New York's Metropolitan Opera fires its director James Levine for sexual harassment

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New York's famed Metropolitan Opera has severed ties with its longtime conductor and figurehead James Levine, its Music Director Emeritus and Artistic Director of its young-artist program, after completing an investigation into sexual misconduct claims.

One of the world's most celebrated conductors has seen his career end in disgrace after he was found to have engaged in "sexually abusive and harassing conduct" and sacked from the New York Metropolitan Opera. "In light of these findings, the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met", the opera said.

Late previous year, three men came forward with allegations of misconduct against Levine in a report in the New York Times, and Levine was suspended. In his absence, Dallas Opera music director Emmanuel Villaume directed seven Met performances of Puccini's Tosca.

Other musicians who have quit or lost positions over alleged abuse include hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Charles Dutoit, until recently the principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

The leading USA opera house had already suspended Levine in December after allegations first became public against him.

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"The investigation also found that any claims or rumors that members of the Met's management or its Board of Directors engaged in a cover-up of information relating to these issues are completely unsubstantiated", the Met said in a statement.

The press reports to date have focused on Levine's conduct before his Met employment. Levine called the accusations "unfounded", saying in a statement that "I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor". Levine guided the Met's orchestra for 40 years as music director.

The Met, which like many major USA music institutions has a constant challenge of shoring up its finances, has acted quickly to move past the taint of Levine.

In December, the The New York Times published interviews with three men who said that Levine sexually abused them when they were in their teens.

He said he was reaching out to police in Lake Forest because some of his encounters with Levine took place there in the mid-1980s. Law enforcement officials said previous year that they would not bring criminal charges against Levine, noting that while the state's age of consent is now 17 - and 18 in some cases - it was still 16 in 1986.