James Levine, conductor who ruled over New York’s Metropolitan Opera, dies at 77

James Levine conducts an orchestra in 2006
James Levine, shown conducting a concert at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., in 2006, died last week in Palm Springs.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

Conductor James Levine, who ruled over New York’s 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 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 he was 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 in March 2018 and never conducted again. He had been scheduled to make a comeback performance Jan. 11 in Florence, Italy, but the concert was canceled due to the pandemic.