steans,” Kauffman said. “The classes will focus primarily on voice, but perhaps piano and strings as well. We’ll have to see how it shapes up closer to the date.”
“This is a homecoming that few musicians are privileged to experience,” Levine said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Levine returns to Ravinia this summer to conduct the CSO in Haydn’s “Creation,” on Aug. 8. Joining him on the program will be soprano Nadine Sierra, tenor Matthew Polenzani and bass John Relyea. Tickets, $10-$90, are now available at ravinia.org.