The MET Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is regarded as one of the world's finest orchestras. From
the time of the company's inception in 1883, the ensemble has worked with leading
conductors in both opera and concert performances and has developed into an orchestra of
enormous technical polish and style. The MET Orchestra (as the ensemble is referred to when
appearing in concert outside the opera house) maintains a demanding schedule of
performances and rehearsals during its 33-week New York season, when the company performs
seven times a week in repertory that this season encompasses 26 operas.
Arturo Toscanini conducted almost 500 performances at the Met, and Gustav Mahler, during
the few years he was in New York, conducted 54 Met performances. More recently, many of the
world's great conductors have led the orchestra: Walter, Beecham, Reiner, Mitropoulos,
Kempe, Szell, Böhm, Solti, Maazel, Bernstein, Mehta, Abbado, Karajan, Dohnányi, Haitink,
Tennstedt, Ozawa, Gergiev, Barenboim, Muti and Rattle. Carlos Kleiber's only US opera
performances were with the MET Orchestra.
In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert
performances. Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with the Met
Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who appeared with the
orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals,
Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moritz Rosenthal, and Fritz Kreisler.
Since the orchestra resumed symphonic concerts in 1991, instrumental soloists have included
Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Alfred Brendel, and Evgeny Kissin, and the group has
performed six world premieres: John Harbison's Closer to My Own Life, Milton
Babbitt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), William Bolcom's Symphony No. 7 (2002), Hsueh-Yung
Shen's Legend (2002), and Charles Wuorinen's
Theologoumenon (2007) and Time Regained (2009).
Music Director James Levine has developed a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera that
is unparalleled in its history and unique in the musical world today. Since his company
debut in 1971, he has led nearly 2,500 performances of 85 operas at the Met both in New
York and on tour. This season at the Met he conducted revivals of Così fan
tutte and Wozzeck, the new production of Falstaff, three
concerts with the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and staged scenes from works by Berlioz,
Donizetti, and Mozart, and Stravinsky's one-act Mavra at Juilliard's Peter
Jay Sharp Theater in a joint project between the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young
Artist Development Program and the Juilliard School.
Maestro Levine inaugurated the Metropolitan Opera Presents television series
for PBS in 1977, founded the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program in 1980, and
returned Wagner's complete Ring to the repertoire in 1989 (in the first integral
cycles in 50 years at the Met). He and the MET Orchestra began touring in concert in 1991,
and since then have performed around the world, including at Expo '92 in Seville, in Japan,
across the United States and Europe, and regularly during and after the opera season here
at Carnegie Hall.
In addition to his responsibilities at the Met, Mr. Levine has been a distinguished
pianist and an active and avid recital collaborator, especially in lieder and song
repertoire. He began accompanying such artists as Jennie Tourel, Hans Hotter, and Eleanor
Steber more than 50 years ago, and since that time has given recitals with most of the
great singers of our time. From 1973 to 1993, he was music director of the Ravinia
Festival, summer home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; became chief conductor from 1999
to 2004 of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra; and music director from 2000 to 2004 of the
Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra. From 2004 to 2011, he was music director of the Boston
Symphony Orchestra. Between 1996 and 2000, he led more than a dozen concerts on the Three
Tenors World Tour, and he was conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the
soundtrack of Disney's Fantasia 2000. He has conducted every major orchestra in
America and Europe. His most recent recording, James Levine: Live at Carnegie
Hall, a live performance CD of his return to the podium last May with the MET
Orchestra and Evgeny Kissin, was released earlier this season.