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MAX EPSTEIN, MET CONDUCTOR, DIES OF AIDS

Max Epstein, a Metropolitan Opera conductor since 1984, has died at 39.

Epstein died Friday of acquired immune deficiency syndrome in his Manhattan home, said David Reuben, a spokesman for the Met.

Epstein last conducted in March during a national broadcast commemorating the 50th anniversary of opera broadcasts sponsored by Texaco, Reuben said. "We will sorely miss his wisdom, counsel and friendship, but take solace in the fact that his memory will live on through his efforts and inspiration on behalf of both the arts and artists of opera," he said on behalf of the Met.

A native of Bay City, Texas, Epstein graduated from Dartmouth College in 1973.

His career began in Germany in 1975, where he worked for nine years as an opera conductor. In 1990, Deutsche Grammophon completed recordings of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" with the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine conducting and Epstein as music director.

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