American conductor James Levine has passed away at the age of 77, three years after a sexual abuse scandal ended his prestigious four-decade career conducting the New York Metropolitan Opera.
Levine died of “natural causes” on March 9 in Palm Springs, California, his doctor, Len Horovitz, told AFP on Wednesday, without giving further details, confirming a report from the New York Times.
Appointed musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in 1976, he was reforming the discredited institution to place it among the great operas of the world.
While delighting in the repertoire of the classics, he was incorporating contemporary works and composers hitherto underappreciated.
With his lush curly hair, round metal glasses, expressive style, and outgoing personality, Levine had established himself as one of the most recognized figures in the world of classical music.
He conducted the Metropolitan Orchestra more than 2,550 times.
Levine suffered a number of health problems beginning in 2006, from a shoulder injury after a fall on stage to kidney failure to a herniated disc.
In 2016, he agreed to leave the musical direction of the Met because of Parkinson’s disease that he had suffered from for years.
However, he remained honorary music director until his suspension in December 2017, following the publication in the New York Times and the New York Post of testimonies accusing him of sexual abuse.
Both newspapers exposed the case of a man who accused the director of groping from 1985, when he was only 15 years old, until 1993.
Three other men have also publicly claimed that Levine sexually assaulted them, although he was never criminally prosecuted.
In March 2018, the Met published the findings of its investigation, which confirmed the existence of “credible evidence” that the musician was indeed involved “in harassment and sexually abusive behavior.”
The Opera then ended all responsibilities that were still under Levine’s baton within the institution.
Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin took over in his place.