Joel Revzen, who led symphony and opera performances throughout North America and Europe, passed away on May 25 after contracting COVID-19.

He was born on June 27, 1945 in Chicago to Morris and Selma Revzen. While still a junior in high school, he was accepted in the chorus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the youngest person in its history at the time.

Revzen studied at the Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the Juilliard School in New York City.

He served as the dean of the St. Louis Conservatory for a decade.

He led multiple operatic productions and White Nights festivals in Russia at the invitation of conductor Valery Gergiev. He made frequent guest appearances across the world and served in positions at multiple companies. Revzen was featured on a number of albums over the course of his career and won a Grammy Award for The Art of Arleen Auger, serving as both pianist and conductor.

Revzen joined the Arizona Opera in 2003 as artistic director/principal conductor, and in his decade-long tenure led 31 opera productions.

Most recently, he held the position of artistic director and principal conductor for Classical Tahoe in Nevada since the festival’s inaugural season in 2012. He was serving that role at the time of his passing.

The assistant conductor at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera in New York, Revzen took center stage for one production in 2017, reveling in the opportunity.

Revzen is survived by his wife, Cynthia Rhys, and their daughter, Shira.

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