Joel Revzen, a celebrated conductor who served as the artistic director and principal conductor of Arizona Opera from 2003 to 2010, died May 25 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 74.
Revzen studied conducting at Juliliard, and over the course of a 30-plus-year career, he served as an assistant conductor for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and artistic director and conductor of the Berkshire Opera. At the time of his death, he was the artistic director and principal conductor for Classical Tahoe and a member of the Metropolitan Opera conducting staff.
During his tenure at Arizona Opera, Revzen led 31 productions. He was named conductor laureate upon his departure.
Shelley Cohn, former executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, told Phoenix New Times, “Joel made a profound mark in the arts and culture in Arizona. First, he was a tremendous advocate for the Arizona Opera and brought passion and results to his work. He also loved all the arts and worked well with others to raise the profile of the arts. Lastly, [he was] a people person who made meaningful relationships with audiences, donors, and colleagues. His energy and enthusiasm is already missed.”
Revzen is survived by his wife and daughter.
In a 2005 interview with the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, Revzen spoke about the thrill of opera.
“The stories of opera are stories we see around us in the world all the time — jealousy, murder, love, passion, humor,” he said. “All of that is in our daily lives, except it’s bigger than life in an opera. It’s like shining a big magnifying glass on all these emotions and all these life situations.”