Mehta — along with his fellow honorees, the film director Steven Spielberg, musical theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and singer-songwriters Dolly Parton and Smokey Robinson — will receive his award at a State Department dinner hosted by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday, December 2. The following evening, the five artists will be received by the Bushes at the White House and then saluted in a gala performance at the Kennedy Center's Opera House. The salute will be filmed for broadcast on CBS-TV later in the month.
Born in 1936 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Zubin Mehta was the longest-serving music director in the history of the New York Philharmonic (1978-1991). He has also served as music director of the Montreal Symphony (1961-67), the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1962-78) and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (1998-2006); since 1986 he has been chief conductor of the opera house in Florence and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; in 1981 the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra named Mehta its Music Director for Life.
Zubin Mehta has been the conductor at a number of historic musical events, from the first and second Three Tenors concerts in Rome (1990) and Los Angeles (1994) to a 1997-98 production of Puccini's Turandot on site in Beijing's Forbidden City. In 1994 he conducted a benefit performance of Mozart's Requiem amid the ruins of Sarajevo's National Library; in 1998 he led members of the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Israel Philhamonic side by side in Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony near the former Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald; on December 26, 2005 in Chennai (Madras), India, he conducted a memorial concert on the first anniversary of the great Indian Ocean tsunami.
Established in 1978, the Kennedy Center Honors recognize awardees for "their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts — whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures or television." Recipients are chosen by the Center's Board of Trustees; excellence is the primary criterion in the selection process; honorees are not designated or chosen by art form and are not limited to Unites States citizens.
For more information about the Kennedy Center Honorees or the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, visit www.kennedy-center.org.