Director James Levine, who ruled the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being pushed aside when his health deteriorated and he was later fired for sexual misconduct, has died. He was 77 years old.
Levine died in Palm Springs, California, of natural causes, his 17-year physician, Dr. Len Horovitz, said Wednesday.
Levine made his debut at the Met in 1971 and became one of the iconic artists in the company’s more than century-long history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling its repertoire, orchestra and singers as musical or artistic director from 1976 until general manager Peter Gelb forced him to retire. 2016 due to Parkinson’s disease.
Levine became music director emeritus and remained at the helm of his Young Artists program, but was suspended on December 3, 2017, the day after performing a Verdi Requiem in what turned out to be his last performance, following accounts in the New York Post and the New York Times. sexual misconduct dating from the 1960s.
He was fired the following March and was never carried out again. He was scheduled to make a comeback of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem performances in January in Florence, Italy, but the concert was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“No artist in the 137-year history of the Met had as profound an impact as James Levine,” Gelb said in a statement. “He raised the musical standards of the Met to new and greater heights.”
Levine was considered the best American conductor after the death of Leonard Bernstein in 1990. Although he improved the quality of the orchestra to the highest level since the company began in 1883, his health became a problem for more than a decade.
Levine began directing from a chair in late 2001, and when the tremors in his left arm and leg first hit in 2004, he said they started a decade earlier. His health worsened in 2006, when he tripped and fell on stage at Boston’s Symphony Hall during ovations that followed a performance and ruptured a rotator cuff, requiring shoulder surgery.
He underwent surgery in 2008 to remove a kidney and another in 2009 to repair a herniated disc in his back. He then suffered a spinal stenosis, which led to surgeries in May and July 2011. In September he had another operation after falling and damaging a vertebra, an injury that left him outcast until May 2013, when he returned and was led from a chair. motorized wheels I would use. for the rest of his career.
With Levine moving to emeritus, Yannick Nezet-Seguin was hired in June 2016 to succeed him as musical director from 2020-21, a schedule that was eventually moved forward two seasons.
After the allegations of sexual wrongdoing were made public, the Met hired former federal prosecutor Robert J. Cleary of Proskauer Rose to lead its investigation, and the company said more than 70 people were interviewed.
“The investigation uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in abusive conduct and sexual harassment both before and during the period in which he worked at the Met,” the company said in a statement.
“The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable performers early in their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority. In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue working at the Met. “
Levine sued the Met for breach of contract and defamation, seeking at least $ 5.8 million in damages. New York Supreme Court Justice Andrea Masley dismissed all but one of the defamation charges and the lawsuit was settled in 2019.
His brother Tom, an artist who was his longtime assistant, died in April last year at age 71 of leukemia.
Levine is survived by his wife Suzanne Thomson, his longtime partner whom he married last year, according to his agency’s Andrea Anson; sister Janet Levine and her husband Kenneth Irwin.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism