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James Levine, who led Met Opera for decades, dead at 77

Conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.

Conductor died March 9 of natural causes, physician says

James Levine poses in Boston's Symphony Hall, Oct. 29, 2001. Levine died on March 9 of natural causes, his physician said Wednesday. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.

Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, Calif., of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, said Wednesday.

Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and became one of the signature artists in the company's century-plus history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until forced out by general manager Peter Gelb in 2016 due to Parkinson's disease.

Levine became music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, after accounts in the New York Post and the New York Times of sexual misconduct dating to the 1960s.

He was fired the following March 12 and never conducted again. He had been scheduled to make a comeback performance this Jan. 11 in Florence, Italy, but the concert was cancelled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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