As music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 2000, Yoel Levi built upon the estimable reputation he had established as assistant to Lorin Maazel with the Cleveland Orchestra. During his years in Atlanta, he recorded extensively with his orchestra, amassing more than 30 releases for Telarc. In the latter years of his Atlanta tenure, he began conducting opera successfully, quickly earning respect in that newest facet of his career.
Reared in Israel, Levi studied at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music, where he was awarded his master of arts degree with distinction. After further training at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, he studied with Franco Ferrara in Rome and Siena and worked with Kiril Kondrashin in Holland. Additional training at London's Guildhall School of Music preceded Levi's first prize in the 1978 conductor's International Competition in Besançon.
During his years as music director in Atlanta, Levi was acknowledged as having enhanced the ensemble left by Robert Shaw. European critics, in particular, were impressed by the increased refinement in sound and attack evidenced in a 1991 European tour and through the orchestra's many recordings. Following appearances on the Continent, the A.S.O. was one of the orchestras honored by receiving a nomination for Best Orchestra of the Year in the 1991-1992 International Classical Music Awards. In addition to his duties in Cleveland and Atlanta, Levi has appeared as guest conductor in Europe, America, the Mideast, and in several countries in Asia. In the United States, he has led the principal orchestras in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C. In Canada, Levi has conducted the orchestras of Montreal and Toronto.
Levi's debut as an opera theater conductor awaited a 1997 production of La fanciulla del West in Florence. Since then, other opera engagements have taken him to such venues as Chicago, Prague, and Paris. Upon his retirement from the directorship of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Levi became ASO music director emeritus. In addition, he was engaged as principal guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra while also serving as music artistic advisor to the Flemish Radio Orchestra. In 2001, the French government named Levi Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Since 2005 he has been the musical advisor to the Flemish Radio Orchestra, and he has also served as principal guest conductor of the Israel Philharmonic.