New York’s Metropolitan Opera has suspended its relationship with renowned conductor and Music Director Emeritus James Levine as multiple allegations of sexual abuse, stretching back to 1968, have been made public.
The company announced on Saturday night that it was opening an investigation into the 74-year-old conductor and the company’s former Music Director, after the New York Post published details of a 2016 police report, made to the Lake Forest Police Department in Illinois, including accusations of sexual abuse dating from when Levine was guest conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival. In the report, the alleged victim – who was 16 years old when the alleged abuses began in 1986 – claimed the sexual contact went on for years and that he received money from Levine, which he estimated added up to $50,000.
“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” the now 48-year old, who has since been named as Ashok Pai, said in a written statement quoted by the New York Post. “It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can.”
The Metropolitan Opera acknowledged at the time that they had been aware of the police report since 2016, but they had heard nothing from police regarding the issue and that Levine had denied the accusation.
The Met’s announcement was followed by a statement from the Boston Symphony Orchestra – where Levine was Music Director for a number of years – which said: “The Boston Symphony Orchestra learned about the recent allegations against James Levine on Saturday evening, December 2. The BSO finds this information deeply disturbing and awaits the findings of further investigations on the matter. Mr. Levine has not conducted the BSO since January 2011 and is not scheduled to conduct the orchestra at any time in the future.”
Today, however, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it was suspending its relationship with Levine following further allegations. In a statement the company’s press office said: “The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it is suspending its relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct committed by Mr. Levine that took place from the 60’s to the 80’s, including the earlier part of his conducting career at the Met. Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season. The Met has appointed Robert J. Cleary, former United States attorney and currently head of the investigations practice at Proskauer Rose, to lead a full and complete investigation into the relevant facts.”
“Based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now, while we await the results of the investigation,” said the Met’s General Manager Peter Gelb. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”
According to the statement, Gelb’s actions are fully supported by the leadership of the Met Board and its Executive Committee.
The statement comes as the New York Times has published detailed allegations by two more alleged victims – Chris Brown, a bass player with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra for more than 30 years, who was allegedly abused by Levine in 1968 when he was at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan, and James Lestock, who claims Levine abused him that same summer.
Rumours have swirled around Levine’s private life in the music world for years, with Johanna Fiedler, the Met’s press representative for 15 years, acknowledging them in her 2001 memoir Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera.
Levine, who has conducted thousands of performances at the Met, had been scheduled to lead the Met’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca, which opens on New Year’s Eve.
Update: The Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, AFM chapter has released a statement:
“We are horrified and sickened by the recently reported allegations of sexual abuse by Mr. Levine. The Metropolitan Opera has an obligation to all employees to provide a safe workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination. Throughout history, artists have stood for our society’s values and priorities. As musicians of the MET Orchestra, Local 802 and members of labor unions, we have the power to bring about positive change. It is incumbent upon our community to decisively and immediately denounce actions of abuse, assault and sexual harassment.”