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 28 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, and Muti. 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 five world premieres: 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).
The orchestra's high standing led to its first commercial recordings in nearly 20 years:
Wagner's complete Ring cycle, conducted by James Levine. Recorded by Deutsche
Grammophon over a period of three years, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and
Götterdämmerung were winners of an unprecedented three consecutive Grammy
Awards in 1989, 1990, and 1991 for Best Opera Recording. Other recordings under Maestro
Levine include L'Elisir d'amore, Idomeneo, Le Nozze di Figaro,
Der fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Erwartung, Manon
Lescaut, and seven Verdi operas. Maestro Levine has also led the orchestra for
recordings of Wagner overtures, Verdi ballet music, an all-Berg disc with Renée Fleming,
and aria albums with Bryn Terfel, Kathleen Battle, and Ms. Fleming. The orchestra's first
symphonic recordings are pairings of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with
Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps; Beethoven's "Eroica" with Schubert's
"Unfinished" symphonies; and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote and Tod und
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. Next season, he returns to the company to conduct the new production of
Falstaff and revivals of Così fan tutte and Wozzeck.
He also returns to Carnegie Hall for three concerts with the MET Orchestra.
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 has since given recitals with most of the great singers
of our time. He was music director of the Ravinia Festival (summer home to the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra) from 1973 to 1993, chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
from 1999 to 2004, and music director of the Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra from 2000 to
2004. He was also music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2011.
Between 1996 to 2000, Mr. Levine 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.