Lev Pugliese

Stage Director – Set Designer – Costume Designer

Artistic Director of C.I.A.L.M. The Italian Opera Company

Born into a family with a long history in the field of live entertainment and, in particular, in classical music and opera (his grandfather Franco Pugliese was a well-known bass and his father, Claudio, general manager and artistic director of many Italian theaters) Lev was introduced from a very early age to very relevant experience in this field. 

His artistic training began with the study of the piano, interrupted only when he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, to finish his high school studies and to improve his knowledge of the English language.

After graduating from Greenside High school in Johannesburg, he returned to Italy to continue his education and gained a Master’s degree in clinical and community psychology at the “La Sapienza” University of Rome. During his university studies, he began collaborating with his father, assisting him in his role of artistic director of the Politeama Greco, the historical opera house in Lecce.

Alongside his involvement in the organizational and managerial aspects of a theater season, Lev demonstrated a growing interest in the purely creative aspects which precede the preparation and staging of a performance; this particular interest would lead him to follow the work of various directors, starting as an assistant to Maurizio Scaparro in a production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. From that first professional experience back in 1996 and during the early years of his career, Lev expanded his knowledge and understanding to all the sectors that interact in the realization of a theatrical performance by working hands-on in the field, covering in numerous productions many different roles: prop master,  stage hand, carpenter, lighting technician, charge artist, stage manager, production assistant, set and costume designer assistant and of course also assistant director. Such a wide and direct coverage of all fields allowed Lev to develop a thorough and complete knowledge of the “theatrical machine” and became the foundation that later enabled him to express himself not only as a stage director but also as a set designer and costume designer. Over time, Lev concentrated his work in the theater mainly in the music sector and in opera, a choice probably influenced by his piano studies and the many experiences he had had as a child both as spectator to his grandfather’s performances and as an extra in various opera productions.

Lev’s marked interest in the purely artistic aspects of a theatrical production and his work on stage were important also in regard to his commitments in the organizational and managerial sphere.

In 2003 he became Artistic Secretary and Production Manager of the Italian Company for Opera and Music Activities (C.I.A.L.M.), one of the major Italian private companies, already registered in the register of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities since 1979, a role he held until the end of 2009.  During this period, C.I.A.L.M. was involved in the productions of various Italian opera houses and lyric-symphonic festivals. In his newly acquired role as production manager and artistic secretary, Lev was personally involved in the organization and realization of the opera season for the Ventidio Basso Opera House of Ascoli Piceno, where he was responsible for production planning and budgeting, for the realization and management of the programmed artistic projects, for the coordination of all the artists, orchestra, technicians, stage hands and administrative personnel, he participated in the selection of human resources, in the calculation of general expenses (location, retribution of artists, technicians, traveling costs, lodging, etc.), in the preparation of the daily agenda and of logistics, in the constant monitoring of productions in terms of costs, time and quality. During these years the Ventidio Basso, which had never toured in the past, became one of the most active Italian theaters abroad, with tours in France, Germany, Thailand and even rising to the honor of participating, alongside artists and ensembles such as the Berliner Philarmoniker and Luciano Pavarotti, at the Athens International Festival in 2004 in connection with the Olympic Games in Greece.

These same years also mark Lev’s debut as a director. In fact, in 2004 he was called to direct an international production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with artists such as Paolo Coni in the role of the Conte d’Almaviva and Paolo Olmi as conductor, staged at the Olympic park in Seoul, South Korea with over 20.000 spectators.  

Following his debut, Lev continued growing as a director and consolidated his artistic career in numerous theaters in Italy and abroad in many European countries, such as Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia, as well as in Asia in South Korea and Thailand and most recently also in the United States, China and Peru. 

In 2010 Lev was designated Artistic Director of C.I.A.L.M., becoming responsible of all artistic matters related to all projects, such as the choice of artists, orchestra, choir, technicians and all other collaborators. Beside producing and staging operas from classical repertoires, as artistic director, Lev also sustained and promoted of several contemporary operas, such as The wings of Daedalus by Squillante, The adventures of Pinocchio by Cericola and The importance of being Ernest by Giusti.

Following his appointment, C.I.A.L.M. initiated new partnerships with various theaters in Europe and Asia, thus incrementing the number of productions. A new set of initiative, such as the organization of stages, competitions, master classes, lyrical concerts as well as full opera productions, were also established to help the younger generations enter the opera world. 

Thanks to very early beginnings and more than twenty years of experience in the world of theater and opera both in the artistic and the managerial field have given Lev wonderful opportunities of working with many great artists, institutions and internationally renowned festivals and to confront himself with and appreciate different cultures and different sensitivities in various parts of the world.

Lev’s strong commitment as artistic director of C.I.A.L.M. towards the growth and promotion of young artists has, especially in recent years, gradually led him to start working more and more with students from all over the world, mainly opera singers, teaching them as a stage director, all aspects that distinguish the maturation of an artist on stage. Lev’s studies of psychology, followed by a specialization in hypnosis, together with the experience matured from teaching privately, from the masterclasses, the lectures and the advanced courses held over the years have brought him to develop an innovative and specific approach mainly for students of the performing arts known as Act! – Active Creative Transformation. Since 2012 he has been also collaborating as stage director and teacher with the International Lyric Academy.

Among the most significant engagements of recent years, Lev has directed Puccini’s Tosca on the occasion of the revival of New York City Opera and was subsequently asked to also direct the same year the inauguration of New York City Opera first re-opening season with the double bill Aleko by Rachmaninoff and Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.

Other relevant engagements include also his debut in China directing Turandot by Puccini at the Tianjin Grand Theatre and Harbin Opera House with the sumptuous setting from the Carlo Felice Opera House of Genova, as well as a new production of Manon Lescaut for the opera houses of Livorno, Pisa and Rovigo, of which he has also signed the sets and costumes. In April 2018, as director as well as in charge of the sets and the costumes, Lev directed a new production of Tosca at the Gran Teatro Nacional del Peru in Lima for the Alejandro Granda Festival, directed by M° Ernesto Palacio, currently General Manager and Artistic Director of the Rossini Opera Festival and Accademia Rossiniana of Pesaro. Lev was reconfirmed as director for the festival for the following year as well with a new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia, staged in May 2019. Lev registered other significant successes as for La bohème by Puccini at the Roman Amphitheater in Arezzo, produced by the Puccini Festival, and as for a beautiful edition of Il barbiere di Siviglia for the 150th anniversary of Rossini’s death and the 20th edition of the Pafos Aphrodite Festival Cyprus as well as for the direction of Carmen by Bizet last July within the spectacular setting of the Fantiano quarries in Italy. Last staged production in September 2020, La serva padrona by Pergolesi, at the Municipal Theater of Nicosia in Cyprus. Lev is currently working on the stage direction of an unpublished work of maestro Alberto Franchetti, known for his Cristoforo Colombo reprised by the Metropolitan Opera of New York in 1992 on the occasion of the five hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America.