He approached music by studying classical piano, demonstrating precocious gifts. At the same time, he distinguished himself brilliantly in general studies at the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the Sorbonne in Paris, where he earned a Masters in philosophy in 1974. In 1983, Denis Levaillant was awarded a fellowship to the Villa Medici in Rome.
Initially making a name for himself with the general public in the 1970s as a performer and top-notch improviser (his book L’Improvisation musicale, published in 1980, has become a reference on the subject). In the 1980s, he was one of the pioneers in musical theatre in France, and the originality of his opera O.P.A. Mia (My Tender Bid), with sets by Enki Bilal and premiered in 1990 at the Avignon Festival and the Opéra-Comique in Paris, made a strong impression.
In the following decade, he devoted most of his creative efforts to symphonic writing. His ballet, La Petite danseuse, commissioned by the Paris Opera, met with great success at the Paris Opera in 2003 and has been revived in 2005 and 2010. In 2014 he was the composer in residence at fifteen State Universities throughout the U.S., for lectures, masterclasses, and concerts. In February 2016, Levaillant’s large-scale work for wind ensemble, Pachamama Symphony, was premiered by Les gardiens de la paix under the baton of Gildas Harnois in Paris.
Winner, in particular, of the RAI Prize at the Italia Prize in 1988, Denis Levaillant has had most of his recorded catalog regularly synchronized in cinema and television the world over.