Born: June 23, 1943;

Died: March 9, 2021.

JAMES Levine, who has died, aged 77, dominated the music scene in America for half a century. He created one of the finest orchestras and choruses in the world and attracted to New York’s Metropolitan Opera a legion of stars.

His insatiable appetite for work and vast operatic repertoire gave him huge authority and power in the theatre. His musicianship was much admired and respected by singers but his career ended in disgrace when, in the post-Harvey Weinstein #MeToo era, accusations arose regarding his rapacious sexual appetite, stretching back decades.

In 2017 Levine was suspended from The Met after extensive investigations regarding allegations of sexual inproprieties. There had been persistent rumours of sexual misconduct; in 2018 he was sacked from The Met and there followed defamation lawsuits and counter-claims.

In August 2019 The Met settled a pair of lawsuits out of court with Levine, who had denied the accusations. The opera house said it had found “credible evidence that Mr Levine had engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct both before and during the period when he worked at the Met”.

It was a most unhappy end to a career that had been hailed worldwide.

It was often thought that successive Edinburgh Festival directors tried to entice Levine to make a prestigious visit – tied in with The Proms – but it never materialised.

Levine had been booked to conduct at London’s Covent Garden in 1974, firstly conducting William Walton’s seldom-heard Troilus and Cressida with Janet Baker and then a starry revival of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, with Renee Fleming.

However, the previous year, while recording in London, Levine was rumoured to have been arrested for indecency offences, though no charges were brought, and he cancelled his debut. Instead, the Royal Opera booked Carlos Kleber to make his debut in the House, conducting a fondly remembered account of the Strauss.

In fact, Levine did conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Proms and early in his career he was in charge of Aida, with the Welsh National Opera.

Levine helped singers through difficult passages and coaxed magnificent playing from an orchestra.

The director and choreographer Eleanor Fazan, who worked at The Met on a new production of Otello with Placido Domingo, told The Herald how “professional and understanding Levine was to help Placido to sing that most taxing of tenor roles. As a conductor he was inspiring and knew exactly what he wanted from the orchestra.”

Levine was also one of the top tier of conductors who championed the Scots-born mezzo soprano, Karen Cargill. In 2012 she made her Met debut under the baton of Levine, singing Waltraute in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.

Over his 45 years at The Met Levine conducted more performances of more operas than any other conductor – 2,500 performances of 85 different operas. Sometimes he would be in the pit for both the Saturday matinee and the evening performance of a totally different opera.

James Levine (‘Jimmy’ to his friends) was born in Cincinnati and showed prodigious musical talent from an early age.

An early booking was in 1971 to conduct the young Domingo in Tosca, in San Francisco. Rudolf Bing, the first director of the Edinburgh Interational Festival and, at that time, controller of The Met, spotted Levine and booked him immediately.

Levine was a prolific recording artist and won 10 Grammys. He made outstanding symphonic recordings with the London Symphony and the Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia Orchestras.

But it is his opera recordings with the stars of the past 50 years that are rated exceptional. His 1978 recording of Otello with Domingo was considered “a magnificent achievement” by Gramophone magazine.

A new generation has been introduced to his work during lockdown through The Met’s daily streaming of live performances of yesteryear, many of which he conducted.

“No artist in the 137-year history of the Met had as profound an impact as James Levine,” Gelb said in a statement. “He raised the Met’s musical standards to new and greater heights.”

In his own statement Placido Domingo said of Levine: “You were a musical genius, an outstanding conductor, and a supportive colleague, with an amazing sense of humor. Always sure and in command but always willing to listen and to share ideas with your colleagues.

“You have left us an amazing legacy. Your over five decades of tireless dedication to music and opera have made an indelible impact that will remain forever embedded in the history books. I feel as if I had lost a dear brother, and I know that I have lost a dear friend.”

For many years Levine had shared a flat in New York with Sue Thompson, an oboe player. She was a support throughout his years of disgrace and after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. They married in 2020.

In view of the lustre of his long career on the podium Levine’s last years were sad – somewhat akin to the last act of a Wagnerian tragedy.