James Levine im Jahr 2007.
© MIGUEL MEDINA
New York – A great music career that came to an unpleasant end: James Levine’s career path can be summed up in this succinct formula. In 2018, the star conductor resigned from the New York Metropolitan Opera after four decades in the wake of violent MeToo allegations against him, which was followed by mutual claims for damages, which were settled out of court in 2019. Now, as has only recently become known, the US maestro died on March 9th in Palm Springs at the age of 77.
As influential as Levine would later become for the music world of the east coast, the curly piano virtuoso, who was born on June 23, 1943, made his debut neither in Boston nor New York, but in 1953 with the Cincinnati Orchestra and thus in his hometown. He learned from the legendary piano teacher Rosina Lhévinne and at the Juilliard School in New York. The Hungarian conductor George Szell brought him to the Cleveland Orchestra, where Levine also taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) from 1965 to 1972. The #MeToo allegations from four men ranged from this time to the 1980s. Three of them claimed that Levine first molested them when they were still teenagers.
“Levinites” made regulations and oppressed
The “Boston Globe” uncovered the affair after discussions with more than 20 students and ex-colleagues Levines. Levine is said to have prescribed his admirers, known as the “Levinites,” “what they read, how to dress, what to eat, when to sleep – even who they love,” the newspaper wrote. At his home he is said to have subjected her to musical tests and also pushed her to have sex.
The headlines about Levine’s suspension and firing shocked the opera community three years ago. After all, Levine had conducted more than 2,500 performances of 85 operas at the house since his debut in 1971 and was dated in 1983 TimeMagazine was named “America’s Top Maestro” on the front page. Now, together with star tenor Placido Domingo, who gave up his post at the Los Angeles Opera, he became the highest-ranking representative of the classical world, who lost his job in the wake of the #MeToo debate. Not only the Met distanced itself from the conductor, but also the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where Levine was musical director from 2004 to 2011, refrained from engagements.
Not a stranger in Europe either
As influential as Levine was for the music scene in the Big Apple, the maestro was no stranger to Europe either: in addition to his work in New York, he succeeded Sergiu Celibidache from 1999 to 2004 as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. Between 1982 and 1998 he was a frequent guest at the Bayreuth Wagner Festival.
But even then Levine was repeatedly plagued by health problems and conducted last in a wheelchair with the help of two assistants. Now the defining figure of the classic world of the US east coast died in Palm Springs and thus on the west coast – of natural causes, as his doctor confirmed. (APA)