PALM SPRINGS (CelebrityAccess) — James Levine, a pianist and conductor, best known for his decades-long tenure as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, has died. He was 77.
According to the New York Times, Levine died at his home in Palm Springs on March 9th of natural causes.
While a more detailed cause of death was not disclosed, Levine suffered from health problems for several years, including serious injuries sustained in a fall in 2011 that required back surgery and precipitated a two-year hiatus from the Met that only saw him return in 2013 to conduct a performance from a wheelchair.
A native of Cincinnati, Levine began to study piano while still a child and made his debut as a soloist at 10 with a performance as part of
He later studied music at the Marlboro Music School in Vermont, and the Aspen School in Colorado before enrolling at the Julliard School of Music in New York City where he studied conducting under Jean Morel.
After graduating, Levine joined the American Conductors project affiliated with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and later apprenticed to George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra.
In June 1971, Levine was filled in for István Kertész to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, starting a long relationship with the organization that would see him serve as musical director of the Ravinia Festival for two decades.
In 1991, Levine also made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera, leading a June Festival performance of Tosca. A year later, he was named principal conductor, and three years later, musical director and eventually, artistic director of the organization.
Levine finally stepped away from his role at The Met in 2016 after being sidelined for several years with health challenges and was named Music Director Emeritus.
In 2017, the New York Times revealed that Levine was under investigation for allegedly sexually molesting a young musician during his tenure at the Ravinia Festival. Levine would eventually be accused of inappropriate conduct with multiple additional young performers who said they were abused by the famed conductor after meeting him through various youth programs he was involved with.
In the wake of the allegations, multiple organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and th Metropolitan Orchestra cut ties with him, with the Met saying it had “uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority.”
Levine later sued the Met and was countersued by the Met but the competing lawsuits never made it to court and the matter was settled privately under a confidentiality agreement. The New York Times reported that as part of the settlement, Levine received a $3.5 million payment for his abrupt exit from the organization.