James Lawrence Levine (/lɪˈvaɪn/; June 23, 1943 – March 9, 2021) was an American conductor and pianist. He was music director of the Metropolitan Opera (the “Met”) from 1976 to 2016. He was formally terminated from all his positions and affiliations with the Met on March 12, 2018, over sexual misconduct allegations, which he denied.
Levine held leadership positions with the Ravinia Festival, the Munich Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1980 he started the Lindemann Young Artists Development Program, and trained singers, conductors, and musicians for professional careers.
After taking an almost two-year health-related hiatus from conducting from 2011 to 2013, during which time he held artistic and administrative planning sessions at the Met, and led training of the Lindemann Young Artists, Levine retired as the Met’s full-time Music Director following the 2015–16 season to become Music Director Emeritus.
Levine experienced recurrent health issues beginning in 2006, including sciatica and what he called “intermittent tremors”. On March 1, 2006, he tripped and fell onstage during a standing ovation after a performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, leaving the remaining subscription concerts in Boston to his assistant conductor at the time. Later that month, Levine underwent surgery to repair the injury. He returned to the podium on July 7, 2006.
Levine withdrew from the majority of the Tanglewood 2008 summer season because of surgery required to remove a kidney with a malignant cyst. He returned to the podium in Boston on September 24, 2008, at Symphony Hall.
On September 29, 2009, it was announced that Levine would undergo emergency back surgery for a herniated disk. He missed three weeks of engagements.
In March 2010, the BSO announced that Levine would miss the remainder of the Boston Symphony season because of back pain. The Met also announced, on April 4, 2010, that he was withdrawing from the remainder of his performances for the season. According to the Met, Levine was required to have “corrective surgery for an ongoing lower back problem”. He returned to conducting at the Met and the BSO at the beginning of the 2010–11 season, but in February 2011 canceled his Boston engagements for the rest of the season.
In the summer of 2011, Levine underwent further surgery on his back. In September 2011, after he fell down a flight of stairs, fractured his spine, and injured his back while on vacation in Vermont, the Met announced that he would not conduct at the Met at least for the rest of 2011.
After two years of surgery and physical therapy, Levine returned to conducting for the first time on May 19, 2013, in a concert with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Levine conducted from a motorized wheelchair, with a special platform designed to accommodate it, which could rise and descend like an elevator. He returned to the Met on September 24, 2013. The same type of platform was present in the Met orchestra pit for his September 2013 return performance.
For many years, both Levine and the Met denied as unfounded the rumors that Levine had Parkinson’s disease. As New York magazine reported: “The conductor states flatly that the condition is not Parkinson’s disease, as people had speculated in ‘that silly Times piece.'” But in 2016 both he and the Met finally admitted that the rumors were true, and that Levine had in fact had the disease since 1994. The Washington Post noted: “It wasn’t just the illnesses, but the constant alternation between concealment and an excess of revelation that kept so much attention focused on them and away from the music.”
Levine died in his Palm Springs home on March 9, 2021. Len Horovitz, his personal physician, announced Levine’s death on March 17 and said that he had died of natural causes. – Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License from Wikipedia.