An international orchestral and operatic conductor, ZUBIN MEHTA has had a remarkable association with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) for five decades. He was appointed the Orchestra’s music director in 1969 and the appointment was extended for life in 1981.
Mehta first conducted the IPO in 1961 when both he and the Orchestra were 25 years old. The bond that was established between them has grown into what Mehta calls a “lasting marriage.” His passionate allegiance to the Orchestra stems from their shared devotion to music and the kinship he feels with the spirit and tradition of the Jewish people.
At times of war and crisis in Israel’s history Mehta has often canceled other obligations to perform with the IPO and express his solidarity with his musicians. During the Gulf War he conducted performances during scud missile attacks and during the 1967 Six-Day War, he left a Metropolitan Opera tour to catch the last plane to Israel before the Tel Aviv airport was closed. Highlights of his worldwide performances with the IPO include memorable tours in Russia, Hungary, Poland, China, and India. Mehta considers his foreign tours with the Orchestra opportunities for presenting the essential qualities of Israel and the Jewish people to international audiences.
Highly sought after as a guest conductor, Mehta has led major orchestras and opera companies worldwide and is considered one of the world’s foremost interpreters of the great symphonic literature. Since 1986 he has been music director and chief conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the summer festival in Florence, Italy and in 1998 Mehta began a five-year appointment as music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. From 1978 to 1991 he held the post of music director of the New York Philharmonic, the longest tenure in that orchestra’s modern history and prior to his position with the New York Philharmonic, Mehta served as music director of the Montreal Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Recently, Mehta has placed greater emphasis on conducting opera. In 2001 he participated in The Turandot Project, a film directed by Allan Miller chronicling the cross-cultural collaboration between Mehta and Chinese film director Zhang Yimou in the staging of Puccini’s Turnadot. He, also, conducted all the performances of the Bayerische Staatsoper acclaimed tour to Japan in September and October of 2001.
Born in Bombay, India, in 1936, Zubin Mehta inherited his obsession for music from his father, Mehli Mehta, a violinist who founded the Bombay Symphony. At 18 Mehta entered Vienna’s prestigious Academy of Music and by the age of 25 he had led both the Berlin and Vienna philharmonic orchestras. Since then he has returned to conduct both of these ensembles every season.
Mehta has received many honors throughout the years. In 2006 he joined a most prestigious group of esteemed artists as a Kennedy Center Honoree. He was also one of eight distinguished individuals to receive the first Global Youth Peace & Tolerance Award presented by the DaCapo Foundation in association with Children Uniting Nations and Friends of the United Nations. Other awards include the Israel-based Wolf Foundation Prize for music, the Nikisch Ring, the Vienna Philarmonic Ring of Honor, the Hans von Bulow medal and The Gabriela Mistral Award. He was the recipient of India’s Order of the Lotus and has received honorary Doctorate Degrees from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and the Weitzman Institute of Science.
Mehta serves actively as co-chairman, with Itzhak Perlman, of the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO), which he was instrumental in establishing in 1980.