James Levine wasn’t a great figure with a single tragic flaw. You can’t be a lifelong sexual predator, grooming, coercing, blackmailing, bribing and manipulating children into being repeatedly raped and humiliated if you have just one tragic flaw. At the height of his career, conductor James Levine, who died March 9, seemed to be everywhere on the global concert stage. The Cincinnati native was music director of Cincinnati’s May Festival.
James Levine Conductor Biography
James Levine Conductor Married
James Levine Conductor Died
By Norman Lebrecht
On March 17, 2021
The longest-serving music director of the Metropolitan Opera has died of the effects of Parkinsons Disease. He was 77.
Levine was the Met’s dominant personality for four decades, perhaps of all time. His tenure was ended by allegations of sexual abuse of young men on the Met payroll, a pattern of behaviour that was familiar to all at the upper levels of the company, but which they chose to ignore until the public climate changed. Levine would later claim that these were loving relationships.
Levine was fired in 2016 and reached a $3.5 million settlement with the company three years later.
His achievements will outweigh this seedy episode.
Levine raised standards of orchestral playing at the Met to an historic high by a combination of extreme hard work and the best wages in the country. He had an intuitive understanding of singers and attracted the best to his casts. He extended the repertoire to include Janacek, Schoenberg and Adams and gave an assurance of high quality to all that the Met did under his aegis.
His recordings are legion, many of them outstanding. As a conductor of concerts, however, he lacked stage charisma and intellectual penetration. His spells as music director at Ravinia and the Boston Symphony were comparativel unsuccessful, they latter dogged by increasing physical frailty.
Unmarried, he was cared for by his late brother Tom and a close entourage led by his long-term flatmate, the oboist Sue Thompson.
His death was recorded in Palm Springs on March 9.