James Levine, who ruled over Met Opera, dead at age 77

NEW YORK – Conductor James Levine, who dominated above the Metropolitan Opera for additional than 4 a long time just before staying eased aside when his wellbeing declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.

Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, California, of all-natural will cause, his physician of 17 a long time, Dr. Len Horovitz, stated Wednesday.

Levine created his Satisfied debut in 1971 and became a person of the signature artists in the company’s century-additionally historical past, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as tunes or artistic director from 1976 right until forced out by normal supervisor Peter Gelb in 2016 owing to Parkinson’s sickness.

Levine became audio director emeritus and remained head of its younger artists system but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, the working day right after conducting a Verdi “Requiem” in what turned out to be his last overall performance, following accounts in the New York Publish and The New York Situations of sexual misconduct relationship to the 1960s.


He was fired the next March 12 and never executed once again. He experienced been scheduled to make comeback performances of Brahms’ ”Ein Deutsches Requiem” this Jan. 17 and 21 in Florence, Italy, but the live shows ended up canceled because of to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“No artist in the 137 yr history of the Met experienced as profound an affect as James Levine,” Gelb mentioned in a statement. “He raised the Met’s musical benchmarks to new and higher heights.”

Recognised for bushy hair an an at any time-current towel draped over a shoulder all through rehearsals, Levine drastically expanded the Met’s repertory and was specifically praised for his performances of Wagner, Verdi and Berg. He was closely affiliated with Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and Birgit Nilsson, who spoke on phase at shut to 2 a.m. around the close of Levine’s 25th anniversary concert, which stretched on for about eight hours at the Achieved in 1996.

Domingo recalled doing work with Levine much more than 400 moments, his most opera performances with any conductor.


“You have been a musical genius, an fantastic conductor, and a supportive colleague, with an astounding sense of humor. Constantly absolutely sure and in command but generally willing to pay attention and to share concepts with your colleagues,” Domingo mentioned in a statement. ”You have remaining us an remarkable legacy. Your in excess of five many years of tireless perseverance to audio and opera have produced an indelible affect that will continue to be permanently embedded in the history books. I sense as if I experienced misplaced a pricey brother, and I know that I have missing a dear mate.”

Levine was beloved by singers for forcing orchestras to bend to their demands.

“Confidence is a remarkable element of an artist’s general performance, in particular singers, for the reason that a singer can’t appraise what is occurring,” Levine instructed The Related Push in 1996. “It’s in her system. It is not out here where by the piano keys are, or wherever the cello is. To me, singers are heroic in that regard.”

He became on dominant determine in the media age, building hundreds of audio and video recordings that have been unveiled commercially or distributed by the Met and its media associates.


But outrage ensued when the Fulfilled in courtroom paperwork reported it located credible proof that he engaged in sexually abusive or harassing perform with quite a few persons that incorporated inappropriate touching and calls for for sexual intercourse acts above a 25-12 months interval. The Achieved claimed it found proof of perform that integrated dialogue of pornography, groping, kissing and mutual masturbation.

In a single instance, the Fulfilled accused Levine of inappropriately touching a musician setting up in 1979 and 6 a lot more periods until eventually 1991. In another 1985 incident, Levine was accused of groping and kissing an opera singer he was supplying a experience house in his vehicle against that person’s will. In 1986, Levine sexually abused a 16-year-aged and organized an estimated $50,000 in payments to the person through his brother, the filings mentioned.

The conductor’s legal professionals mentioned at the time that Levine “did not dedicate any acts of sexual misconduct versus any men and women, much significantly less the unnamed individuals.”


In addition to his lengthy tenure at the Fulfilled, Levine was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia Pageant from 1973-93, the Munich Philharmonic from 1999-2004 and the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004-11. He performed at the Richard Wagner Pageant from 1982-98, which include a new manufacturing of “Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung)” in 1994. He was a frequent with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Levine was regarded as the leading American conductor pursuing the demise of Leonard Bernstein in 1990. He received 10 Grammy Awards and was nominated for 37.

”In addition to his remarkable dedication to music and in distinct the Metropolitan Opera and the Ravinia Pageant, his artistry will lengthy be remembered by those who professional it stay, by recordings, on tv or video clip,” Chicago Symphony Orchestra new music director Riccardo Muti and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association president Jeff Alexander explained in a joint assertion.


Born June 23, 1943, in Cincinnati, the grandson of a cantor and the son of bandleader Lawrence Levine and Broadway actress Helen Goldstein, Levine started taking piano classes at 4 and designed his professional debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at 10 in Mendelssohn’s” Piano Concerto No. 2.”

That identical year, he started piano lessons with Walter Levin, the principal violinist of the LaSalle Quartet. By 18, Levine turned the initially piano-conducting double key at any time at the Juilliard College in New York Metropolis.

He studied piano with Rudolph Serkin at the Marlboro Pageant and with Rosina Lhevinne at Juilliard, paying out 13 summers at the Aspen Pageant in Colorado. Following three several years at Juilliard, he reached the postgraduate amount, then dropped out to turn out to be an apprentice to George Szell at the Cleveland Orchestra, the place he spent 6 years.

Levine designed his Fulfilled debut in “Tosca” with Grace Bumbry and Franco Corelli on June 5, 1971. The following February, he grew to become principal conductor for the Met’s 1973-74 period, aiding music director Rafael Kubelik, and turned audio director with the 1976-77 period. By the 1986-87 time, he was promoted to creative director — in in close proximity to-overall handle of the repertoire and casting — and drew criticism as other major conductors stayed absent.


He led upward of 110 performances in a time in the 1980s, together with tours. Levine was downgraded to new music director when he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2004.

Levine was acknowledged for restoring cuts in operas that had extended been shortened. He favored a central core of Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, Mozart and Strauss, and launched to the Achieved this sort of works as Mozart’s “Idomeneo” and “”La Clemenza di Tito,” and Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani.”

“If you do the `Ring’ and it has flaws, it is such a elaborate enterprise that there can be a large amount of fantastic matters it,” he explained. “But you simply cannot do a bel canto opera with a weak point in the cast. Mainly because there is very little there besides that… It would be a squander of everybody’s time.”

Levine also pushed and led the Satisfied premiere of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.” He was criticized for a lack of contemporary new music — he claimed the Met was these kinds of a large establishment that commissions arrived only slowly and gradually — and as a symphony conductor he championed composers Elliot Carter, John Corigliano and Charles Wuorinen.


Though he upgraded the high quality of the orchestra to the highest degree considering the fact that the enterprise started in 1883, his health grew to become an situation for additional than a decade.

Levine commenced conducting from a chair in late 2001, and when tremors in his still left arm and leg turned apparent in 2004, he claimed they commenced a decade earlier. His wellness worsened in 2006, when he tripped and fell on the phase of Boston’s Symphony Hall during ovations that followed a performance and tore a rotator cuff, which demanded shoulder surgical procedure.

He had an procedure in 2008 to take out a kidney and one more in 2009 to restore a herniated disk in his again. He then experienced spinal stenosis, major to surgeries in May well and July 2011. He experienced another procedure that September immediately after falling and detrimental a vertebra, an harm that sidelined him right up until May well 2013, when he returned and carried out from a motorized wheelchair that he would use for the remainder of his job.


With Levine shifting to emeritus, Yannick Nezet-Seguin was employed in June 2016 to succeed him as songs director beginning in 2020-21, a timetable eventually moved up by two seasons.

Following the allegations of sexual improprieties grew to become general public, the Satisfied hired previous U.S. Legal professional Robert J. Cleary of Proskauer Rose to head its investigation, and the enterprise reported far more than 70 persons had been interviewed.

“The investigation uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in sexually abusive and harassing perform both prior to and in the course of the period of time when he worked at the Met,” the firm claimed in a assertion. “The investigation also uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing perform to vulnerable artists in the early levels of their professions, around whom Mr. Levine had authority. In mild of these findings, the Satisfied concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to keep on to operate at the Met.”


Levine sued the Satisfied for breach of contract and defamation, seeking at the very least $5.8 million in damages. New York Supreme Courtroom Justice Andrea Masley dismissed all but a single of the defamation claims and the go well with was settled in 2019.

His brother Tom, an artist who was his longtime aide, died in April 2020 at age 71 of leukemia.

Levine is survived by wife Suzanne Thomson, his longtime companion whom he married last calendar year, in accordance to Andrea Anson of his company sister Janet Levine and her spouse Kenneth Irwin.

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