Longtime Met Opera maestro James Levine dead at 77

James Levine died on March 9 in Palm Springs of natural causes.
James Levine died on March 9 in Palm Springs of natural causes.PHOTO: NYTIMES

New York (AFP) - James Levine, the legendary conductor of New York's Metropolitan Opera who was ousted in disgrace over sexual abuse accusations, has died in California at the age of 77, his doctor said on Wednesday.

Levine "died on March 9 in Palm Springs of natural causes", his doctor Len Horovitz told AFP, confirming a report in The New York Times.

The Met Opera sacked its maestro of four decades in March 2018 after finding "credible evidence" that he sexually abused younger musicians.

Levine was one of the most prominent artists to see his career ended in the #MeToo era, first triggered by the furor over alleged abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The conductor was accused of preying on a string of vulnerable music students when he was a charismatic visiting instructor, with most cases dating back to decades ago.

It marked a spectacular fall from grace for Levine, who took the reins of the Met's orchestra in 1976 and guided it for 40 years.

Struggling with Parkinson's disease, he had retired at the end of the 2015-16 season - but stayed on in a role of music director emeritus and led a youth artist programme.

A legend in the opera world as the Met sought a wider public audience, Levine notably conducted some of the Three Tenors concerts that brought together Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti.

His final Met appearance was conducting Verdi's Requiem in December 2017.

The Met acted quickly to move past the taint of Levine, appointing as his successor the youthful French Canadian Yannick Nezet-Seguin.