Conductor James Levine Returns to Ravinia for First Time in Over Two Decades

James Levine will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his Ravinia debut by returning to the festival for the first time since completing his music directorship in 1993.

On July 23, 2016, Levine will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Mahler’s Second Symphony, the first piece he conducted at Ravinia on June 24, 1971.

“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,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman. “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.”

27-year-old James Levine rehearses Mahler 2 for his Ravinia debut June 24, 1971. Photo courtesy of Ravinia Festival (PRNewsFoto/Ravinia Festival)

Levine made his Ravinia debut as a last-minute replacement, fresh from his Cleveland Orchestra apprenticeship. Two years later, in 1973, he was named Ravinia’s music director. Over his tenure, he presented an array of symphonic, chamber and operatic programs; exhibited his talents as an acclaimed concert pianist in recitals; and introduced new artists to Ravinia. Levine left Ravinia in 1993 to create his first “Ring” cycle at Bayreuth and to further focus on his leadership of the Metropolitan Opera.

As was his 1971 debut, Levine’s 2016 concert will be Ravinia’s annual Gala Benefit Evening. The Ravinia Women’s Board hosts the gala as the only concert fundraiser supporting the not-for-profit festival and its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.