Spain's Queen Sofia presented to music director Zubin Mehta the Spain-India Foundation Council Prize, awarded unanimously for his work to strengthen cultural relations between the two countries.

The presentation Saturday of the award, the first to be bestowed by the Spain-India Foundation Council, took place in the Palau de les Arts (Arts Palace) of Valencia in eastern Spain, before the inauguration of the 5th Festival del Medeterrani, which Mehta directs.

"I carry Spain in my heart and I've tried during these last seven years to place Valencia within the world circuit of opera, given the very high level of programming of the Palau de les Arts," Mehta said after receiving the prize personally from Queen Sofia.

Mehta, born in Mumbai in 1936, involved himself in the Palau de les Arts before its first season and in 2005 he took on the task of creating an opera festival in Valencia above and beyond the regular programming each season which, in 2008, became the Festival del Mediterrani.

In the more than 54 years of his professional career, Mehta has been the musical director of the Montreal Symphony (1962-1967), the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1962-1978) and the New York Philharmonic (1978-1988), as well as the director-for-life of the Israel Philharmonic.

Another of Mehta's outstanding characteristics is his concern for humanitarian and social causes, as reflected in his refusal to have anything to do with South Africa during the years of "apartheid," his struggle against anti-Semitism and world hunger and the concert given in the ruins of the library in Sarajevo after the war in Bosnia. EFE