James Levine, former conductor accused of sexual abuse, has died at 77

17 March 2021, 14:59 | Updated: 17 March 2021, 15:11

James Levine, former Met Opera conductor, has died at 77
James Levine, former Met Opera conductor, has died at 77. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Levine conducted New York’s Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years, before he was fired following allegations of sexual abuse.

American conductor James Levine, who conducted New York’s Metropolitan Opera for more than 40 years, died on 9 March aged 77.

His death, in Palm Springs, California, was confirmed on Wednesday morning by his physician, Dr. Len Horovitz.

At the height of his career, Levine was one of the world’s most in-demand conductors, particularly in the opera house.

But after a period of ill health, his career ended completely following allegations of sexual abuse published in the New York Times. Three men came forward with accusations that Levine had abused them decades before.

The Met suspended and then fired Levine in 2018, saying the company had “uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority.”

Levine sued the Met for defamation and in a written statement, he called the allegations “unfounded. As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”

Conductor James Levine has died aged 77
Conductor James Levine has died aged 77. Picture: Getty

Levine was born in Cincinatti on 23 June 1943. He began his musical studies as a pianist, but soon found an interest in conducting, and studied as an apprentice with the Cleveland Orchestra’s conductor at the time, George Szell.

Throughout his career, Levine conducted all the famed classical symphonies.

For seven years, starting in 2004, he was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

He was also music director of the Munich Philharmonic for five years, and had long-standing relationships with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Having struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Levine cited ill health as his reason for stepping down in April 2016 as music director of the Met Opera.