After graduating from Yale University, Levi received a Mellon Fellowship to study at Cambridge University, where he co-founded the literary magazine Granta. On his return to the United States, Levi opened Granta’s New York office and, through 1987, served as U.S. Editor for the journal.
After leaving Granta, Levi divided his time between writing and producing. His 1992 novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, was called "a fable of fantastical lushness, reminiscent of the best fairy tales," (The New York Times Book Review).
Since then, has has focussed his energies on stage productions. Levi created New Opera for New Ears, a joint program of The Metropolitan Opera Guild and The Kennedy Center, and directed the National Literary Audience Development Project, working with Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and Director Robert Scanlan. He has written several operas, plays and musicals, all of which have been met with critical acclaim.
In March 2002, he became the first director of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in New York and created the Bard SummerScape Festival, which presented artists and companies from around the world in performances of opera, theatre, dance, puppetry and film.
Levi’s short stories and articles have appeared in many magazines including Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Terra Nova, and The Nation. Since 1997, he has served as a Contributing Writer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.
He divides his time between New York and Rome.