Illustrious Conductor James Levine is Back Home at Ravinia for Gala

James Levine has returned to Ravinia for the first time since completing his music directorship in 1993 to prepare the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for the Ravinia Women's Board's 50th Anniversary Gala. On Saturday, July 23, Levine will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his concurrent Ravinia and CSO debuts, by conducting Mahler's Second Symphony, the first piece he ever conducted at Ravinia-on June 24, 1971. Saturday's soloists will be soprano Ying Fang and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill. A large video screen will be erected on the lawn to show the concert in detail.

Considered one of the most important American conductors ever, Levine, 72, has just stepped down from an unprecedented four-decade run as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera and has been named Music Director Emeritus.

A 28-year-old Levine made his simultaneous Ravinia and Chicago Symphony Orchestra debuts as a last-minute substitute for the festival's 1971 gala, and to get the gig, the talented musician offered to rehearse the CSO in Mahler's Second Symphony entirely from memory-without a score. Two years later, in 1973, Ravinia hired him as its Music Director, a post he held for over two decades, during which time his star rose as he elevated Ravinia's reputation. Ravinia Festival has hosted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in its summer residency since 1936.

This summer's is Ravinia's 50th annual Gala Benefit Evening. The annual gala is the only performance fundraiser the not-for-profit Ravinia Festival holds. It is hosted by the Ravinia Women's Board in support of Ravinia and its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs, which serve more than 75,000 people each year. Thectail hour begins at 5 p.m. before a 7 p.m. concert, which will be immediately followed by a black-tie dinner.

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