Born in Cincinatti, Ohio
, Levine studied the piano
as a child, and proved himself to be quite the prodigy
- he made his debut with the Cincinatti Symphony
at the young age of 10. In 1963, he became the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra
James Levine is currently the principal conductor (attained in 1973), music director (attained in 1976) and artistic director (attained in 1986) of New York's Metropolitan Opera. His leadership has turned this opera into one of the most highly regarded and recognized instruments in today's music world. Truly, it has undergone a renaissance under his almost-30-year reign there. Notably, the position of artistic director was created specifically for Levine to fill, in recognition of his vision and skill.
Unusually, for a man as busy as Levine is, he spends over 7 months each year with the Met, despite other responsibilities. His level of devotion is reflected in the high quality of the Met's work, and their prodigious output. Indeed, this season, Levine will be presenting a new production of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" - which has been absent from this venue for 25 years.
Over the years, Levine has led the Met to many international venues, such as Seville's Expo '92, the 1200th anniversary of Frankfurt, and Japan.
Outside the Metropolitan, Levine also performs with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and maintains his long-standing association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He appears regularly with the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In 1999, he became the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, after a two-year position as guest conductor.
Notably, Levine is the first recipient of New York City's annual cultural award. He has also received the distinction of being named "Musician of the Year" and has been the subject of a cover story in Time Magazine.
While his prodigiousness as a conductor is astounding, Levine still finds time to remain a pianist himself, and is not afraid to to work at an individual or ensemble level with his orchestra. His creativity and adventurousness in programming have brought everything from Gerswhin to John Cage to the Metropolitan, and his enthusiasm for high-quality, challenging performances continues unabated.