The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the news this morning, and the opera company will formally announce it tonight at the opening performance of its production of Aida starring Lisa Daltirus and Richard Margison.
Levine, now music director of both the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony, is a native of Cincinnati. According to the Enquirer, he has not conducted at Cincinnati Opera since 1971, when he led the last outdoor production at the city's zoo before the company moved indoors to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's home, Music Hall. In 2005, Levine had another homecoming when he conducted at the Cincinnati May Festival (which he directed from 1974 to 1978) for the first time since 1980.
Evans Mirageas, the well-connected former recording executive who is now Cincinnati Opera's artistic director, arranged Levine's engagement. "It's obviously [due to] his love of his hometown, his respect for the growth of our orchestra and our chorus, his fond memories of conducting in Cincinnati, and our long friendship," Mirageas said to the Enquirer of Levine's return to the company.
"To conduct Wagner's Die Meistersinger, one of my very favorite works, with the Cincinnati Symphony in the pit and so many great singers onstage is a much anticipated joy," said Levine from the Tanglewood Music Center, where he was preparing for the star-studded July 28 concert performance of Verdi's Don Carlo.
The Cincinnati Meistersinger cast will include Margison as Walther, James Morris as Hans Sachs, Hei-Kyung Hong as Eva, Thomas Allen as Beckmesser and John Del Carlo as Fritz Kothner. The production, directed by Chris Alexander and designed by Robert A. Dahlstrom, will move the opera's setting from Nuremberg to the German immigrant community in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, with scenes set in such locations as Old St. Mary's Church and Music Hall itself.