The American conductor Ira Levin has been named as the principal guest conductor of the Sofia Opera, beginning in the 2017-18 season. Levin has already conducted on the Sofia stage Verdi’s Requiem in April 2017, and on 1 October, at 16 h, he will open the new season with the newest production of Bulgarian first opera theatre. With the Sofia ensemble and orchestra, he will conduct Wagner’s complete “Ring of the Nibelung” tetralogy in May, 2018 at the legendary Bolschoi Theater in Moscow – the first performances of the “Ring” there for over a century, followed by the entire cycle in Sofia in July. He will conduct also “Don Carlos”, “Werther”, “Un ballo in Maschera” and concerts.
Ira Levin has conducted over 1000 operatic performances and his repertoire encompasses 70 different titles. His symphonic repertoire includes most of the standard repertoire as well as many lesser-known works. He has worked with innumerable internationally renowned conductors, instrumentalists, singers and stage directors and is also an active concert pianist and composer/arranger. He conducted a double-bill of Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” and Busoni’s “Arlecchino” in the 100th anniversary season of the Theatro Sao Pedro in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in August 2017.
His hugely successful US operatic debut took place in April 2017 at Lincoln Center, conducting Respighi’s brilliant and rarely heard La campana sommersa in the first season of the newly re-organized New York City Opera. He received unanimously positive reviews from all of the leading papers and musical journals. He debut at the illustrious Théâtre de Geneve in November 2016 with Marschner’s Der Vampyr, was likewise received with great popular and critical acclaim. He also conducted several performances of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande.
Ira Levin was the Principal Guest Conductor of the legendary Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires from 2011-15, where he conducted 12 major opera productions, among which new productions of Aleko, Francesca da Rimini, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Un Ballo in Maschera, Idomeneo, Madama Butterfly, Werther, Don Carlos, including the American premieres of Enescu’s Oedipe and Glanert’s Caligula, and several symphonic programs. He previously served as Music Director and Artistic Director of the Teatro Municipal in Sao Paulo (2002-2005) and of the National Theater of Brazil, in Brasilia (2007-2010), bringing both international acclaim. He introduced several important works by Mahler, Janacek, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Busoni, Enescu, Schoenberg, Schnittke, Corigliano and many others to Brazil. He held posts as assistant conductor at the Frankfurt Opera (1985-88), principal conductor of the Bremen Opera (1988-1996) and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf-Duisburg (1996-2002) and as the principal guest conductor of the Kassel Opera (1994-1998). He has performed with many orchestras and at opera houses throughout the world including the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, the Frankfurt Museum Orchestra, the Düsseldorfer Symphony, the Duisburg Philharmonic, the Hannover State Orchestra of Lower Saxony, the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, the Badische Staatskapelle of Karlsruhe, the Bremen Philharmonic, the Dublin Opera, the Montpellier Opera, the Norske Opera in Oslo, the Norrlands Opera in Umea, Sweden, the Cape Town Opera, the National Portuguese Symphony Orchestra in Lisbon, the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and all of the major orchestras in Brazil.
Ira Levin gave his highly successful debut in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall in November 2013 with the Berlin Symphony, conducting his orchestration of Busoni’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony as well as playing a Mozart piano concerto. His two CDs with the London Symphony of works by American composer Michael Colina on the Fleur deSon/Naxos label were received with glowing reviews and his 2014 recording of Colina’s Requiem, “Requinauts”, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus was released on the same label at the end of 2014, also to critical acclaim. His recording of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony with the Symphony Orchestra of Norrlands Opera, the first since 1952, will be followed by the release in 2017 of the world premiere recording of the 1892 edition of the Second Symphony with the same forces.
His 2010 orchestration of Busoni’s monumental Fantasia Contrappuntistica was included on the program of his extremely successful debut as conductor, pianist and arranger in Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall in November of 2013 with the Berlin Symphony. An orchestration of Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on the theme BACH followed in 2011. These works have been performed in Germany, Finland, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. His 2012 orchestration of Franck’s Piano Quintet had it’s successful world premiere with the Helsinki Philharmonic under the direction of Leif Segerstam in October, 2014. His 2014 orchestrations of five Rachmaninoff works were successfully performed by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Porto Alegre Symphony and the orchestra of the SODRE, Montevideo and his 2015 orchestration of Reger’s piano masterpiece, the Variations and Fugue on a theme by J.S. Bach, received it’s successful world premiere in Turku, Finland in February 2016, also under the direction of Leif Segerstam. Ira Levin conducted it and other works by Reger with the Brandenburg State Orchestra for a new multi-DVD documentary by “Fugue State Films” in honor of the 2016 centenary of Reger’s death, which was released in March 2017 and also performed it with the Malaga Philharmonic in October of 2016. All of these works have been published by “Edition Tilli” of Finland. His new orchestration of Respighi’s violin and piano sonata in b-minor was published in February 2017 by Tilli as “Concerto in b-minor”.
“Edition Tilli” completed publishing in 2016 the large series of his transcriptions for piano solo of works by Bach, Gluck, Schubert, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Villa-Lobos and cadenzas to several Mozart concertos. Levin’s recordings of many his piano works can now be heard on You Tube, along with the scores. An accomplished pianist, Ira Levin was the first-prize winner of the American National Chopin Competition in 1980. He studied for eight years with the legendary Jorge Bolet at the Curtis Institute, later becoming his assistant, while also studying conducting with Max Rudolf. He has performed throughout the United States, South America, and Europe and continues to appear in recital and concert, often leading concertos from the keyboard as well, including works by Mozart, Weber, Bach and even Brahms’s second concerto, which he conducted and played after a major soloist cancelled on short notice.