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James Levine, former Met Opera conductor, dies at 77

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NEW YORK — Conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.

Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, California, of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, said Wednesday.

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 forced out by general manager Peter Gelb 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.

The accusers said Levine had sexually abused them when they were teenagers. At the time, Levine denied the allegations against him. 

The Met’s investigation found Levine “engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct towards vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.” and the company said  “it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met.”

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