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James Levine’s Final Act at the Met Ends in Disgrace James Levine’s Final Act at the Met Ends in Disgrace
(about 17 hours later)
The Metropolitan Opera fired the conductor James Levine on Monday evening, ending its association with a man who defined the company for more than four decades after an investigation found what the Met called credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in “sexually abusive and harassing conduct.”The Metropolitan Opera fired the conductor James Levine on Monday evening, ending its association with a man who defined the company for more than four decades after an investigation found what the Met called credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in “sexually abusive and harassing conduct.”
The investigation, which the Met opened in December after a report in The New York Times, found evidence of abuse and harassment “both before and during the period” when Mr. Levine worked at the Met, the company said in a statement.The investigation, which the Met opened in December after a report in The New York Times, found evidence of abuse and harassment “both before and during the period” when Mr. Levine worked at the Met, the company said in a statement.
It was an extraordinary fall from grace for a legendary maestro, whom many consider the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein.It was an extraordinary fall from grace for a legendary maestro, whom many consider the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein.
The Met did not release the specific findings of its investigation, which it said had included interviews with 70 people. But the statement said that the investigation had “uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority.” It said that it was terminating its relationship with Mr. Levine, who is currently the company’s music director emeritus and the artistic director of its young artists program.The Met did not release the specific findings of its investigation, which it said had included interviews with 70 people. But the statement said that the investigation had “uncovered credible evidence that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority.” It said that it was terminating its relationship with Mr. Levine, who is currently the company’s music director emeritus and the artistic director of its young artists program.
“In light of these findings,” the statement continued, “the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met.”“In light of these findings,” the statement continued, “the Met concludes that it would be inappropriate and impossible for Mr. Levine to continue to work at the Met.”
A spokesman for Mr. Levine said that he did not have an immediate comment.A spokesman for Mr. Levine said that he did not have an immediate comment.
Mr. Levine, 74, has become the highest-profile figure in classical music to have his career upended during the national reckoning over sexual misconduct.Mr. Levine, 74, has become the highest-profile figure in classical music to have his career upended during the national reckoning over sexual misconduct.
He made the Met’s orchestra into one of the finest in the world, led the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic and gained worldwide renown through recordings, telecasts and videos. His fame transcended classical music: He shared the screen with Mickey Mouse in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000,” and made the cover of Time magazine in 1983, under a headline proclaiming him “America’s Top Maestro.”He made the Met’s orchestra into one of the finest in the world, led the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic and gained worldwide renown through recordings, telecasts and videos. His fame transcended classical music: He shared the screen with Mickey Mouse in Disney’s “Fantasia 2000,” and made the cover of Time magazine in 1983, under a headline proclaiming him “America’s Top Maestro.”
[Our classical music editor asks if, with the firing of James Levine, we should rethink conductor worship. Read here.]
Even before the accusations, the Met had been moving toward a post-Levine era. After years of ill health, he stepped down as music director two seasons ago. The company announced last month that Mr. Levine’s successor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, would take on his new role next season, two years ahead of schedule.Even before the accusations, the Met had been moving toward a post-Levine era. After years of ill health, he stepped down as music director two seasons ago. The company announced last month that Mr. Levine’s successor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, would take on his new role next season, two years ahead of schedule.
But his termination has dealt the Met a serious blow at a moment of vulnerability. The company, the largest performing arts organization in the nation, costs close to $300 million a year to run, making it highly reliant on the generosity of donors — a dependence that has only grown as it has faced a box-office slump. Now the Met finds itself forced to court both philanthropists and audiences as it faces difficult questions about what it knew, or should have known, about its star conductor.But his termination has dealt the Met a serious blow at a moment of vulnerability. The company, the largest performing arts organization in the nation, costs close to $300 million a year to run, making it highly reliant on the generosity of donors — a dependence that has only grown as it has faced a box-office slump. Now the Met finds itself forced to court both philanthropists and audiences as it faces difficult questions about what it knew, or should have known, about its star conductor.
The Met suspended Mr. Levine and opened its investigation in December after The Times reported on-the-record accusations of four men who said that Mr. Levine had sexually abused them decades ago, when they were teenagers or his students. Mr. Levine called the accusations “unfounded,” saying in a statement that “I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”The Met suspended Mr. Levine and opened its investigation in December after The Times reported on-the-record accusations of four men who said that Mr. Levine had sexually abused them decades ago, when they were teenagers or his students. Mr. Levine called the accusations “unfounded,” saying in a statement that “I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”
But some questions arose early on about how the company had handled the case, including the fact that it began its investigation more than a year after Peter Gelb, its general manager, was first told that the police in Illinois were investigating an accusation that Mr. Levine had sexually abused a teenage boy there in the 1980s.But some questions arose early on about how the company had handled the case, including the fact that it began its investigation more than a year after Peter Gelb, its general manager, was first told that the police in Illinois were investigating an accusation that Mr. Levine had sexually abused a teenage boy there in the 1980s.
Mr. Gelb has said he briefed the leadership of the Met’s board about the police investigation and spoke with Mr. Levine, who denied the accusations. But Mr. Gelb said that the company took no further action, waiting to see what the police found.Mr. Gelb has said he briefed the leadership of the Met’s board about the police investigation and spoke with Mr. Levine, who denied the accusations. But Mr. Gelb said that the company took no further action, waiting to see what the police found.
The Met said that its investigation, which was led by Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm who was previously a United States attorney in New Jersey and Illinois, had determined 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 that its investigation, which was led by Robert J. Cleary, a partner at the Proskauer Rose law firm who was previously a United States attorney in New Jersey and Illinois, had determined 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 accusations against Mr. Levine reported in The Times went back decades, and shared marked similarities.The accusations against Mr. Levine reported in The Times went back decades, and shared marked similarities.
Chris Brown said that Mr. Levine had abused him in the summer of 1968, when he was a 17-year-old student at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan and Mr. Levine led the school’s orchestral institute. Mr. Brown, who went on to play principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, said that one night in the dorms, Mr. Levine had masturbated him and asked him to reciprocate — and then punished Mr. Brown when he declined to do so again, ignoring him for the rest of the summer, even when he was conducting him.Chris Brown said that Mr. Levine had abused him in the summer of 1968, when he was a 17-year-old student at the Meadow Brook School of Music in Michigan and Mr. Levine led the school’s orchestral institute. Mr. Brown, who went on to play principal bass in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, said that one night in the dorms, Mr. Levine had masturbated him and asked him to reciprocate — and then punished Mr. Brown when he declined to do so again, ignoring him for the rest of the summer, even when he was conducting him.
James Lestock, a cellist, said that he, too, was abused that summer when he was a student, and said that the abuse continued in Cleveland, where a tight-knit clique of musicians followed Mr. Levine, who was then an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra on the cusp of a major career. He said that at one point Mr. Levine had the group don blindfolds and masturbate partners they could not see. (Another participant confirmed this in an interview.)James Lestock, a cellist, said that he, too, was abused that summer when he was a student, and said that the abuse continued in Cleveland, where a tight-knit clique of musicians followed Mr. Levine, who was then an assistant conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra on the cusp of a major career. He said that at one point Mr. Levine had the group don blindfolds and masturbate partners they could not see. (Another participant confirmed this in an interview.)
Mr. Lestock said Monday night that after carrying around the pain of those encounters for so many years, he had been moved to see a public acknowledgment of Mr. Levine’s behavior. “The truth can be very useful,” he said in a telephone interview. “The truth creates good.”Mr. Lestock said Monday night that after carrying around the pain of those encounters for so many years, he had been moved to see a public acknowledgment of Mr. Levine’s behavior. “The truth can be very useful,” he said in a telephone interview. “The truth creates good.”
Albin Ifsich, who went on to have a long career as a violinist in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, said that he had been abused by Mr. Levine for several years, beginning at Meadow Brook and continuing after he joined the group of young musicians who followed Mr. Levine to Cleveland and later New York.Albin Ifsich, who went on to have a long career as a violinist in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, said that he had been abused by Mr. Levine for several years, beginning at Meadow Brook and continuing after he joined the group of young musicians who followed Mr. Levine to Cleveland and later New York.
Ashok Pai said he had been abused by Mr. Levine for years, beginning in 1986 near the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, when he was 16. Mr. Pai grew up near the festival, where Mr. Levine was music director, and wanted to become a conductor. Three decades later — after, Mr. Pai said, therapy had helped him realize how destructive those encounters had been — he detailed his accusations in the fall of 2016 to the Lake Forest Police Department in Illinois. Law enforcement officials said last year that they would not bring criminal charges against Mr. Levine, noting that while the state’s age of consent is now 17 — and 18 in some cases — it was still 16 in 1986.Ashok Pai said he had been abused by Mr. Levine for years, beginning in 1986 near the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, when he was 16. Mr. Pai grew up near the festival, where Mr. Levine was music director, and wanted to become a conductor. Three decades later — after, Mr. Pai said, therapy had helped him realize how destructive those encounters had been — he detailed his accusations in the fall of 2016 to the Lake Forest Police Department in Illinois. Law enforcement officials said last year that they would not bring criminal charges against Mr. Levine, noting that while the state’s age of consent is now 17 — and 18 in some cases — it was still 16 in 1986.
Several performing arts institutions have been confronted with complaints about the behavior of some of their leading artists. A number of orchestras severed ties with the conductor Charles Dutoit after he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Boston Symphony, where he was a frequent guest conductor, later determined that the accusations of misconduct lodged by several women who worked for the orchestra were credible. Peter Martins retired under pressure this year as ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet after The Times and The Washington Post reported accusations that he had been physically abusive. When the company’s investigation was completed, however, City Ballet announced it had not corroborated the allegations.Several performing arts institutions have been confronted with complaints about the behavior of some of their leading artists. A number of orchestras severed ties with the conductor Charles Dutoit after he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Boston Symphony, where he was a frequent guest conductor, later determined that the accusations of misconduct lodged by several women who worked for the orchestra were credible. Peter Martins retired under pressure this year as ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet after The Times and The Washington Post reported accusations that he had been physically abusive. When the company’s investigation was completed, however, City Ballet announced it had not corroborated the allegations.
Mr. Levine’s focus on and influence over the Met was rare in an era of jet-setting maestros: He conducted more than 2,500 performances with the company, far more than any other conductor. Since suffering a spinal injury in 2011 that caused him to miss two seasons, Mr. Levine has conducted from a wheelchair. It was only with great reluctance — and after a battle erupted behind the scenes when performers complained that it had grown difficult to follow his conducting — that Mr. Levine stepped down as music director in the spring of 2016. That year he acknowledged that he had Parkinson’s disease, which he had previously denied, and said that his difficulties on the podium were related to his medication.Mr. Levine’s focus on and influence over the Met was rare in an era of jet-setting maestros: He conducted more than 2,500 performances with the company, far more than any other conductor. Since suffering a spinal injury in 2011 that caused him to miss two seasons, Mr. Levine has conducted from a wheelchair. It was only with great reluctance — and after a battle erupted behind the scenes when performers complained that it had grown difficult to follow his conducting — that Mr. Levine stepped down as music director in the spring of 2016. That year he acknowledged that he had Parkinson’s disease, which he had previously denied, and said that his difficulties on the podium were related to his medication.
Rumors about Mr. Levine and sexual abuse swirled throughout his career. Johanna Fiedler, a former press representative for the Met, wrote in her 2001 book “Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera,” that such stories had circulated since at least 1979.Rumors about Mr. Levine and sexual abuse swirled throughout his career. Johanna Fiedler, a former press representative for the Met, wrote in her 2001 book “Molto Agitato: The Mayhem Behind the Music at the Metropolitan Opera,” that such stories had circulated since at least 1979.
“Each time, the Met press office would tirelessly point out the cyclical nature of the gossip and the complete lack of substance,” she wrote.“Each time, the Met press office would tirelessly point out the cyclical nature of the gossip and the complete lack of substance,” she wrote.
In 1987, The Times reported that there were “conflicting rumors about his private life and an imminent resignation” without getting specific. Mr. Levine dismissed the stories in an interview with The Times, saying that he had been told years earlier that there were “reports of a morals charge in Pittsburgh or Hawaii or Dallas.”In 1987, The Times reported that there were “conflicting rumors about his private life and an imminent resignation” without getting specific. Mr. Levine dismissed the stories in an interview with The Times, saying that he had been told years earlier that there were “reports of a morals charge in Pittsburgh or Hawaii or Dallas.”
“Both my friends and my enemies checked it out, and to this day, I don’t have the faintest idea where those rumors came from or what purpose they served,” he said at the time.“Both my friends and my enemies checked it out, and to this day, I don’t have the faintest idea where those rumors came from or what purpose they served,” he said at the time.
Mr. Gelb said in earlier interviews with The Times that Met records showed two instances when complaints about Mr. Levine’s behavior had reached top company officials. In 1979, he said, Anthony A. Bliss, who was then the Met’s executive director, got a letter from a board member asking about an anonymous letter containing accusations about Mr. Levine. Neither the board member’s letter nor the anonymous one could be obtained, making the exact nature of the accusations unclear. But a copy of Mr. Bliss’s response obtained by The Times shows that he dismissed them.Mr. Gelb said in earlier interviews with The Times that Met records showed two instances when complaints about Mr. Levine’s behavior had reached top company officials. In 1979, he said, Anthony A. Bliss, who was then the Met’s executive director, got a letter from a board member asking about an anonymous letter containing accusations about Mr. Levine. Neither the board member’s letter nor the anonymous one could be obtained, making the exact nature of the accusations unclear. But a copy of Mr. Bliss’s response obtained by The Times shows that he dismissed them.
The second time, Mr. Gelb said, was the 2016 call he got from the Lake Forest Police, who were investigating Mr. Pai’s account. It was a year later, in December, when the company learned from media inquiries that more accusers were coming forward, that the Met suspended Mr. Levine and opened its own investigation.The second time, Mr. Gelb said, was the 2016 call he got from the Lake Forest Police, who were investigating Mr. Pai’s account. It was a year later, in December, when the company learned from media inquiries that more accusers were coming forward, that the Met suspended Mr. Levine and opened its own investigation.