New York Met Opera suspends longtime conductor over sexual abuse allegations

James Levine

New York's Metropolitan Opera on Sunday said it was suspending its relationship with longtime conductor James Levine pending an investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

According to the statement, Levine is not scheduled to conduct future concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Center.

The Met also says it's hiring a former USA attorney to lead a "full and complete investigation". The first report of the allegations, in the New York Post, was published not long after the performance.

One of Levine's accusers, Ashok Pai, also spoke to The Associated Press in recent weeks but declined to tell his story on the record at the time.

After the New York Times and the New York Post published online stories Saturday about a police investigation in Lake Forest, Ill., following an allegation that Levine molested a teenager on numerous occasions near the Ravinia Festival starting in the late 1960s, the BSO management stated that the organization "finds this information deeply disturbing and awaits the findings of further investigations on the matter". Met officials said they learned of the police report past year.

Later Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Ravinia Festival was cutting all ties with Levine, who was music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer residencies at the music venue north of the city from 1973 to 1993. There, Brown said Levine invited him into a dorm room and assaulted him, later refusing to make music with the teen when Brown said he would not continue the behavior. James Lestock said that Mr. Levine also masturbated him there that summer when Mr. Lestock was 17 and a cello student - the first of many sexual encounters with Mr. Levine that have haunted him. He has been severed from upcoming conducting engagements there, the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, announced on Sunday. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected".

An email to Levine's manager seeking comment on the accusations was not immediately returned. Mr. Gelb said Mr. Levine had denied the accusation, and the Met had made a decision to await the outcome of the police investigation before taking action.

However, on New Year's Eve he was scheduled to lead a new production of Puccini's "Tosca"- the same opera he made his Met debut with back in 1971.

In fact, his heavy work load as music director of the Metropolitan Opera, in a historic 40-year tenure that lasted from 1976 to 2016, allowed Levine little in the way of free time to accept invitations as guest conductor at Orchestra Hall during those decades.

The Associated Press does not generally name alleged victims of sexual abuse unless they come forward with their allegations.

It was the summer of 1968 and Brown had just finished his junior year of high school, where Levine was the conductor of the school's orchestra. Today, he is largely in a wheelchair, but he has stepped up his activity at the Met in his current role of music director emeritus, after a period of not conducting very often.



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