Metropolitan Opera fires James Levine

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NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Opera fired James Levine on Monday evening, ending its association with a conductor who defined the company for more than four decades after an investigation found what the Met called credible evidence that Levine had engaged in "sexually abusive and harassing conduct."

The investigation, which the Met opened in December after a report in The New York Times, found evidence of abuse and harassment "both before and during the period" when Levine worked at the Met, the company said in a statement. The Met did not release the specific findings of its investigation, which it said had included interviews with 70 people.

The statement also said that the investigation had "uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority," adding that he was also being fired as the artistic director of the Met's young artists program.

Levine, 74, has become the highest-profile figure in classical music to have his career upended during the national reckoning over sexual misconduct. It was an extraordinary fall from grace for a legendary maestro, a man many have considered the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein.

He made the Met's orchestra into one of the finest in the world, led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston and Tanglewood, and the Munich Philharmonic and gained worldwide renown through recordings, telecasts and videos. His fame transcended classical music: He shared the screen with Mickey Mouse in Disney's "Fantasia 2000," and made the cover of Time magazine in 1983.

After years of ill health, Levine stepped down as music director two seasons ago. The company announced last month that Levine's successor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, would take on his new role next season, two years ahead of schedule.

The Met, the largest performing arts organization in the nation, costs close to $300 million a year to run, making it highly reliant on the generosity of donors. Now the Met finds itself forced to court both philanthropists and audiences as it faces difficult questions about what it knew, or should have known, about its star conductor.

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