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James Levine dies: Conductor led Met Opera before being fired over abuse

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Conductor James Levine, who led New York’s Metropolitan Opera for 40 years before being fired over sexual abuse allegations, has died at the age of 77.

The Met dismissed Mr Levine in 2018 after an internal inquiry found “credible evidence” of historic sexual abuse against young male musicians.

Prior to the scandal, he was a much-celebrated maestro whose work and influence extended worldwide.

Mr Levine denied the abuse allegations, calling them “unfounded”.

In a statement, the Met paid tribute to his “undeniable artistic achievements”, including “shaping the Met Orchestra and Chorus into the finest in the world”, but made clear that “his relationship with the company frayed” in the wake of the allegations and subsequent three-month investigation.

Three men accused him of abusing them as teenagers as far back as 1968. The investigation found evidence of harassment and sexually abusive behaviour towards “vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers”.

The conductor retired for health reasons in 2016 but continued to work with the opera as music director emeritus until he was suspended and then fired.

Mr Levine sued the Met for defamation and breach of contract, reaching a $3.5m (£2.5m) out-of-court settlement in 2019.

Illustrious career

During his career, Mr Levine led more than 2,500 performances at the Met, one of the world’s most illustrious opera houses, and was often named among America’s top conductors.

He also served as music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra for seven years from 2004, after a five-year stint at the Munich Philharmonic.

Other roles included long associations with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, working as music director of its Ravinia Festival for more than 20 years.

Health problems, including Parkinson’s disease, dogged the later years of his career and saw him conduct from a wheelchair.

Dr Len Horovitz, his physician for 17 years, told BBC News he died of natural causes on 9 March in Palm Springs, California.

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