Zubin Mehta grew up in a musical family in the city of Bombay where he was born in 1936. After first studying medicine for two semesters he concentrated on music and attended the Vienna Academy where he trained as a conductor under Hans Swarowsky. He won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition and was also a prize-winner at the Koussevitzky Competition in Tanglewood. By his mid-twenties he had already conducted both the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics and retains close ties with both orchestras.
Zubin Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1967 becoming Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962, a post he retained until 1978. In 1969 he also became Music Adviser to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and was made Music Director of that orchestra in 1977, becoming Music Director for life in 1981. Zubin Mehta has conducted nearly two thousand concert performances with this extraordinary ensemble on tours spanning five continents. In 1978 he became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic commencing a tenure lasting 13 years, the longest in the orchestra's history and, since 1985, he has been chief conductor of the Maggio Musicale in Florence.
Zubin Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor with Tosca in Montreal in 1964. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala Milan, at the opera houses of Montreal, Chicago and Florence as well as at the Salzburg Festival.
Zubin Mehta's list of awards and honours is extensive and includes the "Nikisch-Ring" – the Vienna Philharmonic's ring of honour. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997. In 1999 Zubin Mehta was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award" of the United Nations which was presented to him by Lea Rabin.
Zubin Mehta became Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera and the Bavarian State Orchestra in September of 1998 and travelled with the Orchestra throughout Europe in a major tour of European Festivals in September 1999 including much praised debuts at the Promenade Concerts in London and the Musikverein in Vienna.