Conductor James Levine has described recent allegations of sexual abuse as “unfounded”. The conductor, who was Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York for 40 years before being named Music Director Emeritus, has denied allegations made by four men that he sexually abused them in incidents dating back to the 1960s.

“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” Levine said in a written statement quoted by the New York Times. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”

“I have devoted my energies to the development, growth, and nurturing of music and musicians all over the world — particularly with the Metropolitan Opera where my work has been the lifeblood and passion of my artistic imagination,” Levine said. “My fervent hope is that in time people will come to understand the truth, and I will be able to continue my work with full concentration and inspiration.”

The allegations have led to Levine’s suspension by the Metropolitan Opera, pending an investigation into the claims, and a series of high profile arts organisations, including the Ravinia Festival (which was to have made Levine Conductor Laureate in 2018), have since distanced themselves from the conductor.

A commenter on Twitter, Peter Ledingham, also reported that screenings of the Met’s Die Zauberflöte, have been cancelled. “The Met Opera has pulled the film of its production of Die Zauberflote, which has been doing the rounds of NZ cinemas, because James Levine conducted the orchestra,” he wrote, attaching a copy of The Met’s statement.

In the New York Times’ report, the Metropolitan Opera’s General Manager Peter Gelb said: “It’s a sad state of affairs, but of course our investigation has to continue.”