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Conductor James Levine dies

James Levine died of “natural causes” on March 9 in California. He has conducted the Met Orchestra more than 2,550 times.

LConductor James Levine has died at the age of 77, three years after a career-ending sexual abuse scandal after forty years as musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

James Levine died of “natural causes” on March 9 in Palm Springs (California), his longtime doctor, Len Horovitz, told AFP on Wednesday, without giving details, confirming information from the New York Times.

Appointed musical director of the Metropolitan Opera in 1976, the native of Cincinnati will have transformed the institution, to the point of registering it among the great operas of the world whereas it was discredited until now.

While honoring the classics of the repertoire, he introduced contemporary works, which had no right of citizenship, as well as neglected composers to the program.

With his thick curly hair, metal-rimmed glasses, expressive style and outgoing personality, James Levine had established himself as one of the most recognizable figures in the world of classical music.

In total, he has conducted the Met Orchestra over 2,550 times.

But he experienced a series of health problems from 2006, from a shoulder injury following a fall on stage to kidney failure through a herniated disc. In 2016, he had agreed to give up the musical direction of the Met, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which had handicapped him for many years.

He nevertheless remained honorary musical director, until his suspension in December 2017, after the publication of testimonies accusing him of sexual abuse in the New York Times and the New York Post.

The two dailies mentioned the case of a man accusing the conductor of touching from 1985, when he was only 15, until 1993. Three other men also publicly claimed to have been assaulted sexually by James Levine, although he has not been criminally prosecuted.

In March 2018, the Met published the findings of its investigation, which confirmed the existence of “credible evidence” that the musician had indeed engaged in “harassment and sexually abusive behavior”. The opera had then put an end to all the functions that James Levine still occupied within the institution.

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