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

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

The Jewish Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, California, of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, says.

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 being forced out by general manager Peter Gelb in 2016 due to Parkinson’s disease.

Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine conducts the symphony on its opening night performance at Tanglewood in Lenox., Massachusetts on July 7, 2006. (AP/Michael Dwyer)

Levine became music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, the day after conducting a Verdi “Requiem” in what turned out to be his final performance, after accounts in the New York Post and The New York Times of sexual misconduct dating to the 1960s.

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