Maestro Whose Career Ended After Allegations Dead at 77

James Levine ruled over the Met Opera for decades
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 17, 2021 11:00 AM CDT
Maestro Whose Career Ended After Allegations Dead at 77
James Levine conducts the Met's orchestra during a rehearsal for a performance at Vienna's famed Musikverein on May 11, 1996.   (AP photo/Ronald Zak, File)

Conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77. Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, Calif., of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, said Wednesday. The AP reports Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and became one of the signature artists in the company’s century-plus history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra, and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until being forced out by Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, in 2016 due to Parkinson's disease. Levine became music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, after accounts in the New York Post and the New York Times of sexual misconduct dating to the 1960s.

One of the three men to come forward at the time said the abuse started at age 16: "I was under this man's sway, I saw him as a safe, protective person, he took advantage of me, he abused me, and it has really messed me up." Levine was fired the following March 12 and never conducted again. He'd been scheduled to make a comeback performance this past Jan. 11 in Florence, Italy, but the concert was canceled due to COVID. The Times has a lengthy obituary full of nuggets like this one: "At 5 feet 10 inches, with a round face, unkempt curly mane, and portly build, Mr. Levine did not cut the figure of a charismatic maestro. His father used to nudge him to lose weight, cut his hair, and get contact lenses, but Mr. Levine balked." Read it in full here.

(More obituary stories.)

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