Two gala performances in four days

Complete Wagner

“Countless bravos and stormy ovations concluded the performance of Wagners Tristan and Isolde…The real star of the evening was the Staatskapelle, giving the performance such urgent passion, such indomitable lust and magic glorification and thus gave the work it’s true breath of life. Ira Levin conducted this performance at very short notice replacing Semyon Bychkov and did so without rehearsals. This speaks for his sovereignty and strong nerves. The performance expressly underlined his high artistic level. Bravo!! (Saechsische Zeitung, March 10, 2002)

An opulent performance takes flight

There is no doubt that this “Die Frau ohne Schatten” has been the most sumptuous performance of this year’s Opera Festival in Dresden…  Ira Levin, who replaced Marc Albrecht, was in full control of the orchestra..these were four and a half hours of great opera where time flew by… (Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, March 25, 2002)


“The Symphonic Metamorphoses on a Theme by Weber is pure Hindemith with very stressed rhythms, angular melodies, brilliant orchestral writing and virtuoso exploration of the solo instruments. Ira Levin took advantage of all these qualities last Monday night conducting the Municipal Symphony Orchestra. It was a colorful rendering with rather lively tempi…As a soloist and conductor of Mozart’s piano concerto nº 22 in E flat major K 482, Levin proved to be a competent pianist with a clear technique and elegant approach which was nothing but confirmed in one of Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas he offered as an encore…in the concerto’s extroverted final Rondo the pianist easily overcame all the virtuoso demands…which was also the case in the execution, as another encore, of  Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody # 12 ….” (O Estaao de São Paulo, July 23, 2002)


“Macbeth’s music (the main reason to justify an opera) was brilliantly projected, on the highest possible level, by Maestro Levin’s competent hands. From the very first chords of the prelude one could notice that the musical choices made by this extraordinary conductor aimed at establishing the tragic atmosphere of the work, stylistically in the best tradition of Toscanini and de Sabata. Also in the fundamental scene of Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking Levin’s decision of slowing down the urgency of the musical narrative and emphasizing the remarkable dramatic ethos was of utmost correctness…”

(, July 24, 2002)


 “…With Samson and Dalila, Ira levin has given his most balanced performance as an opera conductor yet. Leading the São Paulo Municipal Orchestra, whose execution was admirably consistent, he demonstrated considerable affinity with French musical composition, especially in regards to textural transparency. His direction was just as effective in delicate passages – such as Dalila’s entrance in the first act – as it was in the more dramatic ones.

The entire second act finale, for instance, was filled with electricity.There were moments of particularly effective utilization of the orchestra – the passage from the first to the second scene of the third act was one such example –

and the players were fittingly unbridled in interpreting the kitsch pages of the Baccanale which is, after all, a bravura showpiece for them (this was in addition the only moment prompting the audience, certainly rather unaccustomed to hearing this rarely performed work, to interrupt the proceedings with applause). All in all, for these festivities honoring the 91st anniversary of the Municipal Theater, Levin led a performance on a very high level.”

(O Estado de São Paulo, September 19, 2002)

MAHLER  Symphony #6

Municipal Orchestra in a Great Phase

“It is bliss to realize that after a crisis period the Municipal Orchestra is recovering the shape of its best days. After a period of initial adjustments, Ira Levin has found a voice to his orchestra with a particular sonority and personality. It is not fair to concentrate our review on small details of last Monday’s concert. From the perspective of the ensemble playing it was a satisfactory rendering of a work as difficult as Gustav Mahler’s Symphony in A minor. The performance had some memorable moments: for instance, the central episode of the Allegro energico ma non troppo with its pastoral character in which the cowbells assume a fundamental role. Or the coda of that same movement built over the so-called “Alma Theme” (the composer’s wife) excitedly played by OSM. Levin knew how to stress the harsh mood of the Scherzo with its reminiscence from Revelge, one of the most tragic songs from the cycle “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”. In so doing, he enabled the necessary contrast preparing the best moment of the concert: the Andante with its discreet but intense lyricism (which can be put side by side by with the famous Adagietto from Symphony #5) played by the orchestra in a very noble way. The final Allegro moderato (an expanded sonata-form comprising three different themes linked by melodic ties) is complexly written due to the extent of its rhythmic flexibility and the need of binding all the fragmentary thematic materials. In this movement Levin was also very successful in balancing all of the light and shadow elements.The very end of this great arc formed by the four movements was particularly moving. The way the pizzicato in the strings put an end to this furious fight against the inexorable destiny was the conclusion of a sensitive and mature performance of one of the most important and difficult symphonic works of the twentieth century” (O Estado de São Paulo, October 08, 2003)


A Very Good Mozart Performance

“Controlling all the events was Ira Levin who displayed the exact feeling to conduct Mozart. He favored fast tempi that are in fact demanded by such a long opera… In the Cherubino arias, for instance, Mr. Levin took great advantage of the tempo in order to suggest the emotions of an adolescent who is discovering love. Nevertheless, he knew exactly when to opt for more moderate speeds, for example in the Contessa’s aria.

He was also very successful in balancing the orchestral volume with the stage…The Municipal Orchestra has shown a considerable evolution and it’s participation in this opera was decisive in making this ensemble work truly worthwhile to attend.” (O Estado de São Paulo,October 28, 2002)


The Opening Concert of 2003 showed an orchestra in a favorable phase of renewal

“…the impression that the São Paulo Municipal Orchestra is  experiencing a rich renewing phase was fully confirmed during the opening concert of the season.  Proof for this statement is the way  the orchestra faced the very demanding program, from Don Juan (the first great tone-poem by Richard Strauss) to The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky’s threshold to the modernism of the 20th century. The ability of Ira Levin to balance both epical and lyrical dimensions in Don Juan  was clear from the very beginning of the Allegro com brio. It was a very well finished rendering with some highly convincing moments (such as the  introduction of the second main theme in the horns). The restatement, which leads to the coda, was also very expressive, with its echoes in the brass and dying chords which end the work. Mr. Levin will conduct a Salomé staging in the present year and demonstrated complete command of the language and  poetry of Richard Strauss. With its wildness and primitive accents full of paganism, The Rite of Spring is able to provoke the same impact it had in 1913 in an audience of the 21st century. It definitively is a  survival test for any group and the Municipal Orchestra proved to be  ready to defy the obstacles of  this kind of repertoire. Commandingly led by Ira Levin, the orchestra offered an exciting performance of this essential masterwork of the 20th century followed by the enthusiasm of the enormous audience which filled the Municipal Theater last Sunday morning.”

(O Estado de São Paulo, March 21, 2003)


“Balance and fluency are the words that describe best the Falstaff production premiered last Wednesday at Theatro Municipal…Its clearly perceptible how carefully the musical direction by Ira Levin succeeded in integrating all the aspects of this opera made of multiple details…like the work of a clockmaker, synchronizing all the many instruments which played very well within the complex subtle declamation of unexpected beauty. The ensemble result was very good and it was the first opportunity for many people to attend a performance of this prodigious opera live, with our own singers who performed with all the respect and care demanded by the score. Mr. Levin showed a great sense of dramatic pace” (O Estado de Sao Paulo, May 29, 2003)

“The Municipal Orchestra, under the firm and detailed baton of Ira Levin, respected all of Verdi’s many score indications and offered a solid basis to the development of the action. In the pit, as on the stage, the conducting was perfect in rhythm and development, giving a light and enchanting pace to the performance. The great ensemble at the end of the opera will be remembered as a souvenir of the magnificent production which was a lesson of how an opera must be done whether in Europe, America or Brazil.” (, May 24, 2003)

SHOSTAKOVICH   Symphony #4

 An excellent concert

“Ira Levin made the Municipal Orchestra face this disturbing work, Shostakovich’s Symphony # 4, in a surpassingly persuasive way…All the ambiguity of the artist (the composer attempts to express a kind of optimism which was impossible to believe in face of the reality of his time) was made clear from end to end of the rendering. The Municipal built up the brilliant scherzo section of the Finale with the utmost tension.

In its Brazilian premiere, this truly intimate testimony of the composer reached its summit at the close of the last movement. Just after the coming back of the funeral march which opened the Finale, Ira Levin conducted the epilogue in a very impressive manner: the hopeless pianissimo chords in the strings – punctuated by entrances of the horn, flute, celesta with which Shostakovich expressed his feelings towards the betrayal of his fellow citizens.”

(O Estado de São Paulo, June 9, 2003)


Brazil/ São Paulo 17.8.2003

“Ira Levin is not only a well-known conductor at German opera houses, who, among many other things, made a great impression jumping in without rehearsal with Tristan und Isolde and Die Frau ohne Schatten at the 2002 Dresden Opera Festival. He also took over the position of music director of the Theatro Municipal of São Paulo, and its symphony orchestra, in March of 2002. In less than one and a half years, he has turned the orchestra into an ensemble of a significantly high quality, which we were able to hear in August at the premiere performance of Leos Janacek’s Jenufa, the first time a Janacek opera was ever played in Brazil.

The orchestra has excellent strings and a good concertmaster, but the warmth of the woodwinds and strength of the brass were equally evident and convincing. The orchestra projected the full-blooded dramatic moments as well as the many folkloric elements very impressively. Levin controlled everything through exact entrances and well considered tempi that supported the singers throughout.”

(Klaus Billand, Der Neue Merker, Vienna – Austria

Read more Ira Levin press reviews.