NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Conductor James Levine, who ruled over the Metropolitan Opera for more than four decades before being eased aside when his health declined and then was fired for sexual improprieties, has died. He was 77.

Levine died March 9 in Palm Springs, California, of natural causes, his physician of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, said Wednesday.

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Levine made his Met debut in 1971 and became one of the signature artists in the company’s century-plus history, conducting 2,552 performances and ruling over its repertoire, orchestra and singers as music or artistic director from 1976 until forced out by general manager Peter Gelb in 2016 due to Parkinson’s disease.

Levine became music director emeritus and remained head of its young artists program but was suspended on Dec. 3, 2017, after at least three men came forward, sharing their accounts with the New York Post and New York Times, alleging that Levine molested them.

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The accusations date back to the 1960s. Some of the relationships are said to have continued through the 1980s.

All of the victims were teenagers when the alleged abuse took place.

He was fired the following March 12 and never conducted again. He had been scheduled to make a comeback performance this Jan. 11 in Florence, Italy, but the concert was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSNewYork Team